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7 Books I Finished in July

Want to know what books I finished in July? In 2019, I’m sharing the books I read each month and what my honest thoughts were on those books. If you love books, you don’t want to miss this post! (You can see all of my book reviews for this year here.)

I set a goal to finish 80 books in 2019 and a second goal that 40 of those books will be books I already own. (You can see which books I picked to read from those I already own here).

By the way, I’m truly loving using GoodReads to track my reading. You all were right! It is really motivational to see my progress! And I’ve been ahead on my goal for the last month!

I finished 7 books in June —- yay! Here’s what I read + my honest thoughts on each of the books:

Becoming Mrs. Lewis

I am so conflicted on what to say about this book. On the one hand, it was a very well-written story that was pretty captivating, but on the other hand, I struggled to like it.

It’s the unconventional love story of C.S. Lewis and his wife. It was both beautiful and tragic and not at all what I expected.

I wanted to like it, but I just couldn’t.

Some of that was because I think there was too much fiction woven in and I didn’t know what was fact and what was fiction — and that bothered me. Some of it was because I was concerned with Lewis’ relationship with Joy when she was still married. If it were true, from my vantage point, it felt like it crossed some lines of emotional attachment that shouldn’t happen between two people when one of them is married.

If I could tie up this review with a bow, I would. But I can’t. Because I just don’t know what to say or think about this book.

Have you read it? If so, please let me know what you thought of it. And please let me know if you disagree with me and why! I really wish I could be persuaded to like it.

Verdict: 3 stars

Begin Again

This book moved me at a deep level. While I felt like sometimes I wasn’t poetic enough to understand the depths of what was being communicated.

It felt so raw and honest and vulnerable and yet so beautiful and rich and inspiring. I didn’t want it to end.

Two of the quotes that were the most meaningful to me:

“We don’t get to the truth while we’re deeply invested in what’s false.”

“God’s story is a narrative of emancipation.”

Of all the books I read in July, this was my favorite… thus, the 4-star verdict.

Verdict: 4 stars

Preach to Yourself

I wanted to love this book and I did love many parts of it. But I felt like it was hard to slog through at times. Some of the chapters felt really long and drawn out.

And yet, some of the sections were so powerful and so important. For instance, this passage is GOLD:

“Many of us — maybe all of us — don’t live what we say we believe… We say we depend on God, but we act like we’ve got to make it happen on our own. We say we believe God can heal, but we’re walking around with decades-old wounds. We say we believe God is at work, but we’re asleep at the wheel of the one life He’s given us.”

So, despite some of the chapters feeling longer than necessary, this book has some very valuable stuff and is worth the read.

Verdicts: 3 stars

Last Christmas in Paris

This book had been recommended to me as one to read since I loved The Geurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. It’s the love story of a soldier at war and his friend’s sister at home.

They began writing letters just to keep each other company. But slowly, ever so slowly, it morphed into more. It’s a fairly slow-developing story, but there is a lot of history woven throughout and I learned quite a bit about World War I. (I realized I have read a lot about World War II, but very few books about World War I.)

The book is epistolary, which means the story is told through letters and telegrams. I found it fascinating in the afterward to discover that the authors wrote the bones of this book as actual letters back and forth.

Verdicts: 3 stars

It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way

Lysa always has a way with words to penetrate your heart and challenge you, while also drawing you in with her funny and authentic story-telling.

For some reason, though, unlike her others books I’ve read, I felt like this book was missing something. I’m not sure if it’s because she wrote it while still very much in the midst of the story that is a big story arc for the book or if it was something else. I couldn’t put a finger on it.

I do feel like the book would be a real encouragement to someone who is going through a difficult time when life feelings overwhelming, hard, and just doesn’t make sense.

Verdict: 3 stars

Kind is the New Classy

This is a quick read (or listen) and definitely had some valuable content. However, I have to admit that I was sort of turned off by how the author seemed to drop in unnecessary details that just felt kind of prideful.

I know that we all come at things differently and only God knows someone’s heart, however, I hadn’t said anything to Jesse about this and was listening to the book when he was in the room and he picked up on this same thing, too.

I think there is a lot of helpful inspiration in this book, I just struggled to love it because I kept getting hung up on the presentation.

Verdict: 3 stars

Beauty Maker

Monica asked me if I would write an endorsement for her brand-new book. Since I love her work, I said yes!
Here was the endorsement I wrote after reading it:
In Beauty Maker, Monica invites us on a journey to cultivating more beauty — in our surroundings and in our souls. Her words inspired me to prioritize taking time to create more beauty in our home and to prioritize taking time to be a noticer of the beauty that is all around me.
My favorite part of the book? The rich and yet simple photos that showcase how Monica lives out her message in her everyday life.

Verdict: 3 stars

Important & Super Honest Note:

I’m kind of not wanting to hit publish on this post. Why did I ever commit to writing honest reviews of all the books I read anyway?? I want to be truthful, but I also want to be kind and gracious… and I struggled with how to strike that balance well in my reviews today.

I want you to know that I’m not going to sugarcoat my feelings, but I also know that authors are real people who have put so much effort into their books that it’s hard for me to write reviews that feel like they lean toward being negative.

Ugh. This is the part of my job that is so hard sometimes.

If you felt I didn’t communicate graciously or you are the author of any of these books and you felt hurt by what I wrote, please let me know. This is an area where I’m still a big work in progress and I don’t want to offend or hurt anyone if I can help it!

What have you been reading recently? Any books you think I really need to read soon? I’d love to know!

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66 Comments

  • Christi Hanks says:

    I was able to read 2 novels on vacation last week. An American Marriage which was fantastic and Ayesha At Last which was a fun twist on Pride and Prejudice. I highly recommend them both.

  • Ashley says:

    I read Becoming Mrs. Lewis and had similar feelings! It made me really interested in their lives (I’ve not read much about Lewis’s personal life), but I felt as though their relationship was inappropriate, at least how it was portrayed. Maybe it was in real life? Or maybe not? It was hard to tell what was true or embellished. It did prompt me to read a biography of C.S. Lewis that was written by Douglas Gresham (Joy’s son and Lewis’s stepson). It was not the best book I’ve ever read, but I felt like it gave a more accurate portrayal of their lives.

    • Ashley says:

      The biography I mentioned is called Jack’s Life.

    • Oh! Now I want to read that book! Thank you for the recommendation!

    • Cammie says:

      I completely agree. I did not like Becoming Mrs. Lewis at all. CS Lewis is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve read almost everything written by him and everything written about him. Becoming Mrs. Lewis did not seem to agree with anything I read about him or by him, including the book written by his stepson (Joy Gresham’s son). It almost seemed to slander his character without giving indication as to what was fact and what was fiction. I was really disappointed in the book.

      • Donna says:

        I felt similarly. I listened to the book on audio, but never finished. It felt false to me. I love history, and I love historical fiction, but I don’t like it one it isn’t clear which it is, particularly if it seems slanderous. I really wondered if it was true, but it didn’t feel consistent with his character. I don’t feel so bad about not finishing now.

  • Jennifer says:

    I enjoy your book posts and appreciate your honest reviews, Crystal. I think you’re very careful with your words, and we all know that not every book is for every person. For me, It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way was exactly what I needed earlier this year. I loved it! Thanks for sharing what you’ve been reading. I’m looking forward to hearing about your August reads!

    • Thank you so much for your encouragement! And I am SO grateful to hear that Lysa’s book was just what you needed!

      • Jeanette says:

        Love and look forward to your book reviews. I agree with Luther comments that you were kind and gracious. However, although I was not going through a hard season I felt that , It’s Not Supposed to be this Way really spoke to and encouraged me.
        Thanks for all you do to inspire and encourage.

  • Steph says:

    I think perhaps what you felt was missing in “Its Not Supposed To Be This Way” was likely in yourself, as in you really need to be in a tragic situation I feel to relate to the book. Thankfully your not and I hope you never are, but as a woman who lost her spouse to a terminal illness at 38, this book and correlating Bible study has been a life line for me.

  • Katie says:

    Great book recommendations-adding to much list of must reads!

  • Rachael Coe says:

    I felt the same way way about “Becoming Mrs. Lewis”. I actually couldn’t finish it because I just felt like if the relationship that they had before marriage was true, I just could no longer read his books especially to my children. I rarely ever stop reading a book but this one just crossed too many lines for me and I really don’t want to think negatively of people who I really don’t know what their life was like and they aren’t alive to tell. I believe the author tried but in an effort to make a good book, it kind of became like a juicy gossip book.

  • Maria says:

    The truth will set you free. Love your perseverance… if I’m reading a three or two star book , I cannot continue to give up my precious time by finishing it especially when there are millions of books to read that will truly engage me!

    • I will stop reading if I don’t feel like there’s much value in it or it’s not engaging me, but I usually stick it out if I’m finding some value!

      • Karla says:

        I have Preach to Yourself & It’s not supposed to be this way on a pile to take on a trip next month. I appreciate your honest reviews! ❤️

  • Suzanne says:

    I thought your comments were made graciously, even the less than positive ones. Remember that, when they are well-intended and encouraging, such comments are actually helpful to writers. There is always room for improvement when writing, but that won’t happen if people only point out a writer’s strengths and never their weaknesses. I thought you handled that nicely.

  • Jessica says:

    I also read Becoming Mrs. Lewis and was surprised by how the relationship unfolded too. Also, I found there was very little of the Gospel in the book, and mainly a lot of discussion of “feelings.” The book left me curious about what CS Lewis was like in real life (how closely did this book match up to who he really was?).

  • Rosanna says:

    I recently finished reading “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan. It was a good but very challenging read. It worked that I was convinced I needed to make some changes in my life through the book, then we went to family camp and that was cemented into place. I also just finished reading “Love Must Be” by Dr. James Dobson. It is a very old book (at least the copy we have is-it’s from my husband’s Bible College days) but I feel it was helpful to see some things more clearly about relationships. I wouldn’t say I needed advice (my marriage is great) or that I agreed with everything in the book. That said, it was helpful to see things differently especially in relation to people I know struggling in their marriages.

  • Sarah Clews says:

    I’ll admit I tend to feel your book reviews are a tad harsh (not mean in the wording though). I feel like I rarely see 4 stars and I don’t think I’ve ever seen you give out 5 stars for a book. I’m wondering why that is?

    • I did give some 5-stars earlier in the year and I’m reading one right now that I think is going to get a 5 star, too. But I reserve those for books that are ones I felt were truly fantastic. I usually have at least one 4-star every month, sometimes more! 🙂 I try to be super honest and objective and not just gush over something… that way, you know if I do gush over something, I really mean it. 🙂

      • MindaC says:

        Sometimes you get in a book rut or I do. I feel like I went through several that were just meh. But then you read a really good one and can’t wait to start the next one.

  • Cate Hoepner says:

    I agree with you about Mrs. Lewis! I thought that their relationship was a bit “off” and not what I’d deem appropriate. I did love the writing style and Joy’s character though.

  • Brittany Vaske says:

    I also listened to the audio version of Candace’s book and felt similarly. I have wondered if I would’ve had the same impression if I read it, since it seemed it was mostly her tone in reading the book that rubbed me the wrong way? Maybe either way it would’ve come across the same, who knows.. She’s someone I follow on social media so I was surprised I didn’t enjoy her book more.

  • Tosha says:

    I had similar feelings about Becoming Mrs. Lewis. I wasn’t sure I could recommend it to my book-loving friends. That may be because I was expecting it to be more like 2 books I read that have similar story lines that I definitely recommend: Luther and Katherina (the story of Martin Luther) and Newton and Polly (John Newton is the author of Amazing Grace).
    I enjoy reading your book reviews. I always find something to add to my reading list.

  • Diana says:

    There was an interview on Read Aloud Revival with C.S. Lewis’s stepson about Becoming Mrs. Lewis. You might find some answers there? Regardless of whether it gives you insight to the book, there are some really fun anecdotes about Lewis and his wife and the kind of people they were.

    I appreciate your honest reviews! It just goes to show that different people process things in different ways, and it’s probably good there are so many books on the same topics–surely one of them will connect with someone who needs it.

  • Susan says:

    As someone who has found it hard to focus while reading author Lysa Terkeurst’s books, I really enjoyed It’s Not Supposed to be This Way. I found it really encouraging and loved how each chapter ended with a mini Bible study. I also loved how she refers to the life we live here as “life between two gardens”. I was a little disappointed to hear Preach to Yourself described as long and drawn out at times. I downloaded it after you quoted something from it on one of your podcasts. I haven’t started it yet. I have a short attention span, so I hope that I am able to stick with it. You read so much, you obviously don’t struggle with focusing, so that may have something to do with it, but I’m guessing we probably have different tastes in books.

  • I haven’t read the others but I felt the same way about Becoming Mrs. Lewis. I really wanted to like it, but if that part is true, I’m a little disappointed.

  • Jenae says:

    I loved Becoming Mrs. Lewis but I admit Joy aggravated me extensively while reading. It has been 6 months since I finished it, so I can’t recall specific details, but I do remember feeling as though “Jack” acted honorably but she did not. I could not even imagine leaving my family for 6 months (let alone for 6 days) whether work-related or not. But ultimately what I got out of it is that God can still use broken (and even sinful, as I felt the book portrayed her) people to accomplish His purposes. If that weren’t the case, we would all be excluded.

    Also… “A Grief Observed” was a literal lifeline for my dad after my oldest brother died in a car accident at the age of 19. So I appreciated the backstory that eventually led to his writing of that book.

    • Chris says:

      Totally agree with your take. It was part of her testimony however uncomfortable it was to read. I think its supposed to be. We shouldn’t be comfortable with sin. However, God’s redemption did showed through. Thank goodness the boys had a good man to look up to and CS’s subsequent book.

  • Nicole Leposki says:

    I listened to the audio version of becoming Mrs. Lewis. I found the amount of detail to every move they made was starting to get very annoying, and it is hard to know what was true and what was fiction. I want to read the book her son wrote and see if I can find out more of what was true. And although C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors, I know in his flesh it could be likely that he crossed the line in this relationship. But if what she wrote is true, it seems he was at least trying to not cross any lines, even if he was confused where that line should be. Will certainly read more about Lewis’s life because he intrigues me

  • Natasha says:

    Crystal, I always enjoy reading your book reviews, mainly because I know you will be honest, not just rave or exagerate about something. Three of the books listed her are on my to-read list – I think I still want to read them eventually, however they don’t have as big of a priority for me now (not that I was dying to read them before, this just confirmed it). I finished reading Jesus Feminist last week – have you read it yet?

  • Christine says:

    It’s Not Supposed to be this way really helped me this past year. Her DVD series for the book I think added a lot to the book. I’m wondering if that’s why it felt like it was missing something. I think the DVDs expanded and clarified a lot.

  • Dj says:

    Have you ever read Quiet by Susan Cain?

  • Tessa Lehman says:

    I also read “Becoming Mrs. Lewis” and felt the same way. I was so uncomfortable with the level of emotional attachment between the two. Then because I didn’t know what was fact and what was fiction I ended up stopping about 2/3 of the way through the book. I wouldn’t recommend this one at all.

  • Sara says:

    I tend not to like historical fiction in general because I’m always wondering what is and isn’t true. I end up Googling tons when I read them.

  • Serenity says:

    I truly appreciate that you give authentic reviews. Honestly, I don’t rely on the opinion of someone who likes everything they read. That’s just not real life.
    I’m glad you reviewed “It isn’t Supposed To Be This Way”. I have considered reading it many times but wasn’t sure it was worth the emotional cost. Too close to home. You solved it for me:)

  • Holly says:

    Love your reviews. Thank you!! I liked Becoming Mrs. Lewis and It’s Not Supposed to be this Way.

  • Sarah Sanders says:

    But thank you for an actual honest review! I have only so much time and some of these were on my list. Thanks!

  • Felicia Buchanan says:

    I agree with some who have commented on “It Is Not Supposed To Be This Way”. I read the book in a very discouraging and dark time of my life and she pointed me to truth and God in a way that was almost lifesaving. There have been YEARS where I have struggled and her words and study were the most healing I have ever felt.

  • Thia says:

    I do appreciate your book reviews! I like how you pointed out that Lysa’s book would be good for someone in the thick of it. It is okay to say you aren’t there right now, but maybe one of your readers is and it might be exactly what she needs to go get.

  • Janelle says:

    I recently read “back when we were grown ups” by anne tyler. I got it from one of those free libraries we have in the area. I LOVED it. I’ve never laughed so much while reading a book. So I’m going to recommend that to whoever is looking for a new, fairly easy and entertaining book 🙂

  • Sarah D. says:

    I’ve started using Goodreads and posting reviews on there and Amazon. I don’t use my full name, for privacy, but I still have felt the tug of saying what I really thought vs. what I thought the author wanted to hear, especially when I got the book for free. But it boils down to this: you aren’t helping other people or even the author by being less than honest. Of course be kind and tactful, but the other readers deserve to know what a book is really like before they spend time and/or money on it. And the author needs to hear reality too. I’ve read 2 and 3 star books that only had 4 and 5 star reviews. It’s ok for the author to see where they need to grow and improve, and to not have an inflated sense of their abilities or at least where they are at in their craft. That said, thank you for posting your reviews!! I love reading honest book reviews. 🙂

    • Sarah says:

      But what did you think about the actual plot of The Last Christmas in Paris? You didn’t actually tell us your opinion, and now I’m curious. 🙂

  • Beverly says:

    Crystal, have you ever read anything by Cynthia Ruchti. Fabulous. Writer.
    A Fragile Hope. Song of Silence. As Waters Gone By. She has more, but these are my favorites. Seriously a tremendous writer with tremendous stories.

  • Sarah says:

    But what did you think about the actual plot of The Last Christmas in Paris? You didn’t actually tell us your opinion, and now I’m curious. 🙂

  • Tedra says:

    I respect that you reserve 5 star ratings for those books you truly love. I feel like you share your perspective but also leave room for readers to form their own opinions. I read “It’s Not Supposed to be This Way” and felt like it tackled some hard to understand concepts in a way I could connect to and apply to my life. Her writing style was also easy to read and enjoy. Please continue to write candid reviews for those of us who don’t have time to get as much reading in.

    • Thank you so much for your feedback and for sharing! That is my great hope — that I’ll inspire you to read and to have your own opinions on books. Because we won’t all like the same books! If we did, the world would be boring!

  • beth lehman says:

    Love the reviews, honestly is important! We all have different interests, personalities, and are in various seasons of life. There are best selling books I have tried to read, and couldn’t bring myself to even finish a chapter. For me, “It’s Not Supposed to be This Way,” was a tremendous blessing. I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s OK that it didn’t resonate that way with you. Just finished The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson- wanted to highlight the while thing! All of his stuff is great. Free to Focus (Michael Hyatt) also was great. Just started “Weird” by Craig Groeschel, and am enjoying that!

  • Annarose says:

    Just read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time. It was great! Will have my kids read it too soon.

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