Goodreads | All the Light We Cannot See

A House in the SkyIt's winter in Cleveland, and you know what that means. Lots of time off shooting, which I've filled with reading. On the couch. Under a blanket. With a cup of something hot in my hand. Nevermind that it was 65 degrees on Saturday. I'm still working hard on my winter reading list. In case you need a good book suggestion for a chilly Saturday (or a spring break trip to a tropical spot ... jealous!), here are my latest ...

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins I know this book gets mixed reviews (especially now that it's going to be a movie!), but DANG I thought it was riveting! I finished this book in two days, which is crazy fast for me, the girl who usually likes to make good books last. I just HAD TO KNOW WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT! If you like suspense and mystery and psychological thrillers, you're going to need to start reading this book ASAP. (*****)

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout This was one of my very favorite reads of 2015. Amanda Lindhout wrote this memoir after being kidnapped and held in captivity for more than a year in Somalia. Her life stories prior to being kidnapped are just unbelievable, and I was fascinated by how she used her experiences and sheer will to survive in isolation for months on end. This girl is clever and brave. (*****)

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume Guys. Judy Blume was my all-time favorite author when I was little. I read Are you There God? It's me, Margaret., like, a lot. So when my mom gifted me this book, I had high hopes for it. The story is fictional, but it's based around these three plane crashes that really, truly did take place in Elizabeth, N.J., in the early 1950s. The premise is interesting, and the story is well-written, but I'll still take my favorite Judy Blume classics over this one any day. (***)

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs This one came from the recommendation of a photographer friend who is an avid reader (hi, Sarah!), and I knew her suggestion wouldn't disappoint. I did NOT expect to really get attached to this story the way I did though. Robert Peace's life was extraordinary: He fought through poverty and major family struggles to earn a full ride to Yale. Post-Yale, he moved back to his hometown of Newark and entered the drug ring. It's not at all as black and white as I just summed up here, and that makes this story is SO, so important. (*****)

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng I picked up this book in a quaint cottage book shop in Northern Michigan. Just thinking about it brings me back to warm summer days and lots of cherry pie. This story is not quite as carefree as warm summer days, but it's riveting anyways. After a girl's body is found in a lake, her family struggles to come to terms with what might have happened to her. It's a little bit mystery, a lot bit moving. ;) Pick it up! (****)

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown It took me awhile to get through this book because, ironically, I was finishing up my busy season when I started it. I probably needed this message most then, you know? McKeown writes about doing less things well by being more selective with our choices and time … even if it seems counterintuitive. I learned a lot from this one, and I hope I can apply some of it this year. (****)

Scary Close by Donald Miller I've been a fan of Donald Miller's since I read Blue Like Jazz in college, and reading this book was like visiting an old friend. Miller's writing style pulls you right in and is always relatable, and this memoir about "dropping the act and finding true intimacy" was funny, heartwarming and hit close to home for me. (*****)

All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr Oh, this book. I loved it. It was hard, but it was so good. The story is set in France and Germany during WWII and switches back and forth between a blind, French girl's war experience and a German boy's (who ends up being forced to fight for Germany). This was a perspective on WWII that I've never considered, and it was eye-opening. I didn't want this one to end. (*****!)

The Very Picture of You by Isabel Wolff As you've probably noticed, I tend to go for stories of real struggle and oppression. I don't know why; I'm just drawn to them! This book is not one of my usual reads, and while it was a bit fluffy, it was entertaining enough for a ski trip weekend. The main character is a portrait artist who falls in love with one of her subjects, and that subject just so happens to be very off limits for her. A little soap opera-y, but engaging anyway. (***)

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee A young adult read about a Chinese girl and a runaway slave braving the Oregon Trail to escape their unjust life back in Missouri. This book surprised me. First, because I had no idea that it was YA until I opened it and saw the big print (ha!) and second, because I've never read a story quite like this one. It was like a lot of pieces of American history—that I knew about each on their own—all came together to craft this beautiful story. (*****)

Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland by Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus I was a little bit leery to read this book because I knew it would be a hard one to process, but I was totally engrossed from the start. It's unbelievable what those three girls went through for 10+ years, and I'm so glad I now know their side of the story. (*****)