Book & Movie Review: The Help

Book Review:  The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

the-help-cover

My Rating:  ***** (5 out of 5 Stars)

Why Did I Read?

I bought this book at a library book sale years ago.  I saw the movie with some friends from a book club when the movie first came out, but I had not read the book.  This summer, I decided I wanted to read something easier than the self-help books I usually read, so I pulled this off my book shelf.  It pretty much took me all summer to read, but I’m glad I did.  When I finished the book, I went to the library and got the movie to watch again.

Summary (from Goodreads)

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step….

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women–mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends–view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope,The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

What Did I Think/Recommendation

This book took me much longer to read than I had anticipated, but I really liked it a lot, and I learned a lot from it.

This book taught me a lot about the relationships between blacks and whites in the South in the 1960’s.  It really opened my eyes to the cruelty and injustice that existed during that time.  This book reminds me of how far we have come in working towards eliminating inequality and racism.  There is still much progress to be made, but I think this book and movie helps to bring us one step closer to that.

I really came to love and admire the courage of many of the characters in this book.  I liked the way the chapters switched between the perspectives of the 3 main characters:  Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny.  Two of these characters are black, and one is white.  Each of these characters provides her own stories of life in the South during that time, and I admire the way each of them was willing to risk everything to fight for equality and a better life for all.

Thoughts on the Movie

I thought the movie was really well done!  It followed the book closely.  I saw the movie when it first came out.  I had not yet read the  book, and I did not understand a lot of the little details.  When I watched the movie again after reading the book, the details stood out and made much more sense.  I would definitely recommend both the book and the movie!  My daughters (aged 13, 12, and 9) all watched the movie with me, and they all enjoyed it as well.

My Favorite Quote from The Help:

the-help-quote

Aibileen, one of the black maids, said this often to Mae Mobley, the little girl she was caring for.  If nothing else, she wanted to teach her this important truth about herself.  I believe everyone should be taught to believe this about themselves.

For more reviews on The Help, visit Goodreads.

Book Review: Transformed

Book Review:  Transformed

by Rick Warren

transformed cover

My Rating:  ***** (5 out of 5 stars)

Why Did I Read?

I am a member of a small group (we call it a Lifegroup) at our church.  For 7 sessions, we got together every other week to go through this book together, watch the video that went along with the weekly lesson, and discuss our thoughts and how we can apply the concepts to our own lives.

Summary (through Goodreads)

Transformed is a church-wide, 7-session campaign that will guide and grow your church by exploring what the Bible has to say about every essential area of our lives: Spiritual, Physical, Mental, Emotional, Relational, Financial, and Vocational. The world is shouting for our attention with answers to our relationship struggles, solutions to our financial trouble, and explanations to our search for meaning. But the world’s promises leave us empty and searching for more. God’s Word is the only answer that promises to transform our lives from the inside out. Unite as a church and be TRANSFORMED together.

What Did I Think/Recommendation

I really liked this book a lot.  Over 7 weeks (49 days), each day I looked forward to reading, reflecting, and journaling on the lesson of the day.  In those 10 minutes of each day, I felt so at peace.  I was able to leave all of my worries behind and connect with my source and my true self.  It was a wonderful feeling.  When I was able to spend this time first thing in the morning, it inspired me and provided me with a great start to my day.

I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in becoming healthier in mind, body, or spirit.  The book covers just about every area of our lives:  spiritual health, physical health, mental health, emotional health, relational health, financial health, and vocational health.  The reading is very short, but the reflection and journaling is what I enjoyed the most.  To anyone who gets this book, I would encourage you to do the journaling if you want to get the most out of it.

Although I really enjoyed doing the individual lessons from the book, the part of this course that really made the biggest impact in my life was the small group discussion and the videos that went along with the book.  Find out more about the course at http://transformedlife.com/

 

Book Review: The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project

by Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Project Cover

My Rating:  *** (3 out of 5 stars)

Why Did I Read?

Honestly, I can’t remember why I chose to read this book.  I began it in April, at a time when I was really trying to focus on de-cluttering, so I must have seen it referenced somewhere since de-cluttering is one of the key recommendations for becoming happier.  I really liked the concept of the book as well.

Summary (from Goodreads)

What if you could change your life without really changing your life? On the outside, Gretchen Rubin had it all — a good marriage, healthy children and a successful career — but she knew something was missing. Determined to end that nagging feeling, she set out on a year-long quest to learn how to better enjoy the life she already had.

Each month, Gretchen pursued a different set of resolutions — go to sleep earlier, tackle a nagging task, bring people together, take time to be silly — along with dozens of other goals. She read everything from classical philosophy to cutting-edge scientific studies, from Winston Churchill to Oprah, developing her own definition of happiness and a plan for how to achieve it. She kept track of which resolutions worked and which didn’t, sharing her stories and collecting those of others through her blog (created to fulfill one of March’s resolutions). Bit by bit, she began to appreciate and amplify the happiness in her life.

The Happiness Project is the engaging, relatable and inspiring result of the author’s twelve-month adventure in becoming a happier person. Written with a wicked sense of humour and sharp insight, Gretchen Rubin’s story will inspire readers to embrace the pleasure in their lives and remind them how to have fun.

What Did I Think/Recommendation

This book took me a really long time to finish.  It did not hold my attention as well as I thought it would have.  I expected it to be a really easy read because the topic is something that I am very interested in, but it was not as easy of a read as I had anticipated.  I admire the author for her honesty and the way she points out her own flaws, and I can relate with her in many ways.  The book is filled with many examples from the author’s life, but in my opinion, it was a little too detailed and difficult to get through at times.

There are lots of great tips, precepts, and quotes in the book.  Nothing comes to mind that really stood out or inspired me, but I have done a lot of research on the topic of happiness so there wasn’t much that was new to me.  Just because the book didn’t have a life-changing impact on my life, it doesn’t mean it won’t on others, so I would still recommend checking it out for yourself.

You can find other reviews on The Happiness Project, and find out more about the author at Goodreads.

 

Book Review: The Afterlife of Billy Fingers

The Afterlife of Billy Fingers:  How My Bad-Boy Brother Proved to Me There’s Life After Death

by Annie Kagan

The Afterlife of Billy Fingers Cover

My Rating: ***** (5 out of 5 Stars)

Why Did I Read?

This book was recommended to me by my Reiki Master teacher.  When taking the Reiki Master class a few weeks ago, my teacher played a song called “The Swan of Tuonela” by the composer Jean Sibelius.  In the book, The Afterlife of Billy Fingers, Billy tells his sister that cosmic sound is very similar to this song.  My teacher told us briefly what the book was about, and it sounded fascinating to me, so I decided to check it out at my library.

Summary (from Goodreads)

“Annie Kagan is not a medium or a psychic, she did not die and come back to life; in fact, when she was awakened by her deceased brother, she thought perhaps she had gone a little crazy.

In “The Afterlife of Billy Fingers: How My Bad-Boy Brother Proved to Me There’s Life After Death,” Kagan shares the extraordinary story of her after death communications (ADC) with her brother Billy, who began speaking to her just weeks after his unexpected death.

One of the most detailed and profound ADC’s ever recorded, Kagan’s book takes the reader beyond the near-death experience.  Billy’s vivid, real-time account of his on-going journey through the mysteries of death will change the way you think about life, death and your place in the Universe.”

What Did I Think/Recommendation

I LOVED this book!  I thought it was fascinating!  I have a strong interest in reading books about Near-Death Experiences, but this book takes it even further.  Although some of the things described are really “out there”, especially near the end, I really believe this is true.  Just have an open mind when reading this book.

I found it to be comforting and reassuring that we are all loved unconditionally regardless of our actions, and there is something great waiting for each of us on the other side, although the experience will be different for each of us based on what our beliefs are.  This book also confirmed my belief that we are eternal souls, and our time on this earth in a physical body is just one way for us to experience new things and help our souls grow.

This book was a VERY easy read.  I read it in about 3 days, although I probably could have read it all in one sitting if I had the time.  I did not want to put it down!

As Billy gave Annie advice throughout the book, here are a few bits of wisdom that I got out of this:

See yourself Billy Fingers

What you achieve on earth is only a small part of the deal.  If there’s a secret I could whisper, and that you could keep, it would be that it’s all inside you already.  Every single thing you need.  Earth is just a stopover.  A kind of game.  Make it a star game.  If I could give you a gift, it would be to teach you how to stay free inside that game, to find the glory inside yourself, beyond the roles and the drama, so you can dance the game of life with a little more rhythm, a little more abandon, a little more shaking-those-hips.” (p.84)

“All beings on earth carry the light from this sphere within them.  That’s why spiritual philosophies say that we are one…the light from the sphere propels your soul into your body when you’re in the womb.  It then becomes the invisible force that gives you life…” (p. 94)

“Don’t overlook the riches contained in the darkness.  Life’s very temporary, so don’t let time just pass.  Let the moments fill you — the ones you judge to be good as well as bad.” (p.95)

“There are many worlds, and the afterlife has many forms.  Where you go, who you meet, and where you meet them is different for different people.” (p. 104)

“After you’re dead, you are able to be in more than one place at a time.” (p. 105)

“Beliefs are big on earth.  People collect them.  Some of these beliefs are helpful, but others just keep you running around trying to follow rules that others have laid down.  They don’t have a lot of personal meaning.  It’s a good idea to sort through your beliefs now and throw out the ones that don’t serve you.” (p. 105)

“People spend lots of time on things that make them unhappy…to cultivate joy, pay attention to what you like.” (p. 152)

“Every single life is valuable in ways you cannot imagine or figure out while you’re alive.  Every single life is a gift.” (p. 154)

Cosmic symphony

See more reviews of The Afterlife of Billy Fingers on Goodreads.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Millionaire Messenger

The Millionaire Messenger:  Make a Difference and a Fortune Sharing Your Advice

by Brendon Burchard

The Millionaire Messenger cover

My Rating ***** (5 out of 5 stars)

Why Did I Read?

I am inspired by Brendon Burchard, and I would eventually like to read all of his books.  Until now, the only book I have read of his was The Charge (another 5 star book…see my review).  I have a long list of books I would love to read.  The Millionaire Messenger was on the list, but it was not one that I felt I needed to read right away.  Until a few weeks ago.  When I watched one of Brendon’s free videos promoting his program Experts Academy, he referenced The Millionaire Messenger often and I felt called to read it right away.  So, I got it from my library and began to read…

Summary (From Goodreads)

“In The Millionaire Messenger, Brendon Burchard pulls back the curtains on the once-secretive “expert industry” and shows how to become an influential and highly paid advice expert through websites, books, speeches, seminars, coaching, consulting, and online programs.

Blessed to receive life’s golden ticket – a second chance – after surviving a dramatic car accident, Burchard has dedicated his life to helping others find their voice, live more fully, and follow their dreams.

By following his 10-step program, average, ordinary people can learn to package their struggles, successes, research, or life’s story into advice for others and become experts on any given topic.  In the industry of people who share their advice and knowledge with the world and get paid for it, Burchard is the “guru’s guru.”
If you’ve ever wondered how the gurus spread their message, serve others, and build a real business, then this is a must-read.”

What Did I Think/Recommendation

I found this book to be both inspiring and motivating.  There is so much information in there, and it is difficult to take it all in at once.  It definitely is not a leisurely read.  To get the most out of it, you must do the work.  I found it helpful to have my journal nearby and answer the questions that were presented as I went through the book.  I especially enjoyed the questions he presented at the beginning.  He asks the reader to list 5 things they have learned about a variety of different topics.  I enjoyed answering those questions and learned a lot about myself through that exercise.

I feel like I need to read this book again because it is so packed with content and there are so many of his ideas I want to implement into my work.  If you have a message you want to share with the world, as I do, then I highly recommend reading this book and doing the work involved along the way.

Experts Millionaire Messenger

For more reviews on The Millionaire Messenger, visit Goodreads.

Book Review: 90 Minutes in Heaven

90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper

90 minutes in heaven cover

My Rating:  ***** (5/5 Stars)

Why Did I Read?

I first read this book several years ago.  After I finished it then, I had considered it one of the best books I had ever read.  It gave me hope about heaven in the afterlife and took away any fears I had about death.  I wanted to tell everyone who had lost a loved one about this book so they may find comfort.  I recently saw the movie, which focuses more on the pain and recovery of Don Piper and it spends very little time on the experience of heaven.  Sadly, the movie doesn’t do the book justice in my opinion.  After seeing the movie, I decided to read the book once more and see if it had the same impact on me as it did the first time I read it.

Summary (from Goodreads)

As he is driving home from a minister’s conference, Baptist minister Don Piper collides with a semi-truck that crosses into his lane. He is pronounced dead at the scene. For the next 90 minutes, Piper experiences heaven where he is greeted by those who had influenced him spiritually. He hears beautiful music and feels true peace.
Back on earth, a passing minister who had also been at the conference is led to pray for Don even though he knows the man is dead. Piper miraculously comes back to life and the bliss of heaven is replaced by a long and painful recovery.

For years Piper kept his heavenly experience to himself. Finally, however, friends and family convinced him to share his remarkable story.

What Did I Think/Recommendation

I really enjoyed this book, especially Chapters 2 and 3 where Don Piper describes his experience of Heaven.  I find the description of Heaven to be very exciting, and it erases all fears of dying for me.  To those who have lost loved ones, I believe they may find great comfort from this book.  The book is a very quick and easy read.  It held my interest, but I wish more detail would have gone into the description of heaven than of the recovery process and pain.  However, there are many great lessons to learn from this book through learning about Don Piper’s recovery process.

I think there are some very important lessons taught in this book:

  1. Learn to accept help from others when you can’t do something for yourself.  Letting others help you is a gift you give to them, because it makes them feel useful.
  2. Learn to appreciate what you have IN THE MOMENT.  Instead of focusing on the things you have lost or can no longer do, recognize and give thanks for those things you CAN do.  Accept the “new normal.”
  3. Everything happens for a reason.  You may not understand “why” for a very long time, but eventually the reason will become clear to you, and it is always for the greater good.  Trust in the universe.

See more reviews on Goodreads here.

Find out more about the author, the book, and the movie here.

Top 10 Inspirational Books I Read in 2015

top 10 inspirational books 2015 done

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ~Dr. Seuss

Reading is something I am passionate about.  I never leave the house without a book.  You never know when you will have to wait, and I find that a book always comes in handy during those times.  There are so many interesting things to learn in life, and reading books is one of my favorite ways to keep life exciting and learn about those things I am interested in.  As 2015 comes to a close, I am reviewing the books I have read this year and reflecting on all the wonderful and exciting things I have learned.

I use Goodreads to keep a list of the books I would like to read as well as to rate, review, and keep track of books as I read them.  At the beginning of 2015, I had set a goal for myself to read 26 books.  I only finished 18 books this year, but I also wrote a book, The 31-Day Self-Love Challenge, so I’m not going to beat myself up for not reaching my goal.  Of the 18 books I read this year, here are my Top 10 Recommendations.  They are listed in no particular order.  Click on the hyperlink or the book image for my full review of each.

  1.  A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson shares her reflections on A Course in Miracles and her insights on the application of love in the search for inner peace.  I loved this book!  Marianne is filled with wisdom about life and love, and I truly enjoyed reading it.  There is so much information in here about every aspect of life!  I absolutely recommend it to anyone who is open to hearing the messages in it.  It is the type of book that will appear in your life when you are ready for it.

A Return to Love Marianne Williamson

 

 

 

 

 

2.  One Month to Live by Kerry & Chris Shook

What if you only had one month to live?  How would you make each day meaningful?  How would you relate to others differently?  What would you do to make the rest of your life really matter?  This book helped me to realize the importance of living intentionally so I may make the most of my time, fulfill my purpose on this earth, and make the difference I was sent here to make.  This book reinforces what really matters in life:  relationships.  Relationships are eternal, but everything else is temporary.

One Month to Live

 

 

 

 

 

3.  The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

“Creativity is God’s gift to us.  Using our creativity is our gift back to God.”  That was a very powerful quote from the book that spoke to me.  We are ALL artists.    We were created to create.  This book will help you to unleash your inner artist and reclaim that creativity that you may have hidden deep down.  This is the book that gave me the push and the tools to help me write my own book, The 31-Day Self-Love Challenge, which was published this year.

The Artists Way

4.  Rachel’s Tears by Beth Nimmo and Darrell Scott with Steve Rabey

“The Columbine tragedy in April 1999 pierced the heart of our country. We later learned that the teenage killers specifically targeted Rachel Scott and mocked her Christian faith on their chilling, homemade videotapes. Rachel Scott died for her faith. Now her parents talk about Rachel’s life and how they have found meaning in their daughter’s martyrdom in the aftermath of the school shooting.”  This book had a huge impact on my life.  Rachel’s spirituality inspired me greatly.  After my first reading of the book several years ago, I began writing letters to God in my journal just as she had.  My letters to God have brought me to a whole new level spiritually, and it is all because of the influence of this authentic 17-year-old girl who just wanted God to use her to make a difference in the world.  She sure made a difference in my life, and I’m sure she has inspired countless others as well.  Her parents also inspire me through their positive attitude, their willingness to forgive, and their belief that God used the Columbine tragedy for the good of the world.

To anyone who has any interest in deepening their spirituality, I certainly recommend this book.

Rachel's Tears

5.  The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

I loved this book!  I would highly recommend it to EVERYONE.  It may have initially been written to help improve marriages, but the concepts in the book can apply to any relationship.  Once we recognize the love language of our partner, friend, child, etc., we will be better able to show them we care and help to improve that relationship.

The Five Love Languages

6.  The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware

I loved this book and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in living a happy and authentic life and having no regrets when they get to the end of it.  Sadly, death is a subject many people fear and they do not want to think about it until it is too late and they are forced to.  We are all going to die someday.  The sooner we accept that truth, the sooner we will be able to set our own priorities and live a life focused on the things that are really important to us.

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

7.  There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem by Wayne Dyer

I love the teachings of Wayne Dyer!  If I had to describe this book in one word, I would say it is about LOVE.  Wayne Dyer passed away this year, but he knew about love and being connected to everyone and everything, and I’m so grateful he is going to live on through his books and teachings so we can all learn to do the same.  I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who is open to embracing their spirituality and connecting more with everyone and everything in the universe.

There's a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem

8.  Weekends with Daisy by Sharron Kahn Luttrell

I would recommend this book to readers of all ages!  It kept my interest the entire time, and it was a fairly quick and easy read at just over 300 pages.  Whether you are currently a dog-lover or not, you will finish this book with a new appreciation for dogs.

Weekends with Daisy

9.  What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles (Review not available)

After being a stay-at-home mom for 12 years, I went back to work for the first time this year, and I wish I had read this book before I tackled my resume and went on my first job interview in over 17 years.  I did get through it and found the perfect job for me (actually, two of them — both part time).  This book is filled with current resources and tips that can be helpful to anyone in search of a job.  This book goes further than general tips as it asks you to really get to know yourself and find out what you are really looking for in a job.  I especially enjoyed Appendix A: Finding Your Mission in Life.  A must read for those in search of a job.

What Color is Your Parachute 2015

10.  The Julian Chapter by RJ Palacio

Wonder and 365 Days of Wonder, both by R.J. Palacio, were both very inspiring to me.  They are some of my all-time favorite books.  The Julian Chapter is the final book that completes the story, and I love this one as well!

The Julian Chapter

For more inspiring books, here are the top 10 books I read in 2014.

Which books have inspired you this year?  Please let me know in the comments below.