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Tag Archive: Books Read in 2019

7 Books I Read in August (+ my really honest reviews)

Want to know what books I finished in August? 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 August —- yay! Here’s what I read + my honest thoughts on each of the books:

Killing Reagan

I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I enjoyed Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy. Honestly, I was expecting for there to be a lot more in the book about the assassination attempt. As it was, it felt like that was a very small part of the story and the bulk of the book was devoted to Reagan’s earlier years.

That said, I did find it fascinating to hear that there is belief that the assassination attempt contributed to Reagan’s Alzheimer’s disease and that his Alzheimer’s disease was already beginning to show up during his presidency. I had not heard either theory before and found that part of the book very interesting and intriguing.

Verdict: 3 stars

Rhythms of Renewal

I loved this book enough to ask Rebekah Lyons (the author) to join me on a podcast episode! (Listen to that episode here.)

In this book, she shares 4 rhythms she believes everyone should prioritize in their life, why they should prioritize them, and practical ways to make them a reality.

In a world where “hustle harder” can often seem the over-arching message, this book is a welcome message to make time for play, rest, creativity, savoring, and more.

Verdict: 4 stars

The Healing Compass

This book was sent to me by its author and she had kindly mentioned my courses, Make Over Your Mornings and Make Over Your Evenings in it.

While it had a lot of good suggestions and ideas, I didn’t find a lot in it that was new to me — maybe because I’ve read a lot of similar books in the past?? 🙂

If you are someone who feels overwhelmed with life or is struggling through a health crisis, though, I feel like there could be some helpful and encouraging information in it. The author’s story is moving and she definitely has lived out what she encourages in the book!

Verdict: 2 stars

The Terminal List

If you listen to our podcast, you know that Jesse loved this book and encouraged me to read it. I found that I could download it for free on Libby so decided to try it out.

Let’s just say, Jesse’s taste in books and my taste in books are VERY different, I quickly discovered. This is a thriller, supposedly, but to me it seemed more like a “Let’s kill as many people as possible all while using a lot of bad words” book. Which is not really my type of book, ahem.

But hey, I read it. I finished it. And I survived. And now I know that when Jesse recommends a book, it’s probably safe to say I can steer clear of it. 😉

Verdict: 2 stars

The Ministry of Ordinary Places

I truly loved this book. I shared this quote from the book and posted this on Instagram:

It’s easy to talk about ideas. It doesn’t take a lot of work to criticize systems. It’s pretty simple to point fingers.

It’s a lot harder to get in the game and do something to actually make a difference… but that’s what’s going to change our world.

Smile at that person. Befriend the neighbor who is struggling. Show up for someone who is lonely.

Lean in and love those who are hard to love. Choose kindness instead of condemnation.

Don’t stay where it’s safe and comfortable. Step out and offer a hand. Open your door and your heart. Listen more than you talk.

Don’t just surround yourself with people who are similar to you or who believe exactly what you do or who think just like you do. Love and befriend those who come from very different backgrounds, beliefs, and political parties. If you’re anything like me, you’ll discover you have a whole lot to learn from them!

Instead of giving out lofty-sounding solutions, let’s go start being the solution — one person at a time. Let’s be hope-givers with mud on our shoes.

Verdict: 4 stars

Paris Letters

I had big hopes for this book. What’s not to love about a book set in Paris with the subtitle, “One woman’s journey from the fast lane to a slow stroll in Paris.” And while there were a few parts of the book that I thought were insightful, most of it fell flat for me.

Verdict: 2 stars

The Four Tendencies

I’d wanted to read this for a long time, so when it came available to download for free on Libby, you better believe I downloaded it.

It was very thought-provoking in parts and I had fun trying to figure out which tendency I am. I went into it thinking I was a questioner, but of course I had to question that for the entire book… because, hello, I’m a questioner! 😉

I did feel like some parts were redundant and that I would prefer to read this book over listening to it because I think I’d get more out of it by reading it (I’m more of a visual learner). But I do feel like it was valuable to listen to and I’d like to go back and read it in the future.

Verdict: 3 stars

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

The 6 Books I Read in June

Want to know what books I finished in June? 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 6 books in June —- yay! Here’s what I read + my honest thoughts on each of the books:

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

1. Killing Kennedy

After listening to Killing Lincoln and really finding it fascinating last month, I added this one to my list to listen to it (I got it free from the Libby app.)

It was really good, as well, and I learned so many details of history that I didn’t know. I will say that it did have some details that were definitely not appropriate for young ears. (Jesse and I were listening to it while on a road trip and had to turn it off since the kids were in the car!)

As I said with Killing Lincoln, “I learned so many intriguing details that I never knew before. Plus, having more historical context made the story so much more compelling.

From what I could tell, it was very well-researched and historically accurate. I appreciated that it didn’t seem politically motivated/biased but just very facts-based. If you enjoy history, this is a must-read/must-listen.”

Verdict: 4 stars

2. The Day the World Came to Town

I first found this when I was going through books that were available to read for free as part of the Kindle Unlimited deal. I mentioned it on one of my posts and a number of you highly recommended that I read this.

You all were right! This book chronicles the moving story of how Newfoundland opened their hearts and homes to thousands of passengers whose planes were diverted on 9/11.

It’s a beautiful story and I think it’s worth reading. There are a lot of different stories interwoven throughout the book, but I felt like the author did a great job of helping you keep everything straight.

Verdict: 4 stars

3. Sensitive & Strong

I was excited to get to read a pre-release copy of this book and write an endorsement for it. It’s written by two women who are both HSP (Highly Sensitive Persons) — one who embraces this idea and one who is hesitant to embrace that she is HSP.

The book gives you a lot of practical ways to navigate being highly sensitive and is full of insight and wisdom. Whether you are HSP or you just know someone who is and want to understand them better, I think it’s worth reading.

Verdict: 3 stars

4. Bearing Hope

This book was sent to me by the author and has been on my to read shelf for a long time. It’s a heartfelt compilation of stories and encouragement for women who struggle with infertility or child loss.

The author has experienced deep loss and heartache herself, so she understands what so many women face. In addition, she shares stories and perspectives from a lot of other women who have gone through a variety of situations — infertility, secondary infertility, infant loss, and more.

If you know someone who is experiencing infertility, I think this book could be a real encouragement and could help her feel less alone. (Do know that some women who are grieving infertility may not be in a place to receive a book on the topic, so I recommend being sensitive to that if you are thinking of giving this book as a gift.)

Verdict: 3 stars

5. Digital Minimalism

You know how much I loved Deep Work by Cal Newport. In fact, I loved it so much that I ended up having him on the podcast to talk about that book and his new book, Digital Minimalism. (Listen to that episode here.)

While I disagree with some of Cal’s strong stance against social media (I personally think that there is a lot of value in social media and the relationships I’ve built and the interactions I’ve had through it), I agree with his premise of being very intentional and strategic in what choices we make when it comes to the internet and our phones.

I love the emphasis he places on not being slaves to our devices, setting good boundaries for our time use, and thinking outside the cultural box when it comes to how we engage online. (You can read his philosophy of Digital Minimalism here.)

All in all, I think this is a very worthwhile read and would highly recommend it to anyone who spends any time online.

Verdict: 4 stars

 

6. Maid

This was an interesting audiobook that made me ponder a lot of my perspective. It was written by a woman who worked as a house cleaner in order to pay her bills during a really rocky financial season.

The reviews on Amazon of this book are pretty harsh. Many people felt like she was pretty whiny and ungrateful.

I could see how one could feel like that from reading or listening to her book. But I also think that she was trying to do the best she knew how. It’s easy for us to judge others when we haven’t walked in their shoes.

I don’t know how I would be if I landed in the place she was in. Because of this, I shouldn’t point fingers. However, to be completely honest, I still found myself judging her or disagreeing with her at times. It was good for me to recognize that and consider why and if there was valid reason for feeling like that or if I was just being critical and lacking empathy.

Overall, my biggest takeaway from this book was the reminder to treat people in service jobs like people not commodities. It’s challenged me to smile at the man working at the Kroger meat counter or the woman handing me my order at the drive through or the woman cleaning the bathroom at the airport.

Have you read this book? If so, I’d love to hear what you thought.

Verdict: 3 stars

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

The 6 Books I Finished in May

Want to know what books I finished in May? 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.)

6 Books I Finished in May

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 6 books in May— yay! Here’s what I read + my honest thoughts on each of the books:

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

1. 84, Charing Cross Road

Okay, I hate to start off with this one, but it was the first book I finished in May and we might as well get the review out of the way.

A number of you suggested I read this one since I said I like epistolary novels. (That’s a fancy way of saying a novel that is written as a series of documents, such as letters. Don’t worry! I didn’t know the phrase until some of you taught it to me earlier this year!)

Sadly, I just didn’t like this book. I loved that it was true and there were a few interesting parts, but it just mostly fell flat for me.

Going into it, I had high hopes for it and it didn’t live up to those. In fact, I kept hoping it would get better and it didn’t.

The good news? It was a super short read so that’s why I decided to go ahead and finish it even when I wasn’t really feeling it.

If you are looking for a good epistolary novel, I love The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and Dear Mr. Knightley.

Verdict: 2 stars

2. Scoot Over and Make Some Room

Something big is stirring in my bones right now. I don’t know where it’s going to lead to and I don’t know what it’s going to look like exactly.

But I know this: God is calling me to step into some uncomfortable places and be willing to stand up for those who have no voice. To stand with those who have been misunderstood and reach out my hands and open our hearts and home in ways we haven’t before.

He’s asking me to step outside of my neat and tidy and comfortable bubble. To jump into unknown spaces and say yes to walking out the Gospel in our local community.

I don’t know what all this is going to look like, but I am excited to share as this story unfolds.

Thank you to @heatheravis for bravely leading the way and being a voice for those who don’t have a voice. Your book challenged me in really profound ways.

One of my favorite quotes from this book was, “Jesus consistently created space for those who spent their lives being pushed aside.

Note: While I really liked many parts of this book, I didn’t love it as much as I loved Heather’s first book, The Lucky Few. Thus the 3 star verdict. 🙂

Verdict: 3 stars

3. The Tattooist of Auschwitz

I began listening to this book at the recommendation of my sister and a few others. I almost didn’t keep listening because I had trouble getting into it at first. I’m so glad I stuck with it and finished it in May because it was a truly beautiful and heart-wrenching story… and it’s TRUE!

While it’s tagged as a “novel”, it’s actually based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov. It’s both sickening and heart-warming and I felt the author did a good job of bringing both tensions into the book.

It made me think a lot about what it would be like to live in the conditions that those who were in the concentration camps went through. While I can never imagine the horrors, I still found myself pondering what I would do. Would I be willing to risk my life for others? What kinds of choices would I make if my life 100% depended upon those choices?

A number of reviews on Amazon talk about how they felt like this book lacked depth and character development. While it could have had more depth, I looked past that because the story and the fact that it was true really drew me in. Also, I found the section at the end where Lale and Gita’s son shared his perspective to be so interesting and thought-provoking.

Note: As expected in this sort of book, there is some crass language and some sections that might be triggering to some people.

Verdict: 4 stars

4. Start with Why

I was over halfway through this audiobook a few months ago when I had to return it the library through the Libby app. So I was thrilled when it came back up in my holds again so I could finish it in May.

This book has so much wisdom in it for anyone who is a leader of any sort — especially when it comes to leading a business. Simon Sinek really challenges you to rethink how you approach leadership.

Often, it’s our tendency to want to give people what instead of giving them why. For instance, we tell people, “Here’s what you’ll get when you buy this product…” instead of giving them a compelling reason for why they should consider investing in us and our products.

As Sinek encourages, when you give people a why to believe in you and your company, you don’t even have to convince them to buy!

Some of the reviews on Amazon talk about this book being repetitive and I agree that I thought it was somewhat repetitive. I’m giving it 4 stars because of how it influenced and impacted the way I’ll be approaching my business from here on out, but many reviewers suggest just watching the TED talk instead of reading or listening to the book.

Verdict: 4 stars

5. Dear Bob and Sue

Alrighty, this might brand me as super corny and with weird sense of humor, but I really loved this book! In fact, it was one of my favorite books I finished in May.

It’s written as a series of letters to Bob and Sue from their friends, Matt and Karen Smith.

Matt and Karen are a couple who set a goal to visit every single one of the US National Parks. I found their wit and sarcasm to be laugh out loud funny and their letters to be very interesting. Also, their teasing and poking fun at one another to be so much like Jesse and me.

Needless to say, I loved the book… which shocked me considering I never once would have thought of myself as someone who would find a book of letters about visiting National Parks to be something I wouldn’t just tolerate but would enjoy.

And guess what? They inspired me to want to visit all the National Parks, too. Or at least start visiting some of them — something I haven’t done in years (we visited some of them growing up but it’s not been on my priority list for vacations since Jesse and I got married).

I told Jesse that after we finish our goals to visit all 7 continents and 50 states, maybe we can set another goal to visit all the US National Parks! 🙂

Verdict: 4 stars

6. Killing Lincoln

If you’ve been listening to The Crystal Paine Show, you know that Jesse and I both recently read this book. (Well, he read it first and his review of it on the podcast intrigued me! So I ended up downloading it on Libby.)

While I thought I was pretty familiar with the Lincoln assassination, this book brings history to life. I learned so many intriguing details that I never knew before. Plus, having more historical context made the story so much more compelling.

From what I could tell, it was very well-researched and historically accurate. I appreciated that it didn’t seem politically motivated/biased but just very facts-based. If you enjoy history, this is a must-read/must-listen.

A big thank you to Jesse for inspiring me to listen to this one! Of all the books I finished in May, this was one of my favorites.

Verdict: 4 stars

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

5 Books I Finished in April

Want to know what books I finished in April? 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.)

5 Books I Finished in April

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 5 books in April — yay! Here’s what I read + my honest thoughts on each of the books:

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Troublemaker by Leah Remini

1. Troublemaker

This book had been highly recommended multiple times. When I found it available on Libby, I “checked it out” and started listening to it. Honestly, I almost didn’t keep listening because she has such a strong and brash personality.

But I’m glad I stuck with it because her story was fascinating and sad… but worth listening to/reading. I really had no understanding of what Scientology was before this book and while I know that this is just one person’s story, it was shocking to hear of her experiences in the Church of Scientology, what she was required to do, how she was mistreated, and how much money she paid into the Church as a member.

Note: There is strong and crass language in this book.

Verdict: 3 stars

The Glass Castle

2. The Glass Castle

After I read Hillbilly Elegy, multiple people said I had to read The Glass Castle. Again, I found it was available on Libby, so I checked it out.

It’s one of those stories that I don’t know how to describe. It was engaging and thought-provoking, but also incredibly sad and haunting.

It’s the story of a woman who grew up in a very dysfunctional and poor family… and yet, despite the dysfunction, there’s also this layer of mystique that she paints her parents in. Like, you want to really dislike them, but you can’t fully allow yourself to because they also have these likable traits, too.

The book left me wishing I could have a conversation with the author and her siblings. It was also one — like Hillybilly Elegy — that I wished I would going through in a Book Club setting so I could discuss my big and sometimes disparate feelings about the book.

Note: There is language in the book and also some various details and stories that could be triggering, depending upon your background.

Verdict: 3 stars

Point of View by Elizabeth Hasslebeck

3. Point of View

This book is part memoir, part self-help. Elisabeth Hasselbeck shares lessons she learned from being on Survivor, being on The View, being fired from The View, being co-host on Fox & Friends, and ultimately deciding to leave television and focus on being a wife and mom.

I appreciated her candid honesty about her struggles with pushing herself too hard, trying to do too much, and not acknowledging her limitations and capacity. I also loved the behind-the-scenes stuff she shared about being on the various shows she’s been on.

My complaint with the book is that I wanted more. 🙂 I would have loved to hear even more details on what it was like to be on Survivor, be on The View, co-host Fox & Friends, be wife to a NFL player, and come home full-time to be a mom.

Verdict: 3 starts

As Many Reps as Possible

4. As Many Reps As Possible

I wanted so much to like this book. I loved Chasing Excellence and was hoping this would be a similar book.

It’s written by CrossFit Games Winner, Jason Khalipa, and the premise of the book is promising. He encourages you to live life with the AMRAP mentality.

(If you’re not familiar with CrossFit terms, AMRAP means As Many Reps As Possible. It’s basically where you push yourself as hard as you can go.)

I enjoyed some of the personal stories and inspirational tidbits he shared, but I felt like the book was sort of all over the place, not well edited, and it was hard to follow because it kept jumping from one part of his story to another and then back again.

In addition, I struggled with figuring out what he was inferring when he encouraged people to live with the AMRAP mentality. How does this actually look in real-life? He talks about being fully present when you are working on, or working on your business, or hanging out with your family, but I would have loved for him to unpack that a lot more.

Clearly, most people disagreed with me on this because it has 72 reviews and every single one of them is 5 star! So yeah, you might completely disagree with me on this one!

Verdict: 2 stars

Before We Were Yours

5. Before We Were Yours

This was — by far — the best book I finished in April! Many of you told me you thought I should read it as soon as possible and you were so right.

It’s the tragic and true story of the Tennessee Children’s Home scandals and how they played out in the lives of the children who actually went through this horrific experience.

Truth be told, I had never heard of the Tennessee Children’s Home scandals before listening to this book — and I live in Tennessee! I have asked multiple people who live here and they haven’t heard of it either.

It’s heart-wrenching and horrible and I think a powerful reminder of how money can cause people to make terrible decisions that can hurt people in devastating ways.

The book is well-written and engaging and appears to be very well-researched historical fiction. It is also the beautiful story of sibling love and how trauma and devastation doesn’t have to define your future.

Note: There are a lot of situations in the book when it comes to abuse that could be very triggering to people, depending upon your life experience and trauma. The book doesn’t give nitty-gritty details, but it’s enough that it could be very triggering.

Verdict: 4 stars

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

10 Books I Read in March

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

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.)

My Goal of 80 Books Read in 2019

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!

I’m excited that I made more progress on my reading goals this past month, thanks to being able to check out so many great audiobooks for free through the Libby app.

And yes, I know that some people might consider listening to an audiobook as “cheating” a little. Jesse is constantly teasing me about this. But hey, I think that any way you get a book finished is a good thing and I’m going to count it and celebrate it!

a girl at Barnes & Noble

10 Books I Finished in March

I finished 10 books in March — yay! Here’s what I read + my honest thoughts on each of the books:

A photo of A Gentleman in Moscow

1. A Gentleman in Moscow

I’ll be honest, this book was nothing like I expected it to be. And I almost quit listening to it after a few chapters because it was just so slow to develop and I was struggling to follow where the story was leading.

However, because it was highly recommended to me and because I have had it on my To Read list for so long, I decided to keep listening. And I’m really glad that I ended up sticking with it.

It turned out to be so different than my expectations, but it was a beautiful story with a lot of richness and depth. The author’s style wasn’t my favorite and I think it would have been hard to stick with had I been reading it (it’s a l-o-n-g book), but there was something about it that just grew on me more and more as I read it.

Have you read it? If so, I’d love to hear what you thought of it!

Verdict: 3 stars

A photo of The Middle Matters by Lisa Jo Baker

2. The Middle Matters

I read a pre-release copy of this book because Lisa-Jo asked me to write an endorsement for it. It’s a collection of essays she wrote on various aspects of living “in the middle” — those years you’re just in the middle of the mundane or the messy.

Here’s a little info on it from the Amazon description:

The middle is the place where our lives really live. This is the place where we have grown into the shapes of our souls even as we might have outgrown the shapes of our jeans.

The middle is the marrow. The glorious ordinary of your life that utterly exhausts you but that you might have finally started to understand in ways you didn’t at the beginning. Listen, I’m not asking you to seize the day here; I’m just asking you to actually see it. Even if just out of the corner of one eye. The middle is worth remembering while you are actually living it, because you won’t pass by this way again.

So it’s worth slowing down long enough on random afternoons to really look around at your life and your husband and the human beings you are raising together and let it sink in that you’ve grown up and that it’s good. You are living at the very center of what will be your story. Right now. Let’s stop long enough to read a few lines of these lives out loud. Because trust me when I tell you, sister, the middle is worth reading.

Verdict: 3 stars

A photo of Everybody, Always by Bob Goff

3. Everybody, Always

I got an email a recently from a woman who told me she has followed me online for a long time, but she’s been too scared to write in because she knows I’m a Christian and she’s afraid of what I might think of her since she’s so different than me. She felt I wouldn’t want to associate with her because of her choices, beliefs, and lifestyle.

My heart broke when I read her words. And it made me really stop and examine my heart. Am I oozing with Jesus’ love — for ALL people?

Or am I just loving those people who are most like me, who have the same beliefs or viewpoints, or who I most relate to?

If I’m truly following Jesus, I’m not just going to be hanging out with people who are like me.

I’m going to be spending a lot of time with those who are on the fringes, those who are often overlooked, and those who are very different than me.

If I say I’m following Jesus, but I’m unwilling to love those who are different than me, those who have hurt me, and those who are hard to love, I’m not truly following Jesus.

Thanks to Bob Goff for how he inspired me through his book Love Everybody, Always. While I don’t agree with all of his theology, I do 100% agree with his heart for challenging us to love others much more wholeheartedly!

My favorite quote: “If following Jesus doesn’t lead you to the poor, the lonely, and the isolated, you’re not following Jesus.”

Verdict: 4 stars

a photo A Love Letter Life by Jeremy and Audrey Roloff

4. A Love Letter Life

As I talk about on my recent podcast episode with Audrey and Jeremy Roloff, I actually didn’t know who they were until their publicist reached out to me a few months ago and asked if she could send me their brand-new book, A Love Letter Life.

I Googled their names (yes, I did!) and discovered that they are well known for being on the hit TV show Little People, Big World (which follows Jeremy’s family — and which he grew up being part of).

To be honest, I said their publicist could send me their book, A Love Letter Life, but I didn’t expect all that much from it and wasn’t planning to ask them to be on my show. (I’m super picky about who I will invite on the show and only invite people whose work/life has impacted me in a deep way.)

But then, the publicist sent the book, I read it, and I truly found it very valuable. In addition, I just loved their beautiful love story, their honesty, and how well-written the book was (in fact, I wondered if they had a ghost writer for it, but Audrey told me when she was at our house that they didn’t!)

You can listen to the podcast episode I did with Audrey and Jeremy here.

Verdict: 4 stars

Chase the Lion by Mark Batterson

5. Chase the Lion

You all know I’m a big Mark Batterson fan! I have loved and been inspired by so many of his books and this book was no different!

Chase the Lion is a sort of sequel to In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day — which was a book I loved. (You can read my review of In a Pit here.)

Like all of Mark’s other books, this book is brimming with inspiration and quotable statements (Mark is a master wordsmith!) I also love how he weaves so many facts and interesting tidbits and stories all throughout his books.

My only reason for not giving this book 5 stars was that I felt like some of it was pretty repetitive to what I remember In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day being. In fact, until he said otherwise in the book, I thought maybe he had just re-titled the book since the material seemed so similar.

In addition, some people could take his message to mean we need to push so hard that we completely burn ourselves out to the point of exhaustion. Mark has a crazy zest for life and, what feels like, unlimited energy. So some people could feel like they need to be doing way more than they should be doing by reading this book.

Just remember to keep in mind that we all have different capacities and callings and it’s okay to move at a slower pace so long as we are pursuing our own calling. But still, I feel like there’s so much valuable inspiration in this book and I definitely recommend it!

Verdict: 4 stars

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

I read this book a number of years ago and loved it. Then, not too long ago, I watched the Netflix movie they did based upon the book.

Well, after watching the movie and enjoying it, I realized I couldn’t remember enough about the book to compare the movie and the book. So, in an uncharacteristic move, I decided to read the book again.

Only this time, I listened to it (thanks to getting the audiobook for free from the Libby app). I loved that the audiobook is narrated by multiple voices. It’s so well done.

And I ultimately decided that the book is great, the movie is good, and the audiobook is very well done. So I highly recommend all three.

By the way, this novel is written entirely in the form of letters and telegrams. Considering that this book and Dear Mr. Knightley are two of my top favorite books and both are written in letter form, apparently I’m a big fan of that style of writing! (Do you know of other books written in a similar fashion? If so, I’d love to read them to see if I enjoy them as much!)

Verdict: 5 stars

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

7. How to Walk Away

I’m still not sure what I think of this novel. On the one hand, I felt like it held a lot of richness. On the other hand, it felt like there was a lot of fluff.

It’s the story of a woman who gets badly injured in a small airplane crash and who is paralyzed and in a wheelchair as a result. I felt that there was a lot of value in getting a peek at what it would be like to go through such a horrific experience.

I love stories that help you have a little window into what it would be like to walk in someone else’s shoes… or, in the case of this book, to lose your ability to walk at all.

But on the other hand, it wasn’t from a Christian perspective and it felt like it was missing so much because of this.

However, I felt like the story was well written and believable in most regards (there were a few parts that were just a little too fictionalized to feel true) and I enjoyed it overall.

(Note: This is some language and a few sections that were more PG-13.)

Verdict: 4 stars

How Successful People Think by John Maxwell

8. How Successful People Think

I listened to this short book in less than two days. It has a lot of great nuggets of truth in it and many sections that made me stop and think. (Which was probably a good thing, right, since it’s a book about how successful people think? ;))

It helped me to process through a few situations in life and gave me some good perspective for those. It also encouraged me as a leader that I am approaching many areas of my life with thoughtfulness and intention.

One of my biggest takeaways was to prioritize thinking and spaces in our schedule for thinking. In fact, as a result of reading the book, I blocked off a part of one day each week as my “Thinking Time.”

This Thinking Time is time for me to just be quiet and think through certain areas of my life where I don’t have clarity. It is also time for me to pray, process, and write down thoughts and ideas.

I am already seeing a lot of benefit to this practice and am excited to watch how it impacts the rest of my year!

Verdict: 4 stars

If You Only Knew by Jamie Ivey

9. If You Only Knew

This book was a short read written by well known podcaster, Jamie Ivey. It’s her honest journey of letting go of shame and walking into freedom.

I found some parts so thought-provoking and well-written. Other sections felt like they sort of dragged on and were repetitive. She may have purposefully repeated herself in order to drive the message home? I’m not sure, but I personally thought that it could have been edited down more than it was.

In addition, I felt like she took a long time to get into her story and it made me wonder if she was concerned she would get backlash for choices she’s made and struggles she’s had. Honestly, because of how she set it up, I was expecting her story to be much, much worse and was kind of like, “Oh! That’s all she did?!” after she shared.

(I’m kind of embarrassed to even write that that was my thought process, but it’s true! And hey, I’m all about keeping it real and honest around here. So there ya go!)

Verdict: 3 stars

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg

10. Option B

Many of you are probably familiar with Sheryl Sandberg. She’s the COO of Facebook and the widely known author of Lean In. This book chronicles her personal journey with losing her husband suddenly and the steps she took after his death to survive and process such an unexpected and heart-wrenching tragedy.

While personally, I’m not sure that it’s a book to give to someone who has experienced such a great loss (I think the honesty she writes with could be incredibly painful to someone who is grieving deeply), I found her authenticity refreshing and insightful. Her words will help me better know how to walk with someone well who is grieving and how to be more mindful of how I talk to them and interact with them.

There is a little language in the book. I also felt like a little bit of her political agenda spilled through. There is nothing wrong with having or sharing a political agenda, but I personally felt like it detracted a little from the book.

Verdict: 4 stars

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

4 Books I Finished in February

Every month this year, I’m sharing what books I finished 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.)

girl holding a stack of books I've finished

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!

(It’s also motivating to realize I’m currently 5 books behind schedule when it comes to my 80 books goal. Oh well! I’m hopeful I’ll make that up come summer!)

I finished 4 books in February. Here’s what I read + my honest thoughts on each of the books:

A photo of Brush of Wings, a book I finished in February

Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy here.

#1: Brush of Wings

I listened to the first two books in this series last month (Angels Walking and Chasing Sunsets). So of course, I had to listen to the third book this month! (I was able to get it for free from the Libby app.)

This is a fictionalized series of how angels are walking amongst us and helping to protect us on a daily basis (based upon verses like Psalm 91:11 and Hebrews 13:2).

I disagreed with some of the theological implications and don’t know that I agree with some of the ways that she presented angels as humans. However, I found it so good to remember that there are spiritual forces — both good and evil — around us at all times and that there is power in the name of Jesus.

I also found it encouraging to be reminded how God sometimes uses really hard things in our life to turn into some of the most beautiful things. It’s easy to forget this.

The audiobooks are narrated by two different voice actors (depending upon who was narrating each chapter in the books) and I thought they were well done.

That said, I felt like the third book was slower than the first two. It seemed to drag on and be really predictable. In fact, it almost felt like she was supposed to write a third book so she had to include quite a bit of filler content in it just to make it long enough.

My verdict: 2 stars

A photo of Sacred Ground, Sticky Floors, a book I finished in February

#2: Sacred Ground, Sticky Floors

I picked up this book on the recommendation of a blog reader. And then I put it on my list of 40 books I plan to read — and so many of you commented and said I MUST read it right away so I bumped it to the top of the list.

The subtitle for the book is How Less Than Perfect Parents Can Raise (Kind of) Great Kids. I love that… because it feels like it’s actually doable and not like a book that is going to make me feel like I’m just not measuring up as a mom.

Jami’s humor and candidness in this book was a breathe of fresh air to me. Her writing is so down-to-earth, so raw, and so real. She makes you feel less alone, but she also does such a good job of pointing you to Jesus and encouraging you to lean in and love your kids — even when it’s really hard.

If you are looking for a parenting book that isn’t about formulas or perfection and doesn’t make you feel like you need to overhaul your schedule and life and chore charts in order to be a better mom, definitely check out Sacred Ground, Sticky Floors.

This book reads more like a memoir, but it’s packed with powerful truths, too.

(By the way, I loved this book so I asked Jami to be a guest on next week’s episode of The Crystal Paine Show! Stay tuned for that!)

My verdict: 5 stars

Etched in Sand by Regina Calcaterra, a book I finished in February

#3: Etched in Sand

My sister recommended that I read this book… and she basically never fails me with her book recommendations! This book is the true story of five siblings who survived a pretty horrific childhood of abuse.

It is sad and honest and has a lot of crass language in it, but I thought it was a really insightful look into the foster care system from the perspective of a child. It displays so clearly that there are no easy solutions or quick fixes and that we who haven’t experienced what these kids have experienced truly have no idea what it would be like to walk in their shoes.

My heart hurt so much for the heavy weight of guilt that the author carried around because of feeling like she didn’t protect her younger sister — even though she tried so hard to do so and took many blows and beatings from her abusive mother in order to protect her siblings.

This is a sad and haunting story and it might be too difficult for some to read. I’m grateful to have read it because it gave me fresh eyes of compassion for others who are hurting and for friends who have experienced abuse and abandonment in their childhood and how much it likely has wounded them emotionally.

My verdict: 4 stars

Only Love Today by Rachel Macy Stafford, a book I finished in February

#4: Only Love Today

I had planned to read this book, but it became available on the Libby app, so I downloaded it and listened to it. I love Rachel’s encouragement to make the most of everyday moments, to savor life, and to slow down and really invest our time and energy into people.

One part of the book that will stick with me for a long time was when she talked about the power of six seconds. How we all have six seconds that we can stop and say, “I love you” or, “I’m sorry.”

To really look into someone’s eyes and listen to them. To smile. To hold a door open.

We might not have hours to devote every day, but we can all take six seconds to make a difference in someone else’s life.

While I appreciated so many aspects of the book, I did feel like it was pretty repetitive and there was a bit of a strong undertone of self-love that could easily turn into selfishness. I’m not saying that is what the author was encouraging; I’m just saying it could be interpreted in an unhealthy way.

As a Christian, I see that one of my primary reasons for existing is to glorify the Lord and to love others well because I am so loved by God. I read the book and the parts that seemed a little heavy on the self-love through this lens.

My verdict: 3 stars

Books I Started But Didn’t Finish

I started both Start With Why & Chase the Lion in February but didn’t finish them. Not because they weren’t really good, but because I was listening to them on the Libby app and I had to “return” them before I was finished listening. I hope to re-check them out again in the next few months and finish them.

Bible Reading Progress

I started January 1, 2019 with my commitment this year to begin every day with 30 minutes of time in God’s Word. I’m reading through the New Testament using the She Reads Truth Bible plans at the beginning of each book of the Bible.

So far, I’ve finished all of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

What did you read in February? Are there any books you really think I should read in 2019?