As we welcome the new year, it’s the perfect time to take a few moments to look back at our accomplishments over the past twelve months. What did we do? What did we see? And most importantly for us book-addicts, what did we read?

I, for one, set two goals for myself at the beginning of this year:

1. Have a baby. (CHECK.) 

and

2. Complete the 2018 Reading Challenge. (CHECK.) 

Over the past twelve months, I read my way through over 150 books and can happily say that I enjoyed a vast majority of them. The genres and authors were broader than usual, particularly since I participated in and completed my first reading challenge: 52 books in 52 weeks. (For a full list of said books, click here.)

And now, with January right around the corner, our 2019 Reading Challenge is set to begin in just a few days. For those planning on joining in, I am excited to share with you a few book recommendations to get you started!

In no particular order, here are FIFTEEN of my favourite reads from this past year:

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Doesn’t this title just say it all?

As a bookworm… (or should I say, book addict?)… even the cover of this book just gives me a little thrill of delight. Books, books, books, everywhere!

**Happy sigh to find someone who just SO gets me.**

From the author of the popular blog, Modern Mrs Darcy, this book is filled with dreamy quotes and personal-essays for the most obsessive of readers. Each page explodes with warmth and charm and the kind of secret joy that can only be found when ink meets paper.

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With the arrival of a new little one, my reading has dramatically decreased over the past few months. It’s also been increasingly difficult to read anything that requires a lot of brain power. That’s why this trio of “romantic suspense novellas” was a perfect read for this sleep-deprived mama. Short and light, this book was an easy, entertaining read by three different Christian authors.

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It’s that time again!

After the huge success of last year’s challenge, I am beyond excited to announce that the 2019 Reading Challenge is here!

This year’s challenge will take on the same format as last year as we attempt to read our way through 52 books in 52 weeks. In the graphic below, you will find fifty-two different categories. Some of my favourites from this year include: “a one-word title,” “an author who uses a pseudonym,” and “a family member’s favourite book.” Many of these categories were suggested by readers who participated in last year’s challenge and I can’t wait to dive in!

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Every town holds secrets but only a few remain potent enough to wound and destroy a century later. The Reckoning of Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright illuminates the hidden parts of human nature — our desire to keep sin and shame hidden — as stories collide in this dual-narrative, century-crossing mystery.

From the Publisher:
“For over a century, the town of Gossamer Grove has thrived on its charm and Midwestern values, but Annalise Forsythe knows painful secrets, including her own, hover just beneath the pleasant facade. Yet her strange and sudden inheritance of a run-down trailer home–full of pictures, vintage obituaries, and old revival posters–leaves her wholly unprepared for how truly dark and deadly those secrets may be.

A century earlier, Gossamer Grove is stirred into chaos by the arrival of controversial and charismatic twin revivalists. The chaos takes a murderous turn when Libby Sheffield, while working at her father’s newspaper, receives an obituary for a reputable church deacon hours before his death. As she works with the deacon’s son to solve the crime, it becomes clear that a reckoning has come to town–but it isn’t until another obituary arrives at the paper that they realize the true depths of the danger they’ve waded into.

Two women, separated by a hundred years, must unravel the mysteries of their own town before it’s too late and they lose their future–or their very souls.”

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Overwhelmed.

It’s a word that is probably all too familiar to most of us. From school and work, to relationships, societal pressures, inner pressures, anxiety, and general feelings of unworthiness — there are so many things that can bring us to the place of feeling overwhelmed.

And that’s why the premise of this book, “Not the Boss of Us” by Kay Wills Wyma, intrigued me: “Too much to manage and not enough time or energy to do it? What if instead of being overwhelmed with life you could be overwhelmed by Truth with its grace, hope, peace, and love?”

Sounds like a much needed reminder, right?

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This year I was super excited to introduce a new reading challenge on my blog! I called it “The 2018 Reading Challenge: 52 books in 52 weeks” and was blown away by the reaction. With hundreds of shares on Facebook and thousands of re-pins on Pinterest, the response to this challenge has been phenomenal and staggering at the same time. This was my most viewed post of 2018 (so far) and I’ve been super excited to see so many people passionately dive into reading!

A book a week sounds daunting to some people but the goal of this challenge was really to inspire people to read more and to read different. With fifty-two different categories, I hoped that participants would stretch out of their comfort zones and pick up books that they might not ordinarily read. Many of those who have been participating have excitedly shared new authors and new genres that they’ve discovered and were surprised by.

So far, my personal book tally for this year is hovering in the 120’s. Not all the books I read were for the challenge and I tried to limit myself to just one challenge book each week. However, with a new baby on the way, I knew that my reading time was going to be limited over the next few months and wanted to make sure I finished before October.

With that being said, I have completed my 52 challenge books for the year and wanted to share them you. There’s probably only two or three books on this list that I didn’t enjoy and wouldn’t necessarily recommend. (Cough, cough, Three Cups of Tea, cough…) But even so, this was a really fun challenge and I hope YOU ALL join me in the upcoming 2019 MommyMannegren reading challenging.

That’s right. A 2019 Reading Challenge is on it’s way! The full challenge and details will be released in NOVEMBER! So be sure to stay tuned!

I am also taking category suggestions for the new challenge. If you haven’t already joined the 2018 Reading Challenge Facebook Group, I encourage you to do so! If you have a brilliant idea for next year and want to see your category included in the 2019 challenge, the Facebook group is the place to share it!

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Book Review: Grace Like Scarlett by Adriel Booker
Grieving with Hope After Miscarriage and Loss

Four years ago, my son was stillborn. I was at such a loss as to how to process this sudden and unexpected death and wanted someone to tell me that what I was feeling was normal, healthy even. I found it challenging to find good, recently published books that taught about grief from a Christian perspective — books that taught and reinforced a theology of suffering and grief through a Christ-centered lens.

When we openly share our grief, we are reminded that we are never too broken or damaged for God. This is why I am so glad to finally start seeing these sorts of books on the market.

Grace Like Scarlett is a beautiful look at one mother’s journey with miscarriage, all the while centered around the transforming, redeeming, and healing power of Christ. Adriel shares her story with raw-hearted honesty and vulnerability. She doesn’t shy away from the gritty but instead invites us to look at it from a new perspective.

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I’m not going to lie. When I was offered the opportunity to review this book, I did so because of the cover. “A Light On The Hill” by Connilyn Cossette is exactly the type of fictional book that filled my early-teen summers and I couldn’t help but feel a bit nostalgic at the sight of it. (Yep, you caught me… I am hands down the type of person who picks books by their covers…) Warm and beautiful with a soft matte finish, this is my kind of book cover!

The novel is set in Israel in the time of Joshua, seven years after the fall of Jericho. After being branded with the mark of the Canaanite gods, one young woman has hidden herself away on her father’s vineyard. Carrying the shameful reminder of her captivity in Jericho, Moriyah struggles to be content with a life lived behind a veil. After her father finds a match for her, a widower with two teenage sons, she begins to hope again. But soon it all goes horribly wrong and Moriyah is forced to flee for her life. Seeking safety at one of the newly established Levitical cities of refuge, Moriyah’s travels bring her to the feet of danger, enemies, unexpected allies, and ultimately, God. 

The story is, in and of itself, well written. I don’t tend to read a lot of historical fiction nowadays but this book was a pleasant change from my usual fare. It’s a light and easy read with an interesting narrative. While the plot is fairly predictable, the characters are well rounded and likable and the scenes are well set.

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Every once in a while I read a book that enrages and deeply grieves me. For me, this book was that. But it was also so much more. It was a story of faith that perseveres in the darkest of circumstances and of a hope grounded in more than just man alone.

In her challenging and inspiring book, “I Will Not Fear,” author Melba Pattillo Beals shares with us a small glimpse into some of the heartache and persecution she has faced throughout the years. In 1957, Melba was one of the nine African American students who were chosen to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The story continues throughout her life as a news reporter, wife, mother, magazine writer, and professor; highlighting the oppression she has faced in everyday life and countering it with an unwavering hope.

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We all have expectations for motherhood. Most of us, at some point or another, have carefully crafted plans for what our motherhood will look like, how it will come about, or who our family will be. And then, inevitably, we encounter situations that test and challenge those ideas. We’re forced to re-evaluate or else flounder under unrealistic goals.

I was super excited to receive an early copy of Jamie Sumner’s book, “Unbound” as she addresses the reality of motherhood and the struggle it can take to get there. Dealing with issues like infertility, miscarriage, difficult pregnancies, and special needs parenting, this book details some of Jamie’s own difficult journey while weaving in stories and highlights from women of the Bible. This book is beautiful and challenging, written with hope, honesty, and truth — and I was so encouraged by Jamie’s story.

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Book Review: Oath of Honor by Lynette Eason

Police officer, Izzy St. John, is determined to uncover the truths behind her partner’s murder, even if that means putting herself directly in the line of fire. Her search for answers leads her to a large criminal organization and a list of possible dirty-cops,  which potentially includes one of her own family members. Mystery, adventure, and a bit of heat between her and a handsome homicide detective launches Book 1 of the Blue Justice series, “Oath of Honor” by Lynette Eason.

For me, no trip to the library is complete without a stack of mystery / adventure novels in hand. This is my go-to genre for easy-reading and unwinding. Being an avid reader of this genre, I was especially looking forward to reading and reviewing this book, Oath of Honor

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