As a kid, one of the best parts about summer was being sent home with new books to read! Was it just me or did summer vacations feel like they lasted an eternity when we were kids? Even the most action packed and fun summer vacations... days seemed to move so incredibly slow. Hours felt like days, and days felt like months. In the best way possible! Much different than how I feel about summer vacation now being the mom!
When I think back on summers growing up, some of my favorites were the summer days I was bored enough to read. I'd get caught up in a good book..and not want to do a single thing until I finished! Reading books that went on to become childhood favorites that I read over and over again- Doctor Dolittle, The Little House on the Prairie Series, Matilda, and so many more great classics!
Now as an adult, I WISH I had enough time to get so bored and read. If I want to get any reading done, I have to be a lot more intentional about it. I love getting caught up in a good book, and have some good old fashioned peace and quiet to read it in. (Not that there's much peace and quiet going on around here these days with 3 littles running around in complete ciaos). The exact reason why it's been so difficult to find the time to read books.
This summer though, some friends from my church and I started a monthly book club. We meet once a month at one of our houses, we all bring a yummy dish to pass, we enjoy a nice meal together over catching up and many outbursts of laughter, and then we sit over coffee or dessert and discuss the book for an hour or two. There's usually always tears, heart to heart discussions, and stories that connect us all through one books message.
I LOVE that this book club has held us all accountable to getting some reading done! Here's the thing...I don't hoard anything! I have a hard time holding onto my kids art work for longer than 1 day on the refrigerator, I sell their clothes the second they outgrow them, my kids' 'baby keepsakes'...those are all gone too.. I try really hard not to hang onto stuff. I'm actually obsessed the past few years with ridding our house of 'stuff' as much as possible, but the 2 things I just can't seem to NOT hoard are BOOKS and COFFEE CUPS!! If you're going to hoard something...those are good options right?!? The problem is when I buy a book I have every gosh darn GOOD intention of reading it...cover to cover...but then...LIFE! KIDS! BUSY SCHEDULES! And before I know it...it becomes a book only half read on the shelf, that I promise myself I'll get around to reading the rest of 'one day'!
Being accountable to a book club has helped tremendously! Also finding books that are timely for the season of life you're in will make it near impossible for you to not pick up that book any free second you have!
So without further ado ....here are my 5 books of summer! In order of favorite to least favorite read -and a short review on each!
Favorite Read: Hands down! - "Girl, Wash Your Face" -Rachel Hollis
Book's Tagline: "Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are, So You can Become Who You Were Meant to Be!"
Book's Message: "You, and only you, are ultimately responsible for who you become and how happy you are. That's the takeaway!" The author believes that in order to become the best version of yourself, to live our lives in truth, we all need to first address the lies we're believing about yourselves For example straight from the book: " I'm not good enough, I'm not talented enough, I'm not educated enough, I'm not a good mom, I'm not a good wife, my dreams will never come true because I've already tried, I'm a terrible writer, I'm defined by my weight, I will never get past this...etc." Each chapter of the book addresses a lie, she shares intimate moments, funny stories, relatable life lessons she's learned, then she speaks the TRUTH about each one of those lies. This book is all about viewing yourself with beauty and worth like God says He created us! It's all about DARING to not just dream..but LIVE OUT your dreams. It's all about hearing hard truth's that just having a dream in life ISN'T enough to make it come true. It requires hard work, hustle, and commitment of time & energy.
Ease of Read-(Scale 1-5): 1 Super easy read! It's written SO well, the chapters are very well thought out each addressing an important topic. And, while the content is CRAZY powerful, it isn't so heavy hitting that you have to take a break after each chapter to digest its message.
What did you love about this book?: What DIDN'T I love about this book?!? No really...every page, every chapter, every story she shared got me fired up, encouraged, and motivated! With the start of this new adventure into writing, creating a website, and focusing on planning out MY DREAM, this book...which is ALL about dreaming, working hard, being unapologetic and proud of the dreams God has given you...it couldn't have been more timely for me to read than when I did! It was part of the fuel that got my "dream fire" burning so bright! My favorite chapter of the entire book is Chapter 5! I don't want to give it all away, because it is SO well written, but I have to tell you..I could relate to this chapter. My own marriage had a bumpy start, MORE than a bumpy start....a BOMB went off, and I wasn't sure we'd make it. (More on that later..) What, I KNOW...BEYOND ANY SHADOW OF A DOUBT..is that God CAN restore and turn broken relationships upside down IF both people are willing to let him. God's heart is restoration, God's heart is peace, and His heart is love. I am the #1 fan of standing behind restored relationships, and cheering and screaming..."WAY TO GO GOD! YOU made a way...where there seemed to be no way! You made beauty out of ashes!" So chapter 5 was...heart wrenching and beautiful all simultaneously! I was literally cheering at the end out loud, getting stares from my kids who had watched me cry, laugh, and cheer all within 20 minutes.
What did you dislike about this book? The fact that it ended? No, really... I get it, not everyone will love this book AS MUCH as I did. That's totally ok!! 'To each their own!" For me, it was an absolute all time favorite, one I will go back and re-read again and again for encouragement and a kick in the butt! I will say, the only "negative feedback" I would give, if you can even call it that...is to keep in mind this book will not apply to everyone. What I mean by that...for example, she talks a lot about taking care of your body, eating well, and working out. Not to "be skinny or super fit" but to be HEALTHY and to feel good! If you are someone who had health issues that cannot physically do these things, for your safety you have to watch your heart rate, for your health you have to eat a certain way, please don't take it personally or hear the opposite of what her message is truly saying. If you're a special needs parent, working full time, and taking care of a child who needs supervision 24/7, your time is in fact limited, you are doing the most noble and honorable job you could ever do...taking care of another human being! So my only advice is for those with special circumstances, take it with your own grain of salt, and remember the author's entire message is love based.
Star Rating (1-5): 5 Stars!! I wish I could buy a copy for every woman I know!!
2nd Favorite Read: "Never Unfriended" -Lisa Jo Baker
Book's Tagline: "The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships"
Book's Message: "Friendship is not for the faint of heart. The heart of this book--is the call back to friendship--even when it's hard, awkward, unfamiliar, or scary. Being willing to be a neighbor in the heart sense of the word is being willing to connect with people who God puts in your path. It's doing life together, especially the hard parts, showing up for one another when life is busy, it's choosing friendship on purpose." (Lisa Jo Baker)
This book is about first and foremost filling the spot of "best friend" with Jesus, the friend who will never let us down, and who will always show up. Secondly, learning how to be a better friend, being a better listeners, a better forgiver, and a wiser communicator.
Ease of Read-(Scale 1-5): 2! This isn't a book that hurts your brain to read...but it almost certainly might hurt your heart. I don't think any woman reading this book won't have to take a moment to collect herself emotionally after a few chapters that hit home.
What did you love about this book?: I love that it touched a real hard topic that we as women, need to be ministered to in. It went straight to the gut of the topic at hand. When my book club met to discuss this book.. there wasn't a dry eye in my entire house! A group of grown women, all of us huddled around my living room couch.. sharing our stories of " friendship PTSD", ways we had fallen short as friends ourselves, and encouraging one another through the message of this book and looking to Jesus as our # 1 friendship, and best example of what that looks like!
What did you dislike about this book?: My only critique of this book was near the middle-to end, there were a few parts that became repetitive. However...that might have been intentional by the author, to really engrave on our hearts for the future the message she was conveying about friendship. I needed to hear it, over and over again, and I still go back to this book often and re-read certain chapters, because it is THAT good!
Star Rating (1-5): 5 Stars! I highly recommend grabbing a copy! It's one of those books that I think all women would have healthier and more thriving friendships if we all took a minute to read this one!
3rd Favorite Read: "Cultivate" -Lara Casey
Book's Tagline: "A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life"
Book's Message: "A flourishing life is possible, no perfection required! Welcome to the journey of getting messy in the rich soil of possibility-embracing imperfect, grace filled progress to grow a life of joy!" I loved the message of this book, being intentional about what we are choosing to cultivate. What matters most to us? I love christian self help books (yup, I'm a total nerd like that! #noshameinmygame) and this book is such a great reminder of what God calls us to cultivate. For example: A healthier lifestyle, a stronger marriage, a deeper faith, intentional connections with family, joy in your children, contentment in what you have, more time in prayer, learning and education, a new business venture, being more present, deeper friendships, confidence in your life path, creativity, work that allows you to use your gifts, a life giving home with open door for hospitality, and balance and rest.
Ease of Read-(Scale 1-5): 4. Let me explain. Again, I LOVE the message of this book. I love the author, she is so humble, and down to earth, and I think she would probably be really easy to follow, relate to, and listen to in person. She feels like a friend you already know and would sit down and have coffee with! This book though...is over complicated because of the way it's formatted. Intellectually and emotionally the book is an easy read, I loved it so much, but ease of read for the layout I give it a 4.
What did you love about this book?: I loved the over all message of this book. I am a 'Type A perfectionist' who tries to do it all. It's probably one of the things I dislike most about myself! It's what stops me from asking family and friends for help when I actually need it most. "I've got this.. I can conquer it all!" This book reminds me...I tend to over focus on certain areas of life, or details in life..(cleaning, planning, all the way down to how my husband folds the towels ha!) and over complicate them. Do those things really matter? Nope. What a powerful title. Cultivate! It's a great message about being intentional about what we're growing.
What did you dislike about this book?: The Book's Content Layout. I LOVED the content, but not the layout out how it was placed into the book. Personally, I found it difficult to follow the way the book was laid out. I originally bought the audio book because let's face it...I'm a busy momma of 3 kids, and sometimes the only time I can read is if I'm listening to it in the car, while I shower, mowing the grass, and doing the dishes! (TIP: Most library's well rent out FOR FREE audible versions of books now! So don't let the price of a book stop you from reading it!) When I started the audio version of the book, I kept feeling like I might be listening to a section or chapter I had already listened to, mostly because it sounded extremely repetitive. I soon realized that it was wasn't me re-listening to sections, but rather the way the book was laid out. I ordered a used copy of the book in hopes it would be a little more clear cut. Unfortunately, for me, it wasn't. The book is split up into "parts". Each consisting of a few chapters, that fall under that particular part's topic. Inside each chapter you will find a lie, a truth, and more topics, followed by many reminders to "cultivate" that topic. This is especially repetitive when listening in audio form, just as a heads up if you're an audible fan like me!
Star Rating (1-5): 4 Stars!I loved the book, loved the message, the only reason it's not a 5 is because of the layout.
4th Favorite Read: "Switch On Your Brain"-Dr. Caroline Leaf
Book's Tagline: The Key to PEAK HAPPINESS, THINKING, and HEALTH
Book's Message: "You are not a victim of your biology!" What we think about truly affects us both physically and emotionally. Today our culture is undergoing an epidemic of toxic thoughts that, left unchecked, create ideal conditions for illnesses. Supported by current scientific and medical research, Dr. Caroline Leaf exposes the "switch" in your brain that will enable you to live a happier, healthier, more enjoyable life where you achieve your goals, get your thought life under control, and even become more intelligent. And her 21-Brain Detox Plan guides you step-by-step through the process of replacing toxic thoughts with healthy ones.
Ease of Read (1-5): 5! Warning:Difficult read ahead! We are not all neuroscientists, and despite her great effort at "dumbing down the info" this is not a book most of us in our book club could read more than 1-2 chapters at a time without our brains hurting.
What did you love about this book?: I loved the fact that it's only through her research as a doctor, studying the brain, and its impact on our bodies, did she come to the conclusion that God MUST exist! I loved that she found a way to show how the bible does in fact match up to a lot of science, as she guides you through what that means and looks like!
What did you dislike about this book? I'm going to be very real for a moment here..the first time I had heard of Caroline Leaf and her books was when a mentor of mine highly recommended me reading one of her books, when I was struggling with anxiety after Hailey was diagnoses with Epilepsy. I was living in a state of constant extreme worry, waiting for "the other shoe to drop" so to speak on her health, and dealing with the grief we were feeling with how we thought our parenting life was going to look. When I opened her book, I felt an IMMENSE dis-taste to it, as if she were blaming me for my own anxiety! In a time where I was struggling so deeply, it felt condemning and like someone was rubbing salt in my wounds. So when our book club chose to read another one of her books, I told myself I was in an entirely different chapter of life now, free from anxiety, and my heart would really dig deep for the message is she conveying. I do believe that there is power in our thoughts, the renewing of our minds, thinking positively, but I also believe you could be the happiest, most joyful, healthiest human on Earth, and still fall victim to illness and disease because we live in an imperfect world!
Star Rating (1-5): 2. This is just my personal opinion on the book. I know friends who would rate this a 5, because it was so life changing for them! Different books, different messages, speak to different people, in different seasons. Thank goodness for that! For me, it was a difficult read, it's not a topic (the science element) of the writing that interested me, although I love to see her connecting it back to Faith! It all just depends on your reading preferences, and for me, this was a book I was ok giving away to someone that I know would get so much more out of it than I did.
4th Favorite Read: "YOU are a BADASS"-Jen Sincero
Book's Tagline: "How To Stop Doubting Your Greatness And Start Living An Awesome Life"
Book's Message: In a nutshell... we get in our own way in life! Even when we know we have a story to tell, an awesome life to live out, we let 'little things' that happen to everyone.. become 'big things', and stop ourselves from achieving greatness in life.
Ease of Read-(Scale 1-5): 3. The book is pretty stripped down to it's message. Easy enough read. Anyone could read it. The only thing that makes a tad difficult to read...and why it got a 3, was is it loses the power of the books overall message through the constant swearing. Maybe I should have assumed there'd be a lot of this considering...well the title...but after 2 chapters..I was already having a hard time reading the book because it was trying too hard to get points across by throwing a curse word somewhere in the sentence. It almost became a game...how many times can I count a swear word in this chapter?
What did you love about this book?: I loved that the book can really be read by anyone and everyone! It doesn't apply to just women, or to just men, to young adults, or middle aged adults who have a 401k. "Your calling could simply be to take care of your family or to grow the perfect tulip. This is about getting mighty clear about what make you happy and what makes you feel the most alive, and then creating it instead of pretending you can't have it. Or that you don't deserve it. You need to go from wanting to change your life to deciding to change your life."
What did you dislike about this book?: I really wanted to LOVE this book! It was a #1 New York Times Best Seller with over 2 MILLION copies sold! The title/theme of the book was something I hoped would be a confidence booster as I journey through a new adventure of creating a website, and sharing my writing with the world, but it was a huge let down. Besides the constant attention seeker by using swear words every 5 seconds...the author refers to God as "Source Energy", "High Power", "The Universe", "The Vortex", etc. She mainly focuses on "source energy" but calls God many things through the book. Christian or not...it's really distracting. Most of what she writes, isn't anything we haven't heard since we were younger. Really, the only difference in this motivational book to the next ...is A LOT of swearing.
Star Rating (1-5): 1 star. Ah! I hate typing this review, because again...I wanted to like this book so badly! I truly struggled to force myself to read this book, and I'd feel no different after falling asleep to another chapter each time I did pick up the book. To each their own, I'm sure there are a lot of people who would enjoy this type of read (obviously it's sold so many copies and done so well) but I'm just not one of them!
I'm excited to have ordered a few new books for book club, that I can't wait to share with you! Check back for more, and if you have read any good reads lately I'd love to hear about them in the comments! Always looking for new reads!