Tag Archives: book review

Girl Wash Your Face

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

Have you read Girl Wash Your Face yet? It’s a hot topic around the country, with many people singing the praises of this Rachel Hollis gal who went from zero to hero, all by making the choice to do so. She just decided it. Sounds easy enough, right?

This media and marketing “guru” has a story like many of us… lowly beginnings, hardships, and extra-relatable troubles in the job, family, and dating world. Although she meets Matt Damon, which puts her leaps ahead of me, personally. She has several pieces of good advice, which she has personally experienced to be able to write this book. No one is arguing that. Also, I LOVE the premise of the book: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become  Who You Were Meant to Be. Who doesn’t want to read a book about disproving lies and destroying strongholds? I need more of that in my life! After all the great press and positive reviews from friends, I decided to read the book for myself.

She’s a great writer. All the lies that she picked (one per chapter) are very real struggles that women have, many of them every day issues. The lie that you’re not a good mom, that you’re defined by your weight, or that you’ll never get past this – well, those are all lies that we ALL want dispelled so our focus and our lives can move on to bigger and better things. I’m not here to tell you her main ideas were wrong.

But what really gets me going is the fact that she’s writing as a “Christian” and rarely mentions Jesus. She parades herself as the hero of the story, how her hard work, her tough choices, and her knowledge contributed to her success. And that’s the American dream, right? Knowing if you fail, you have no one to blame but yourself. If you succeed, you’re the only one who gets the credit. Right?

In my opinion, wrong.

Jesus is the hero of my story. He’s in control (just like the cliche says) and I know that first and foremost, I have to trust Him with everything. As much as I LOVE to think I’m in control, I’m just not. I can make choices, yes, and do things inside and outside of God’s will for my life. But ultimately I know that joy is better than happiness, and peace is better than success, and God is the Giver of those things. The book is full of dos and don’ts, full of ideas to help you be more efficient and focused. But what the book isn’t full of is prayers for when you’ve hit the bottom, praises for when you’ve been delivered out of something, or reminders that your identity is not in YOU – or your critics and onlookers – but in JESUS and His sacrifice that placed you into the family of God. Your identity is the one given to you by your Savior, not the one that you imagine up for yourself.

A quick chat with a friend last night helped me realize that what throws me off the most about the hype surrounding this “Christian” book that doesn’t point me to Jesus is this: it isn’t heresy. It’s not bold-faced lies or something outlandish like devil worship. It’s not that obvious why it’s not on track with Biblical truths. It’s Jesus and. Jesus and making good connections in LA, and marrying the right guy. Jesus and self-confidence, and control of my situations. Jesus and knowing my self-worth and not taking no for an answer. Well I have news for you: Jesus IS. He IS in control, my confidence is in HIM, and HIS yes or no or not yet are the only answers I care about.

What I’ve Been Reading

Some of y’all may remember that I set a loose goal at the beginning of 2018 to “read more”. I began following some #bookstagram accounts and listening to some podcasts to get fresh ideas for books to look into – not that I didn’t already have a hundred (that’s only MAYBE an exaggeration) unread books around my home

I had a pretty productive summer in terms of reading, so I thought I’d share a few little reviews/thoughts of the books I’ve read recently. If you follow me on Instagram (@onlyhsuman) you may have already seen a bit about some of these books, but enjoy what I’ve got here. If you’re local, I am happy to lend books that I’ve got in print (as opposed to Kindle editions) so let me know if you’d like to borrow one!

FICTION

Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend : These books are a particular sort of hilarious. I heard a podcast recently that described them as a bag of chips: not good for you but delicious and you can’t stop eating them. That’s a perfect description. Not incredible writing, but for some reason you’re hooked! The world in which the characters live is just so outrageous to American me that I cannot fathom it’s real life. But the plot in the second book is even better than the first, so I’m already looking forward to the third book – and seeing the movie!

Anne of Green Gables: I never read these books as a kid, but MAN I love them now! I guess I’m only halfway through Anne of Avonlea, but still. L.M. Montgomery’s style is so beautiful, Anne is a gal I can easily connect with (Can you say kindred spirit?!), and I’m loving the immersion in Avonlea’s community. What beautiful writing it is!

The Lake House. I have been a Kate Morton lover for a long time, and this just happens to be one that slipped by me until recently. Such a good read, a full-on dive into the world surrounding said lake house, the family, and the present-day cop that’s digging to find out long-ago truths. Definitely a good, long read for coming out of a reading slump!

All We Ever Wanted: I haven’t read anything by Emily Giffin since Something Borrowed and Something Blue, and this one was a nice foray back into those rom-com novels. There was a bit of teen angst written into this one, so every once in a while I had to read quickly to get past it, but all in all it was a good story, and I liked the character development.

Where the Crawdads Sing: Now THIS is a fantastic book! A beautifully written debut novel, it has some North Carolina roots, with a nice few twists added in. I love a good novel that can switch time periods along the same storyline successfully – and as we follow the story from a decade apart, finally bringing them towards the end, we get to see the main character grow up, and find herself and her life’s work.

NON-FICTION

Saturate: Jeff Vanderstelt opens the door to his life and how hospitality works for his family. He encourages us to live as Jesus would: sharing each part of your life with your community, allowing them to minister you as well as offering your ministry to them.

Glimpses of Grace: Gloria Furman is a WONDERFUL, Scripture-based writer, and she encourages the weary mama to find joy and meaning in the often exhausting and difficult seasons of motherhood.

The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Rosaria Butterfield’s colorful background and incredible testimony give this book the power it needs to go straight into your heart. Another take on Christian hospitality, Rosaria practices what she calls radically ordinary hospitality, no matter the sacrifices (and there are certainly sacrifices).

Girl Wash Your Face: I expounded a lot on this book on Everyday Exiles (link to the article here)  but my main point was to read with caution, because she says she’s a Christian, but doesn’t point to Jesus very much. There were some good takeaways, certainly – don’t hear me say I didn’t like anything. But I had a hard time with her telling us how responsible she was for her own life success, yet saying only a couple of times that she prayed about something. My ONLY successes have come from prayer and the old cliche “Let go and let God”, and I’m happy to tout JESUS as my hero, not myself. So read carefully.

I’d Rather Be Reading: Anne Bogel (also known as Modern Mrs. Darcy) has really outdone herself with the bookish feelings in this lovely little memoir-style book about books. And reading. And readers. And book lovers. It’s perfectly wonderful, and if you love reading or books you should absolutely read it! I read it right through in a day, and had quite a few happy, “Me too!” tears.

And the much-anticipated UPCOMING READS!

I’m excited to continue Madeleine L’Engle’s qunitet and L.M. Montgomery’s Anne series, but I’m also looking forward to Annie F. Downs’ newest book Remember God, and Shannan Martin’s book The Ministry of Ordinary Places. I’m also reading Heidi to EK right now and we’re both loving it!

WELL! Have you read any of these?! I’d love to hear a review or any thoughts you have! What are you reading these days?

5 Books to Read and Love

This piece originally appeared on The Grit and Grace Project at the beginning of the year. These books are still great, even if you’ve already kicked off this year’s reading venture!

Every year, I make a resolution to read more. I know it’s a common resolution, so I’m assuming a few of you out there made it this year, as well! Here are a few reads I’ve loved recently to get you started on your reading goal!

The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley. What a beautiful, beautiful story this was! I grabbed it off the employee’s picks at Barnes and Noble, and I read it in less than two days. It’s the story of a woman whose mother was adopted, searching for her family history, not knowing what (and how much) she’d find. I loved the artistic influences there as well.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. This mystery had me thinking about it all day, even when I wasn’t reading. Bernadette is lost somewhere, and it’s her daughter and husband’s job to track her down. Full of surprises and oddments, with a little drama, this book is one you’ll fly through, just so you can know how it ends!

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. If you haven’t read this one, it’s a must! I love Moriarty’s books anyway (specifically What Alice Forgot) but this one is a book I couldn’t put down till I’d solved the puzzle. I encourage you to read before you watch the miniseries, if it’s on your list, too. The cast is great but there are some changes, so read first if you can!

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I know this one isn’t remotely new – quite the opposite! This classic is timeless, and full of beautiful imagery. This year is the perfect time to read it, or REread it, since the movie comes out in March!

Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan. If you don’t know about Bunmi Laditan, look her up and give her a follow right now. She’s hilarious, and her novel is no exception! More horribly laughable things happen to the protagonist (a business woman-turned-stay-at-home mom) than you would think possible; you will literally laugh out loud!

AND! Coming out this year are some other books by authors we love, so keep a lookout for I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell (I love her book This Must Be the Place) and You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfield (I love her book American Wife). There are also new books on deck from James Patterson, David Baldacci, and Danielle Steele, if you have been reading their books for years like I have! Good luck with your reading goals – and tell me what you like, so I can read it, too!

Recent Reads

I don’t always write book review about every book I read, no matter how hard I try. So here is a list of books I’ve recently finished, with a little blurb about them and why I would recommend them to you! (If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen these titles throughout the last month!)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I heard about this one on a podcast (listen to it here! It’s Pictures and Pages, No. 3.) and immediately knew I needed to order it – and order it I did! Then I read it in less than a week. It’s a beautiful example of writing, with all the emotions and big feels you could want (any other Enneagram type 4’s?!) packed into an atypical post-apocalyptic story. Most books on the topic are young adult-driven, but this wasn’t as “easy read” as many of them are (not to say it was difficult). There were more surprises, more intricately-woven characters and connections than just a book written for teenagers and weird love triangles.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. This does happen to be a book that is often thought of as “children’s literature”, and I definitely read it first as a child. But a writer I love (Annie F. Downs) said she was reading all of L’Engle’s books this year, and I thought I’d try to join her since I had set a pretty lofty – for me in this life stage – goal of reading 25ish books this year. I am trying to read some of the books I’ve bought in the past, instead of only buying new ones (I know I just said I bought Station Eleven – that was an exception!) so I started with the only L’Engle already on my shelf! It’s beautifully written, a creative story representing a fight against darkness and sin. It also falls loosely into the sci-fi category, including time-travel (or wrinkling) and some strange occurrences therein.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. This book was a part of Oprah’s Book Club, so you know it’s good. Written by a gal who grew up in a missionary family in China, she has a unique perspective of how life worked for a traditional Chinese family in the late 1800s-early 1900s. It was eye-opening from a cultural and historical perspective (assuming it’s pretty accurate) but also a neat story, spanning the entire lifetime of a rural farmer. This is an example of a book someone gave me to read that I didn’t get around to for a couple of years.

Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger. I have long loved Catcher in the Rye, and so when I spotted this one on my shelf (I think it was my Hubby’s) I had to read it! It is lovely prose, mostly just an ongoing conversation between siblings Franny and Zooey. There are incredible examples of where stream of consciousness takes us, and lots of big words I had to look up – which I consider to be a good thing!

The next book on my list (which I just started yesterday!) is The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, I also read her bookHag-Seed: The Tempest Retold last year. She’s become a favorite of mine.

What are you reading right now? What should I add to my list for the year?! Bonus points if you will let me borrow it!!

Book Review: The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley

Y’all know I love a good book. I love it even more when I just can’t put it down. I love it EVEN MORE when I simultaneously can’t wait to see how it ends but don’t really want it to be over, because I’m attached to it. This book was all of that for me. I read it in a little over 24 hours – a testament to how good it was, and also that it happened to be that time of limbo between Christmas and New Year’s. The perfect time for a splendid read.

lost and found.jpg
Image found on Amazon.com

It was an awesome combination of romance, a little history, some art, and surprises. Lucy Foley did an amazing job hopping back and forth from the past (mostly the 20s, but some parts up through WWII) and “present” (which happened to be the 80s). That often tends to confuse and/or frustrate me, but it was done clearly and purposefully, which I totally appreciated.

We follow Kate, who has recently lost the only family she knows, through a journey to find where she came from. Her mother, a prima ballerina, was adopted, and Kate needs to know who her family would have been if she hadn’t been given up. It’s an incredible journey through the past, and Kate’s feelings during the present, to find the truth, and from there, decide where she should go. There are wonderful, true feelings on every page, and a couple of love stories told, wanted, missed, and achieved. There are intricate characters to love, and ones to hate, just like every great book should have.

I can best describe the book with a great quote from near the end: You want a love story.  But you see, I’ve given you a love story. It just doesn’t all work out the way one might have written it.

Book Review: The Fifth Wave series, by Rick Yancey

Does anyone else love YA literature, even when they’re (kinda far?) out of that age bracket? I know that it’s supposed to be for people younger than me, but I almost always find the reads quick, easy, and quite fascinating. Dystopian novels in particular can be favorites of mine, and Hunger Games is at the top of my list. I have a particular affinity for series (as I mentioned here) since they go on a little longer than a couple hundred pages. And so, much of the YA lit is right up my alley. Everyone loves a good story that doesn’t end too quickly.

I have read Hunger Games too many times to count, and have also read the Maze Runner series and loved it. I first heard about the Fifth Wave series from another mother/writer friend, who was loved it for the same reasons I love it: only so much brain power can be attached to the books I’m reading at the moment (can you say three kids?), so the more attachment I form to the story, and the simpler the difficulty, the better.

The Fifth Wave and the subsequent two books were a refreshing break from the non-fiction I had been reading. They immediately caught my attention, however initially confusing it was that every few chapters, the first person tense switched characters. I wasn’t too keen on the “alien invasion” idea, but the books had a magnificent twist that not only was unexpected, but a little relieving for my stuffy, “there’s no way that’s real” perspective.

The first main character Cassie has a charge to keep her younger brother safe in a world turned upside down, and she finds friends and help in the strangest of situations. It could be pretty violent at times – much of the story was taking place in an army boot camp of sorts, but the soldiers were all children. Nonetheless, I enjoyed finding out how all the stories had woven together by the end, and the final twist had me in tears.

If you need a read that won’t go by too quickly, but will hold your attention, this series is a good one for you! I downloaded it on my Kindle, and it was special pricing when I downloaded all three of the books at once. If you read it, or have read it in the past, let me know! I’d love to pick your brain about a few things!

Book Review: A Parchment of Leaves by Silas House

I borrowed this book from my aunt, who has spent about half her life living in Kentucky, near where Silas House lives. She had bought the book originally because he was a local author, and I saw it on her bookshelf the last time I was at her house. She let me borrow it, and I read it in basically one day, on the road trip back home. I couldn’t put it down!

A Parchment of Leaves is set in the mountains of Kentucky, portraying the life of a Cherokee woman named Vine Sullivan, her family, her community, and her accidental love triangle. It’s a captivating saga from start to finish, written in first person straight from Vine’s heart and mind. I enjoyed reading a bit about Cherokee culture, about what women did during the first world war while most of the men were away, and about how a group of small town women were able to fend for themselves in a time that most women weren’t able to do so.

If you’re local to the southeast, if you like literature based around the WWI time period, or if you like a sweet and captivating story with a few surprises along the way, you’ll love this book. There were several times that I thought I could predict what was about to happen, but I was wrong – and I like to be taken off guard! It’s boring if I know every single thing that’s about to happen. I absolutely recommend this book as a great summer read! If you do read it, let me know so that we can chat about it!