Great audiobook narrators, part 2

If you don’t know yet, I am crazy about audiobooks. And now that I’m in graduate school, it’s harder than ever to make time to read physical books (besides textbooks).

I’ve found that audiobooks are a great way to achieve my reading goals while making monotonous tasks like chores, the morning commute, and cooking more interesting.

Here are some more of my favorite audiobooks, ranked by narrator:

Nicola Barber, Call the Midwife


love the BBC Call the Midwife series, and highly recommend it for your next binge watch on Netflix (why is childbirth so beautiful?!). Loving that series led me to investigate the source material written by Jennifer Worth. Genre-wise, it’s a little confusing. It reads a lot like nonfiction, but names and details were changed, according to the real nuns of Nonnatus House, and apparently not all of Worth’s characters were entirely factual. So I suppose it’s historical fiction.

Regardless, Call the Midwife is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. It portrays the very real struggles, hardships, and joys that women on London’s east side faced following the second World War. I had never even heard of workhouses before reading this series … I’m still in shock that they even existed.

The reason I recommend this in audiobook is because Barber does a fabulous job with all the accents. I don’t think reading the physical book would have been quite as enjoyable because there are so many cockney accents, and I’m not great at *hearing* cockney accents in my head while reading.

Robert Ian Mackenzie, 44 Scotland Street


I think this Goodreads reviewer describes the series perfectly: “…What [Smith]’s created is this wonderful and funny character study. Like Seinfeld, nothing much happens, but you really, really enjoy the ride.”

I have grown to love the characters of 44 Scotland Street. Their small dramas, failures, and triumphs are so charming, heartwarming, and hilarious. And the dry wit and humor make the series funny in the way that only dry humor can be enormously funny. If you love the U.K. or all things BBC, it’s definitely worth the read. Robert Ian Mackenzie does a lovely job with the various degrees of Scottish accents. Listening to this series is a delight!

Read more about my love of 44 Scotland Street here.

Thandie Newton, Jane Eyre


I love listening to nonfiction on audiobook, but I also enjoy classics on audiobook. I am not a huge reader of the classics, but somehow I find listening to them much more enjoyable than reading them. I think it’s easier to get caught up in the beauty and flow of the language when you’re listening.

This lovely version of Jane Eyre is gorgeous. Newton’s serene, restrained at times, but powerful voice brings this intimate tale to life. I love how she doesn’t need to shout, doesn’t need to over-dramatize Jane’s experience to make it feel so vivid and so true. If you haven’t tried out Audible and gotten your free book with trial, I highly recommend downloading Newton’s narration!

Caroline Lee, Big Little Lies

1200x630bbWho doesn’t love a great Australian accent? I remember watching Mary-Kate and Ashley’s movie Our Lips are Sealed as a 10-year-old and longing to visit Australia, meet cute boys, and, of course, save the day.

Not only is Big Little Lies a great book (read more thoughts here), but Lee’s narration is really good. You feel the full scope of emotion, heartbreak, and drama in her voice throughout the story. And she’s funny too. She makes Moriarty’s already funny and dramatic book funnier with her narration.

I was so entranced by this book that I literally just sat around the house listening to the CDs through my computer. Highly recommend picking up the audiobook for this one.


If you missed part one of my audiobooks by narrator series, check it out here.

14 Agatha Christie books, ranked

I. Love. Agatha.

I am not a slasher, psychological thriller, criminal minds mystery lover. I unashamedly love cozy mysteries, and Agatha Christie is one of my favorite mystery authors.

One of my lifelong goals is to read every single Agatha Christie book ever written, but I have a feeling this will be a lifelong pursuit (she wrote 70+ books!). Last year, I knocked several more Christies off my list, and I’ve finally read enough to begin a ranking list of my favorites.

I know some readers feel Christie mysteries are either a hit or miss, and while I’ve definitely read some misses, for the most part I find Christie’s books to be consistently enjoyable. Hopefully this list will help you select your next cozy read from the Queen of Mystery:

1. And Then There Were None


Ten men and women are mysteriously summoned to an island where they are forced to reconcile with their sins—as an unknown killer begins to pick them off one by one.

Utter. Brilliance. This is probably Agatha Christie’s most well-known work, and for good reason. It’s twisty, chilling, and just plain clever.  This was also the first Agatha Christie book I ever read. As The Lord of the Rings is a must-read for any fantasy lover, And Then There Were None is required reading for mystery lovers.

Bonus: The 2015 mini-series is incredibly well done. Gave me chills and I even knew what was coming!


2. Death on the Nile – Hercule Poirot

51zsVKc2zeL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_A beautiful young woman’s mysterious death shatters a peaceful cruise on the Nile, but Hercule Poirot is determined to find the killer who’s still onboard.

This is one of my favorite Hercule Poirot mysteries. The setting is exotic, the mystery is smart, and the reveal is extremely satisfying! I didn’t see the ending coming, and for me, that’s the mark of a great mystery. What I love most is that this book is that it’s transporting—meaning that I felt like I was floating down the Nile with Hercule Poirot. The atmosphere is fantastic!

Bonus: Rumor has it that Death on the Nile will be the sequel to the recent Murder on the Orient Express movie!


3. The Murder at the Vicarage – Miss Marple

516wvvl6WLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve talked about Murder at the Vicarage here and here, so I think it’s safe to say that I LOVED THIS BOOK. Before I gave Miss Marple a try, I was convinced there could be nothing interesting about a little old lady solving crimes (judgmental, I know!). But I’ll fully admit it: I was wrong!

This mystery was not what I was expecting—Miss Marple is not the main player in the story (like in many Poirot books), but her expertise in “human nature” is ultimately what saves the day.




4. Murder on the Orient Express – Hercule Poirot

u341fevwh7ngw7nlvxickikw2pmyaglw8rbmsyhbriag5ouet9tcq9f2xjffxkzsjelhh1dotzfe59az8eyzmcztb0of4sfmxkiawsw1oyzkgsradzgmvyczu.pngPoirot must draw from all his resources to find the killer of a most-loathed man from among thirteen passengers on the Orient Express.

This book had one of the most surprising endings of any mystery book I’ve ever read. I definitely recommend reading the book if you’ve only seen the movie. While I loved Kenneth Branagh’s recent film adaptation, the book’s resolution is much more satisfying. This is one of Christie’s most famous novels, and for good reason.




5. The Mystery of the Blue Train – Hercule Poirot

The-Mystery-of-the-Blue-TrainThe Mystery of the Blue Train spans across Europe as Poirot investigates the death of a beautiful young woman on a train to the Mediterranean … and the jewel that lead to her demise.

This one starts out a bit unconventionally—cursed jewels, gangs, gypsies—but soon settles into a familiar Poirot storyline.  I never suspected the killer, and like Death on the Nile, you’re pulled into a world of intrigue, passion, and European decadence. It’s one of my favorite Christie audiobooks too!




6. The Moving Finger – Miss Marple

5141B9s+zWL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The village of Lymstock seems perfectly peaceful, until a series of vicious anonymous letters sends everyone into an uproar … leading one villager to commit suicide.

Sadly, this book doesn’t feature much of Miss Marple—she sort of swoops in at the end and solves the mystery—but the narrator is (mostly) likable and the plot is deliciously twisty. The only thing I didn’t really like was the relationship between Jerry (the narrator) and Megan Hunter. Throughout the story she’s portrayed as a 20-year-old who acts more like a 10-year-old in dress and behavior, which makes Jerry’s attraction to her seem kind of creepy. But overall, I loved how the characters evolved throughout the story, and how the murderer (as usual) was the person I least expected! Megan’s heroism helps save the day, and I found this Christie a thoroughly satisfying read.


7. A Murder is Announced – Miss Marple

51nmzJynQYL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_The whole village is aflutter when a murder announcement is placed in the local paper—and local residents can’t resist coming to watch!

At first, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to finish this one. The first few chapters introducing all the characters were just boring. Then, the “murder attempt” was so ridiculous I was almost embarrassed for the characters! “How can this book be on so many top lists?!” I wondered. But once you get past the “setting the stage” portion of the book, it gets really good.

This one also features plenty of Miss Marple, and I never saw the ending coming! Highly recommend.


8. The Regatta Mystery (and Other Stories)

x500I usually avoid short stories like the plague. I don’t know why … something about the shortness of short stories always seems to leave me wanting more. I actually only picked this book up because I wanted to read something short to hit my 2017 reading goals.

So, imagine my surprise when I thoroughly enjoyed this collection! Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, and Parker Pyne all make appearances. Far from being disappointing, these quick, punchy stories get right to the mystery and resolution quickly. I enjoyed listening in short spurts as I did chores around the house. It was great to not feel pressured to listen for long periods of time while still having the satisfaction of listening to a complete story.


9. The A.B.C. Murders – Hercule Poirot

71EqbWRE9MLThe A.B.C. Murders is arguably a fan favorite—and it is extremely clever, twisty, and has a wonderfully creepy serial killer who seems to be murdering his way through the alphabet.

Most of the build up was a little slow for me. The payoff at the end was excellent, but unfortunately this one gets low marks from me because I can’t stand Poirot’s friend Captain Arthur Hastings. I know he’s a foil to Poirot’s genius, but still. *Begin rant* Besides the fact that he’s one of the most idiotic characters ever written, his internal monologue is painful. Painful. You’d think he would stop questioning Poirot’s abilities … how many investigations has he helped Poirot with at this point?! But no, he always thinks he knows better than Poirot and always ends up being amazed that Poirot figured out the crime without any help from him. Shocker! *Rant Over*

You’ll have to decide for yourself what you think about Hastings, but The A.B.C. Murders is definitely still worth the read.


10. Ordeal by Innocence

ORDEAL BY INNOCENCEAPBAn interesting premise—a man awakes from amnesia only to realize he could have provided an alibi for a man convicted in a murder trial. His guilt leads him to confess to the family, and he is surprised to discover they are displeased. Jacko, the black sheep of the family, was the one person they all hoped was guilty.

This one gets lower marks for a few reasons. First, I essentially figured out the mystery before the reveal, one of the main characters was just plain annoying (and yet for some reason everyone seemed to be in love with her), and lastly, it purports some ideas about mothering and adoption that I’m still not sure about. One of the main sources of conflict in the story is that the matriarch of the family (the one murdered), cannot see people as they really are, and thus is overbearing in the extreme. This causes resentment, anger, and frustration for all the adopted Argyle children. I am not adopted, so I cannot speak to what it’s like to be part of an adopted family, but it seems like at times the book is implying that adopted children can never truly love or trust a family they’ve been adopted into.


11. Endless Night

16366Every Night & every Morn 
Some to Misery are Born 
Every Morn and every Night 
Some are Born to sweet delight 
Some are Born to sweet delight 
Some are Born to Endless Night 
– from Auguries of Innocence, by William Blake

This is probably one of the creepier Agatha Christie novels I’ve ever read, and perhaps that’s why I wasn’t a huge fan. The mixture of psychological suspense, obsession with architecture, disturbing passion, and that crazy twist at the end … it’s definitely not what you expect from a typical Christie. And that’s ok. It just wasn’t exactly my cup of Earl Grey tea. For much of the book, I didn’t know where the story was going, and I certainly disliked Michael Rodgers as the narrator. Add to that the creepy poem (quoted above) that is sung by one of the main characters at different points throughout the book, and you have a recipe for an eerie thriller.

Endless Night is considered one of Christie’s best, and in fact, is one of her own favorite works. It’s worth the read, but don’t expect it to be Agatha Christie business as usual!


12. The Mysterious Affair at Styles – Hercule Poirot

The-Mysterious-Affair-at-StylesWho killed the wealthy heiress? Was it her new husband? Her stepsons? Her housekeeper or her nurse? And how did they get into her locked chambers?

This is another Captain Hastings + Poirot mystery. As stated above, I don’t like Poirot books that feature Hastings. He’s like a more ditsy version of Dr. Watson. Which makes me wonder if Christie was trying to play off the Sherlock Holmes/Watson dynamic in these books? I suppose the Watson of the original Sherlock Holmes books was dazzled by Sherlock in a way that could be annoying, but that’s another discussion.

Back to this book. Besides my dislike for Hastings, I just didn’t think this was a very interesting mystery. Keeping track of the characters was more difficult than usual, and I suspected the resolution before it happened. Basically, a disappointing Poirot book all around. I recommend skipping this one.


13. Hallowe’en Party – Hercule Poirot

16307An annoying teenager is drowned in a tub of apples during a Halloween party … not long after she was heard bragging that she witnessed a murder. Was she crying wolf again? Or was she finally telling the truth?

I read this book for Halloween because I love reading holiday-themed books. But goodness … this was disappointing. I had to keep forcing myself to finish and I was very close to having the whole thing figured out two-thirds of the way in. The whole plot felt odd and disjointed. I left with the feeling that this book was just an excuse to have a book that centered around Halloween—which is really a shame. I don’t recommend this one!



14. The Seven Dials Mystery – Superintendent Battle

9780062074164-us-300A group of young adults decide to play a prank on their friend who is known for oversleeping—they place eight alarm clocks in his room, only to discover he is dead the next morning. Soon, the survivors are involved with a secret society and international spy ring before discovering the truth of their friend’s murder.

The worst Christie I’ve read to date. The characters were incredibly one-dimensional, pompous, and ridiculous. I barely recognized Christie’s voice—the story is too light and the characters too petty. It was also annoying how every single character said, “Oh!” before they began a line of dialogue. Superintendent Battle barely played a role in the story at all (even less than Miss Marple), which seems like a waste.

The twist at the end redeemed it a little, but this book was the closest I’ve come to DNF-ing a Christie book. I just couldn’t take the plot (or a character named “Bundle”) seriously. I love this review on Goodreads about the book and recommend you read it if you’re still unsure.

Dear J.R.R. Tolkien (or, a love letter to reading)

I wrote this letter as an assignment for a writing group I participate in. I thought I’d share it here since it speaks to my love of reading.

Dear J.R.R. Tolkien,

I remember the first time I read The Fellowship of the Ring.

The delight of Frodo and Bilbo’s birthday party. The first encounter with Strider, and the beauty of Rivendel. The sorrow of losing Gandalf. But mostly I remember the intense struggle of reading that weighty volume at just eleven years old.

We were visiting family in Ohio. During the visit, I watched the movie version of The Fellowship of the Ring with my older cousins, and it felt significant—and a little bit thrilling—as this was the first violent PG-13 film I had been allowed to watch.

I can still feel the chill that came over me when those first haunting words, “The world is changing,” pierced through the darkness of the basement where I sat with my cousins, transfixed. The movie captured my imagination, and I was almost giddy with anticipation to read the book.


The next day, we rode bicycles through historic downtown to the public library—a requirement of each visit. The Gothic building was, and still is, castle-like and mysterious. It was one of my favorite childhood places to roam, explore, and discover unsupervised. And so it seems fitting, somehow, that in this place that held so much possibility, I checked out my first copy of The Fellowship of the Ring.

Now please forgive me as I digress for a moment. As an adult, it’s easy to forget the many summers of your childhood. But now as I think back, I realize just how much time I spent reading with my cousins. Countless summer afternoons and frigid December evenings were wiled away reading a giant stack of books I brought from home or checked out from their library. The best part—all of us loved to read. I’m convinced there no joy quite like to joy of reading with other children your own age. Even when I couldn’t play piano as skillfully or wasn’t as athletic as my cousins, we could all talk about our favorite characters and their struggles, motivations, and flaws. We spent so many hours talking about The Lord of the Rings, and to this day we all still share our love of Middle Earth.

But back to The Fellowship of the Ring. That first night I flew through the prologue and the first chapters of the book, A Long-Expected Party, The Shadow of the Past, and Three is a Company. Soon, I was the only one left awake. The entire house was quiet and dark. The only light came from the reading lamp above my head. So I snuggled deeper into my favorite reading chair and under my cozy blanket, reading late into the night as the Nazgul chased Frodo across the Shire.

I have read The Lord of the Rings many times since, but that transporting first experience has stayed with me through the years. I soon found the book to be a more complicated book than I was accustomed to reading, and it was certainly not as action-heavy as the movie. But I persevered. And something about the magic of the story made me determined to finish, no matter what.

Even before I watched The Fellowship of the Ring, I loved reading. My earliest memories involve reading books. But it wasn’t until I experienced the epic adventure of Frodo and the fellowship that I understood that stories can be life and hope, teachers and companions, wisdom and laughter, and a place to call home.

Over the course of my short years, I can say with certainty that reading has been one of the great joys of my life.

But I would argue, Mr. Tolkien, that before cracking open The Fellowship of the Ring, I didn’t know how beautiful that joy could be.

I’m so thankful I never outgrew Middle Earth.

As Bilbo said to Frodo, “Don’t adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. Someone else always has to carry on the story.”

I carry your stories with me to this day.


Yours truly,


On almost hitting my reading goals, favorite books of 2017, and more

What a turbulent, change-filled, and exhausting year 2017 has been.

Besides the craziness happening in the world at large, this has been one of the most difficult years of my life. When I started this blog back in January of last year (here’s my first review!), I had no clue how much things would change in my personal life, and how little blog writing I would actually get done this year.

My husband and I moved across the country. I spent a stressful summer looking for a job while working from home (torture for an extrovert). I started graduate school. We moved again. I started a new job. My husband started his own business. I’m tired just writing all of that.

Basically, life has been bananas (and I mean B-A-N-A-N-A-S) for months.

And here, on the fresh cusp of a new year, I finally feel like the dust may slowly be starting to settle. The stress about the business is still there. The endless pile of to-do’s are still there. The dirty dishes are ALWAYS there.

But it’s difficult for me to feel too pessimistic at the start of a new year. Something about a new year feels like a fresh start…a new chance to be a better version of myself, to grow and improve, and to reflect on what did and didn’t work last year.

What didn’t work: Moving twice within six months. Never again.

What did work: Reading more books, finding a library job I love, and taking the plunge into grad school in a field that excites me.

Still in progress: Forming community and finding new friends in a new place.

Today, I hope you have a chance to reflect on 2017 and what obstacles you have overcome in your own life this year. Last January, I never would have imagine how much upheaval we would experience this year. If I had known, I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to even begin.

But here I am, still alive somehow, on the other end of 2017. You can do it too. I hope you have a truly marvelous 2018!


So close…

On to book matters:

For 2017, I had a goal of reading 40 books. Maybe something about not having friends or lots of free time this summer helped me go past my goal goal until it was a week before January 1, and I was at 48 books. I wanted sooooo badly to hit 50 (I’ve never read 50!), but having family in town (among other excuses), meant that I was finishing my last book of the year, On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder last night at 11:30 p.m.

I only read 49.

The anal part of me is dying inside.

I know I should be glad that I could read nine books over my initial goal, but of course all I can think about is that one measly little book I somehow couldn’t manage to finish. Sigh.

Next year.

Best of the best of 2017

I read so many good books this year. So many. Here are some highlights:

  • I discovered Louise Penny’s wonderful Chief Inspector Gamache series.
  • I chipped 4 (almost 5!) more Agatha Christie books off my lifetime list.
  • I only read two Jane Austen adaptations instead of the usual five.
  • I read 20 nonfiction books—a new record for this fiction lover!
  • I even read one short story collection—The Mistletoe Murder by P.D. James—and discovered I don’t hate short stories!

Since choosing one favorite book is obviously impossible, these were my favorite books by genre. Apparently I only read three genres:



The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Not since The Lord of the Rings have I found a fantasy that so captured my imagination like this one. I love the format of the story too—as Kvothe tells the story in flashbacks, it keeps you itching to know more. Part hero epic, part action adventure, part love story, Rothfuss’ world feels as real as Middle Earth. It’s a huge book, but it reads fast.


Honorable mentions:


Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

I didn’t expect to like this one as much as I did. I honestly thought it was going to be something like desperate housewives with petty, shallow characters crying in their Mercedes convertibles and fighting over popularity. I was so wrong. I loved how this book highlights the secret burdens and pains we all face. The twist at the end was great too! Don’t go in expecting a full-fledged mystery or thriller. It’s a little of both but not fully either.


Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

I’ve already talked about what I love about this book over here, but if you haven’t picked this one up yet, you should. The audio version is also fantastic. I laughed out loud and also was forced to think about my own assumptions following scandal.



liturgy of the ordinary tish harrison warren nonfiction picks

Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren

This was such a readable and thought-provoking work. I won’t rehash everything I’ve already said about this one, but I really recommend you pick this up if you’re searching for significance in the everyday, ordinary parts of your life. This book is a reminder that we can be worshipful even in the most seemingly insignificant moments.

Bonus: It’s Christianity Today’s 2018 Book of the Year!


Honorable mentions:


Booked by Karen Swallow Prior

I actually had Dr. Prior for a class in college, and I remember this (her first book) coming out. But it was only this year that I picked it up for myself, and I am so glad that I did! Dr. Prior reflects on different points in her life and the books that shaped those times. I loved the combination of memoir + love letter to reading. She also has some seriously important insights on how reading is one of the greatest way we can grow and mature. (I was even inspired to finally give Great Expectations a try!)

the road back to you ian morgan cron enneagram

The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile

I loved learning about the Enneagram from this book. I’ve reflected a lot this year on my type and what role fear (the Type 6’s great struggle) plays in my life. Before reading this book, I didn’t realize how much fear impacted my choices. Read this book if you want to know yourself better! (And read here for a more detailed review.)


Evicted by Mathew Desmond

I couldn’t have said it any better than Roxanne Gay when she reviewed this book: “The brutal truth of poverty in America is far more devastating than any fiction ever could be.” This book was eye-opening, tragic, and amazing. There is so much I didn’t know or understand about eviction until I read this book. I was angry and enlightened. This is an incredibly important read.

Bonus: It won the Pulitzer Prize and was named a Top 10 Best Book by the New York Times Book Review in 2016.




The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

I have read so many great mystery books this year, but this one stands out as the one that surprised me the most. I can’t wait to read more Agatha Christie in 2018! Read more here about how I changed my mind about Miss Marple.


Honorable  mentions:


Still Life by Louise Penny

I have Anne Bogel over at Modern Mrs Darcy and What Should I Read Next? to thank for convincing me to try Louise Penny. I love this series! Especially now that we live in a small mountain town, I feel right at home in Three Pines as Chief Inspector Gamache solves mysteries and reflects on the simple pleasures of life. I also appreciate how Penny wrestles with human nature and analyzes her character’s fears, joys, and struggles throughout the series. I’m on book four now and I can’t wait to read book five!


Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James

This was my first P.D. James book. I watched the mini-series on Netflix and enjoyed it, so I decided to pick up the book. I’ve never read a Jane Austen retelling that is also a mystery, so this was an interesting departure. It’s a light, fun read if you enjoy imagining the world of Pride and Prejudice after the Darcy wedding.

The last three things I’ve read (plus why I disappeared again)

Three books you should read ASAP. Also, why I disappeared again.

It’s been a while. Again. I swore once things settled down with the move out to Colorado, I’d regularly write again.


Things didn’t settle down, because almost as soon as we were unpacked, we decided to move (AGAIN) for new job opportunities. Moving for the second time in six months, starting a new job, and beginning my first semester of graduate school has meant that not only is my house literally a trainwreck, but I also haven’t had much time for writing!

Hopefully, that will change now.

In the meantime, here are three quick books I have managed to read in my spare time that I think you should pick up ASAP:

1. Young Jane Young, by Gabrielle Zevin

Young Jane Young book cover

I was too young to remember the Monica Lewinsky scandal, but this book was extremely powerful nonetheless.

Not only does it highlight the double standards for women caught in scandal, but it also touches on the eternal nature of the internet and the practical challenges of picking your life back up after a terrible mistake. In many ways, it read like a cautionary tale about the realities of women’s reputations, but at the same time it was clearly a call for societal change.

I found myself wondering: Should we really crucify someone for the rest of their life because of a mistake they made when they were in their twenties? As a society, it’s also crucial that we recognize that the things we say online – the shame we cast on an individual – has the power to derail a life. We must wield this power cautiously, carefully, and compassionately.

But beyond being thought provoking, this book was hilarious. The audiobook is particularly great—I was cracking up on my morning commute so many times throughout the book. The only thing I didn’t like was the “choose your own adventure” section at the end. I actually checked out the physical book from my library before realizing that the other “options” were actually not options at all—they had strike-throughs (aka, you couldn’t “choose any adventure” other than the choices Aviva actually made), but that was unclear in the audio version. When I finished the audiobook, I was left wondering if there were sections of the book I hadn’t read until I got my hands on the physical book.

Overall though, I highly recommend this book. It was engaging, funny, thought-provoking, and timely.

2. Reading People by Anne Bogel

Reading People book cover

I love Ann Bogel’s podcast What Should I Read Next and her eBook deals Modern Mrs Darcy. I’ve even toyed with the idea of joining Anne’s online book club, but haven’t pulled the trigger yet. That’s why it’s weird that I don’t actually read many of her blog posts (sorry Anne!), but I love following her everywhere else online (is that weird?). Anyway, this is her first book, and it’s about personalities, which I love studying. So obviously I had to give it a try. It’s also exciting to see someone whose blog I admire be successful in writing her first book.

Going in, I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy an overview of different personality typing systems, since I’ve studied things like the enneagram pretty thoroughly already. Good news: Reading People was pleasantly insightful and relevant to both the personality obsessed and the beginner. What I particularly liked was Anne’s emphasis on the purpose behind personality typing: Learning to understand yourself and others better to strengthen relationships and get off the crazy-person spin cycle.

After Reading People, I recommend more in-depth analysis of the personality typing systems to learn more (The Road Back to You is a fantastic enneagram book), but as a general overview, Reading people is certainly helpful.

I also learned some things I didn’t know before—I’ve never heard of HSPs (Highly Sensitive People) before, and I also enjoyed her section on introverts and extroverts. Overall, whether you’re a personality junkie or don’t know what personality typing system might best suit your needs, this is a good overview book.

3. Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

Murder at the Vicarage book cover

Since yesterday was the premiere of the new Murder on the Orient Express movie starring Kenneth Branagh (I saw it, loved the cinematography, and would recommend it for the most part), I’ll recommend my favorite Agatha Christie book I’ve read this year: The Murder at the Vicarage.

Every year, I try to read a few Agatha Christie books to slowly chip away at my lifelong goal of reading all 70+ of her works. I love her standalone titles, and I love Hercule Poirot. But for some reason, I have avoided Miss Marple stories like the plague. I suppose something about a little old lady solving mysteries hasn’t appealed to me—and I have no idea why.

Anyway, I finally decided to give Miss Marple her due, and boy, was I disappointed. Not in the book, but with myself. WHY HAVE I WAITED SO LONG TO READ MISS MARPLE?! The world may never know.

The Murder at the Vicarage is perhaps one of my all-time favorite Christie novels. It’s funny, twisty, and I never saw the ending coming. I also highly recommend this title on audiobook!

Favorite book + tea pairings

The greatest regret of my life is that I do not like coffee.

Ok, maybe that’s not my greatest regret.

But no matter how many times I try, I cannot seem to force myself to like coffee. I’ve tried all the tricks: Start out with fraps or tons of cream and slowly work your way down. But no matter how many times I try it, I just want to scrub my mouth out with a brush and dish detergent.

There is a silver lining to not liking coffee: TEA!

I love love love tea. I might be a borderline tea snob.

I believe there’s nothing more delicious and cozy than snuggling up with a piping hot cup of tea and a good book.

So whether you enjoy pretending to be British (I do) or are trying to get into drinking tea, here are my recommendations for your rainy afternoon treat:

Note: I don’t use affiliate links in this post.


Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie + Earl Grey Supreme


Confession: This is my all-time favorite tea. I buy it in the large size because it’s that good. Harney and Sons actually says in the product description that most people never go back to regular Earl Grey. They are correct.

I’m not a blood and gore mystery reader. I shamelessly like cozy mysteries because I like to be able to sleep at night. I also like not feeling paranoid that someone’s stalking me.

Murder on the Orient Express is your cozy mystery meets British history meets twisty plot-driven story.

Earl Grey Supreme is the natural companion because it’s the king of Earl Greys, and Agatha Christie is the queen of mystery. It’s also one of the most popular teas in the world, and Agatha Christie is the most bestselling author of all time (behind the Bible and Shakespeare). These two belong together.

Bright but complex, wonderful alone or with a dash of milk, Earl Grey Supreme and Agatha Christie won’t disappoint.


Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith + Scottish Morn


Remember how I said I like cozy mysteries? Robert Galbraith is the exception.

In case you’ve been living under a literary rock, Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame. Her Cormoran Strike series ain’t no Harry Potter, I can tell you that much.

Robust, dark, and with just enough bite to thrill, Career of Evil is the perfect pairing for Scottish Morn.

Strike is your perfect jaded (and one-legged) detective. Robin Ellacott, his assistant, is strong, optimistic, intuitive—and perhaps a tad too forgiving. She’s way too good for that annoying chauvinistic boyfriend.

The first book in the series, The Cuckoo’s Calling, is lighter fare. But the next two books in the series, including Career of Evil, are more grisly. I like these books as occasionally (and deliciously) as a like bold, dark, Scottish Morn tea.


44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith + Scottish Afternoon


On the topic of cozy stories, Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series is probably the coziest of cozy stories you’ll pick up.

Filled with hilarious, memorable characters and McCall’s keen, but gentle commentary on Edinburgh life, 44 Scotland Street has much to delight. If you love fast-paced, plot driven stories, this may not be for you. But if you enjoy character studies (and a sprinkling of philosophy here and there), this is your series. Best part? There are 11 books and counting, so you have plenty to sink your teeth into!

I highly recommend 44 Scotland Street on audiobook. The narration is great and the accents are wonderful.

Scottish Afternoon tea has hints of Darjeeling, making it slightly more refined than its sister tea, Scottish Morn. Darjeeling is known as the champagne of teas, so you’ll feel fancy as you sip this tea while reading about life in Edinburgh—filled with more than one note of refinement!

Great audiobook narrators, Part 1

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”

— Lemony Snicket

Picking a good audiobook isn’t just about picking the right book.

It’s about picking a voice you can listen to for the next 12 hours. I’ve written about it before, but a narrator can make or break an audiobook.

Struggling to find something you’ll enjoy? I’ve done the hard work for you.

Here are some of my favorite audiobooks by narrator:



Rosamund Pike, Pride and Prejudice

Not only is Rosamund Pike my favorite Jane Bennet of all the Pride and Prejudice film adaptations, she is a marvelous narrator. Her voice is melodious and her voices for different characters are marvelous. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice more times than I can count, but listening to Pike’s narration was like hearing it for the first time. Her voices are excellent, and her delivery impeccable.

Use your free 1-month trial from Audible and fall in love with this classic again!



Carey Elwes, As You Wish

If you’re a fan of The Princess Bride (especially the movie), you’ll absolutely love this audiobook. Carey Elwes (aka Wesley) narrates the story of The Princess Bride‘s journey from book to movie production. His humorous stories, wonderful voice (who could resist Wesley??), and storytelling ability is a wonderful tribute to the movie and its fans.

What I especially love about this particular audiobook is that many of the original actors narrate sections of the book from their perspective. The story of making the film is almost as hilarious as the film itself.



Rob Inglis, Lord of the Rings

I love Rob Inglis’ narration. Every time I press play, I feel like I’m being wrapped up cozy blanket by the fire with a mug of tea, listening as Gandalf reads me a story. While I absolutely love Lord of the Rings, there are definitely some thick/slow parts that audiobook helps you power through.

Also if you, like me, love Lord of the Rings but hate reading the songs and poems, you’re in luck. Rob Inglis actually sings every song, so you can finally appreciate Tolkien’s poetry instead of just skipping over it.



Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

If you love listening to writers read their own books, listen to a copy of Between the World and Me next. I honestly don’t know if I would have recognized all the emotion, heartache, and passion Coates writes with if I hadn’t heard him read his own words aloud.

Beyond the fact that Coates is an excellent narrator, Between the World and Me is an excellent book, and it’s one you need to read. I didn’t have the slightest understanding of what it was like to be black in America before reading this book. I probably never will, fully. But this book was a good place to start. Listen to Ta-Nehisi Coates, and let Between the World in Me draw you one step closer to understanding, compassion, and hope.


Who are your favorite audiobook narrators?


*No affiliate links used in this post

Old book, new review: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Copy of The circle review (1)

Title: The Pillars of the Earth
Author: Ken Follett
My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Historical Fiction
Is it worth reading? Yes. For more conservative readers, there will definitely be some sections to skip over (sex, rape, violence etc.). However, despite these flaws, Follett’s world is so captivating and the drama of the cathedral’s construction is so captivating, that if you love being sucked into a new world, you’ll find much to enjoy.



This September, Ken Follett will be releasing a new book — the first since he completed the Century Trilogy (which I’m currently reading). Out in September, A Column of Fire is the third book in his Kingsbridge series.

I decided to revisit book one in the series, The Pillars of the Earth, in a new review of the 1989 epic.

First, this book is no joke. At a whopping 1,000+ pages, it’s no quick read. This is not a Harry Potter-1,000 pages that vanish all too quickly. It’s a sizable commitment. But that shouldn’t scare you away, and here’s why:


The weird and ugly

Let’s get the negatives out of the way first.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. But there’s definitely some disturbing content. If you’re particularly sensitive to these topics, you might want to skip on Pillars.

Graphic sex and rape: There is a lot of sex throughout, and most scenes are pretty descriptive. I found it easy to skip over them (no major plot points lost), but the amount of detail felt unnecessary. I didn’t pick up a romance novel. Be warned: One rape scene is particularly disturbing and graphic.

Plot devices: As another reviewer pointed out, sometimes the plot felt a bit methodical: Things are going well, HUGE PROBLEM, solution is discovered at the last second, repeat. It’s no surprise that Follett started out writing thrillers.

I eventually came to expect that if things were going well, it was only a matter of time until things got crappy again. Nothing is sacred. No one is invincible. Even though I knew exactly what Follett was doing, I couldn’t. Stop. Reading.

Corruption and violence: Medieval England is about what you would expect — violent, cruel, every man for himself. There are accusations of witchcraft, misogyny in its worst forms, and evil, oppressive leaders. The injustice was so despicable at some points that it took my breath away.

Despite the ugliness depicted throughout Pillars, the stories rang true. Even today, evil exists and abounds. Nothing irks me more than a story that untruthfully depicts human nature.

Now, some of the characters were almost a little too evil, and much of the sex was highly dramatized. But overall, Follett does a good job of presenting flawed, believable characters who develop throughout the story.


The beautiful and good

Religion and the Church: For Christian readers, one important thing to keep in mind is that Follett does not believe in God. This is part of what drew me to the book in the first place. It’s totally fascinating to me that someone who doesn’t practice Christianity would write a book about the construction of a cathedral.

Yet somehow Follett creates multi-layered, three-dimensional characters who struggle with their beliefs and wrestle with discerning how God would have them live — something Christians experience daily.

For the most part, Follett was respectful of the church (even though he doesn’t subscribe to faith himself) and Prior Philip is still one of my favorite Christian characters.

World building: This is Follett’s true triumph. The world that he weaves is beautifully intricate and surprisingly real. The layered, rich world-building alone made it worth skipping over all the negative parts.

I’m amazed at how Follett has the ability to capture life in a different time and place, so that you really start to believe you’re immersed in medieval England. I was completely sucked into a different time and place.

Every time I read a Follett, I learn something new about history and people. I know everyone doesn’t love learning (so tragic), but when you read Follett, it doesn’t feel like learning. That’s the beauty of it.

I do wish the book had included a diagram of a cathedral. I’m not familiar with cathedral architecture and terms, and I ended up searching cathedrals online so I could visualize the descriptions of the construction.


Why I’m not interested in World Without End

This brings me to why I haven’t read the sequel, World Without End, and why I probably won’t be reading A Column of Fire.

It’s important to note that World Without End was written 20 years after Pillars. Several friends who have read both books (and many Goodreads reviews) point out that much of Follett’s political and personal philosophy seems to have shifted in the years since Pillars was published.

Whereas in Pillars we had Prior Philip — a believer in God, but also a strong, courageous, and flawed character — World Without End seems to be exclusively populated with religious figures who are evil and corrupt.

As a person of faith, I just can’t bring myself to read it. I’m not trying to be naive — I know that throughout history (and today) many religious institutions have been controlled by the corrupt. (Spotlight is one of my favorite movies!)

But why devote the time to reading a 1,000-page book that will likely just make me frustrated?

Life’s just too short and there are too many other good books to read.


Have you read The Pillars of the Earth? What did you think? Have you read the sequel?

4 books to inspire your next big change

Reconsidering your career? Stuck in a funk? Ready to kickstart your daily routine?

Step into my office.

This year has been full of HUGE transitions for me. Maybe it is for you too.

Whether you’ve decided to beat that bad habit or you’re heading back to grad school (or moving across the country), these books will help streamline your focus. They’re inspiring and thought provoking, and I hope you’ll benefit from them as much as I have.

Confession: I listened to most of these on audiobook (Read earlier confession).


1. Grit, by Angela Duckworth

grit angela duckworth nonfiction picks

I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up if it hadn’t been available for free at my workplace (what kind of person says no to a free book??). But I’m so glad I did!

This book was both convicting and encouraging. 

In Grit, Angela Duckworth debunks the myth that talent is a better predictor of success than effort. She argues that determination, purpose, and endurance are key to achieving long-term success.

In high school, I was successful because I worked hard, not because I was naturally talented in math or chemistry. I was determined to succeed and I was comfortable with failure. But something changed in college. I started thinking that because other students were “naturally smarter” than me, I couldn’t measure up. This book was a much-needed wakeup call. It helped me regain some confidence and perspective I lost in college.

Recommended if you feel a bit lost in your career and you wonder if you have what it takes to achieve your goals. Be warned, there are long passages describing her scientific methods, and some parts are repetitive. Be strong and stick around for the good stuff!


2. The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg

the power of habit charles duhigg nonfiction picks

The Power of Habit is a seriously fascinating book.

I’m a how-to junkie and I’m also fascinated by the way things (and people) work. I love tips for becoming more efficient and productive. I also love the How Stuff Works podcast and the TV show How It’s Made.

If that sounds like you, this is your book.

The Power of Habit explains the brain forms habits and how you can retake control of your own habits. Duhigg also talks about the history of habit science and how habits impact the way we live, work, and make decisions.

I especially enjoyed the sections on habit formation in the workplace and how marketers use the basic principles of habits to influence consumers. I swear I’m not a science junkie (AT ALL), but I still enjoyed this book all the same. (However, I do have a sneaky suspicion I would have had a harder time finishing it if I hadn’t listened on audiobook.)

The only part I didn’t like was the last section covering Angie Bachmann — I thought it was a bit weak, didn’t give any satisfactory conclusions, and wasn’t as interesting as the rest of the book.

Recommended if you want to adjust bad habits, cultivate good habits, and want to be more aware of how your subconscious impacts your decision making.


3. The Road Back to You, by Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile

the road back to you ian morgan cron enneagram

I used to love the Myers-Briggs personality test, but I always felt like the half of my results described me, and the other half didn’t. (I’m an ESFJ, in case you were wondering.)

Then I discovered the Enneagram, and my whole personality-test loving world was shattered … in the best possible way.

The Enneagram described me so perfectly, it was a little creepy. I learned about my basic fears, my unique contribution to the world, and why I react to certain situations the way I do.

If you’re curious about learning more about yourself to improve your relationships, self-doubt, and workplace habits, The Road Back to You is a great place to start. As a primer for the Enneagram, it takes you through all nine personality types and explains how the enneagram works. It also offers plenty of helpful tips for overcoming your core “deadly sin,” learning to interact more productively with others, and using your unique strengths to contribute to the flourishing of others.

Knowing that I’m an Enneagram 6 helped me recognize how fear is always holding me back. For the first time in my life, I realized that most of my unhealthy beliefs, habits, and attitudes are based in fear. This is game-changing stuff.

Recommended if you want to understand yourself better so you can start relating to others better. (Aka: why certain things make you mad, how you can get along with that annoying coworker, and why your parents are so weird.)


4. Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Harrison Warrenliturgy of the ordinary tish harrison warren nonfiction picks

Confession: I find the pressure to “live every day like your last” exhausting and overwhelming.

But in this cultural moment, there’s a pervading idea that your life — filled with the unglamorous tasks of laundry, 9-to-5 jobs, and doctor’s appointments — is being wasted unless you’re doing big, exciting, and audacious things.

If we’re not carpe diem-ing every moment, we must be doing something wrong.

Liturgy of the Ordinary offers a different vision: Although many years of our lives will be spent doing everyday, ordinary tasks, that’s ok.

In fact, it’s during these seemingly unimportant moments that we are forming spiritual (and unspiritual) habits that shape who we are. We are being sanctified through ordinariness.

Warren also points out that Jesus Christ was a humble carpenter for 30 years before He changed the world. If ordinary life was embraced by God Himself, then there must be deep spiritual value in the formative work He is doing in our rhythms and routines.

Recommended if you’re ready to start paying attention to how your habits and routines are molding and shaping you spiritually. Maybe you’re at a place in life where you need to stay planted, grow roots, and purposefully commit to endurance and ordinariness. This book will help you not let that time go to waste.


What books inspire you? Leave a comment and let me know!


Accidental Hiatus: That time I moved across the country

Hello, fellow readers. It’s been a while.

Two months ago, I totally didn’t mean to go on hiatus from blogging (and reading for that matter). But then, I totally didn’t mean to move across the country either, and that happened, so here we are.

A big life change has been on the horizon for a while. My husband and I have been waiting, hoping, praying, and longing for the “what’s next” in our life for a long time, but it came much faster than we were expecting.

accidental hiatus

In the form of moving from Virginia to Colorado.

In six weeks.

It’s been a whirlwind, to say the least. A stressful, exciting, strange whirlwind.

The mountains have been calling to us for a long time, and we (well, mostly me), finally found the courage to answer.

But I’m excited to be back to writing! I’m mostly (ish) settled in to my new place, my new routine, and my new life. We’re loving it out west so far (minus the whole not having any friends thing), and I’m ready to discover some new book stores, new libraries, and review some more books!

Thanks for sticking with me. Let’s get reading!