Book Review: Live What You Love

Live What You Love: Notes from an unusual Life

by Bob and Melinda Blanchard

live-what-you-love-cover

My Rating: **** (4 out of 5 stars)

Why Did I Read?

I found this book on my bookshelf.  I must have bought it at a library book sale at some point.  I chose the book off my bookshelf because the title sounded interesting, and it looked like a very quick and easy read.

Summary (from Goodreads)

Bob and Melinda Blanchard’s first book, A Trip to the Beach, sold more than 85,000 copies and became inspiration for countless people who were ready to start living their dreams. Comprising stories, reflections, notes, insights, and a bit of advice, Live What You Love is the Blanchard’s warm, engaging, and personal response to the thousands of fans who’ve asked them, “How did you do it?”

“What happens if life falls outside the expected lines and inside others that are self-defined? Our experiences tell us that living this way is as wonderful as it is odd. We happen to believe that life really is about choices, and we love what happens when interesting ones get paired together.”–Bob and Melinda Blanchard

After the Blanchards’ published A Trip to the Beach, they found that readers responded personally and passionately, often buying multiple copies to give friends and family. They received countless invitations to lecture and requests for national television appearances, and have been asked to develop a series for PBS. Everyone, it seems, wanted to live their life: during the winter, the couple operate the most popular restaurant in Anguilla, the tiny Caribbean nation hideaway of celebrities, beautiful beaches and luxurious homes, and spend summers in the green hills of Northern Vermont.
Through delightful and moving stories, reflections, notes–and a soupcon of advice–the Blanchards have written a stunning, inspirational manifesto where truly living what you love becomes a revolutionary act, a rebellion against the common life. They show how, through self-trust, personal adjustment, and daily acts of commitment, each of us can live the life we love and make every day a personal treasure. Full of warmth, humor, wisdom, and charm, LWYL is the Blanchard’s love letter to life, a celebration of unusual choices, and a thank you gift to all of their fans.

What Did I Think/Recommendation

I enjoyed this book a lot!  It was a very quick and easy read, and it held my interest the entire way through.  It was also very inspiring.  The only reason I gave this 4 stars instead of 5 is because the story jumped around in time and that was confusing at times.  It was also difficult at times to tell which one of the authors was telling the story since they took turns writing the chapters.  I think the story would have been easier to follow if it had been written chronologically.  I have not read their first book, A Trip to the Beach, but I have added that to my list of books to read.

I would read Live What You Love again.  I would recommend this book to anyone who has dreams and just needs a little bit of motivation to take action on those dreams.

Check out more reviews on Live What You Love on Goodreads.

Favorite Quote

“Choose a rich life over an expensive lifestyle and curate your own memories as treasures you will share.” p. 182-183

 

 

Book Review: The Gift of an Ordinary Day

The Gift of an Ordinary Day:  A Mother’s Memoir

by Katrina Kenison

the-gift-of-an-ordinary-day-cover

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

Why Did I Read?

I bought this book at a library book sale several years ago, and it has been sitting on my bookshelf ever since.  Whether I purchased it because of the title or because of the cover (yes, I do initially judge books by their covers), I don’t remember.  I had never heard of it before, so it wasn’t because of a recommendation.  It may have just called out to me, as books often do.  So, I bought it, and it sat on my shelf for years.  The reason I chose this book to read among all the books on my shelf at home is just as puzzling to me.  It just had a way of calling out to me, saying “now is the time to read this.”  When that happens, I trust…because those are the books that often have the greatest impact on my life.  This one did not disappoint.

Summary (from Goodreads)

The Gift of an Ordinary Day is an intimate memoir of a family in transition-boys becoming teenagers, careers ending and new ones opening up, an attempt to find a deeper sense of place, and a slower pace, in a small New England town. It is a story of mid-life longings and discoveries, of lessons learned in the search for home and a new sense of purpose, and the bittersweet intensity of life with teenagers–holding on, letting go.

Poised on the threshold between family life as she’s always known it and her older son’s departure for college, Kenison is surprised to find that the times she treasures most are the ordinary, unremarkable moments of everyday life, the very moments that she once took for granted, or rushed right through without noticing at all.

The relationships, hopes, and dreams that Kenison illuminates will touch women’s hearts, and her words will inspire mothers everywhere as they try to make peace with the inevitable changes in store.

What Did I Think/Recommendation

I loved this book!  This book must have been calling out to me because I chose to read it at a time in my life where I could really relate with the author.  As her teen boys approach the end of their time living at home, she feels a desperate need to spend more time being present with them, holding onto what is left of their time together under one roof, and appreciating every moment of it.  My daughters are a few years younger than her boys were when she wrote the book, but I still feel the urgency of savoring those moments, those “gifts of an ordinary day.”  I really loved the author’s writing style, and I felt like I was right there with her throughout the entire story, feeling her every emotion.

The author offers so many valuable insights in this book!  I recommend that every mom of a teenager read this book.  Although I imagine nothing can really prepare us for the inevitable day when our children leave the nest, this book helped to remind me that every stage of life is a gift, and learning to slow down and practice presence and gratitude in each stage will help to ease the transitions.

Find more reviews about this book at Goodreads.

Some of My Favorite Quotes from the Book:

“When we focus on what is good and beautiful in someone, whether or not we think that they ‘deserve’ it, the good and beautiful are strengthened merely by the light of our attention.  When we choose to see and appreciate what is good and beautiful in our children, that goodness can’t help but grow, and their beauty blossoms forth.” (p.169)

“The life we have right here, right now, is the best life there is.” (p.209)

“Grace is available for each of us every day — our spiritual daily bread, but we’ve got to remember to ask for it with a grateful heart and not worry about whether there will be enough for tomorrow.” ~Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance (p.264)

“Do your work, then step back.  The only path to serenity.” ~Tao Te Ching (p.231)

“The only trust required is to know that when there is one ending there will be another beginning.” ~Clarissa Pinkola Estes (p.197)

 

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.

Book Review: Weekends With Daisy

Weekends with Daisy by Sharron Kahn Luttrell

Weekends with Daisy Cover

My Rating:  ***** (5 out of 5 stars)

Why Did I Read?

This book was selected as a community read by my local library.  I enjoy participating in these community reads because everyone is encouraged to read the same book, and then the library hosts several events related to the book, including a visit by the author.

Summary (from Goodreads)

When Sharron Luttrell, a journalist still deeply mourning the loss of her family dog, discovers a weekend puppy raiser program for a service dog organization, she knew it was just what she needed to help her move on. It seemed ideal; pick up a puppy on Friday, return it on Sunday night, get a new puppy each year. No strings attached. Well, it turns out there were strings – and they tugged at her every time she had to return “her dog” to its weekday caregiver.

This memoir chronicles Sharron’s year co-parenting Daisy, a sweet Lab puppy, with Keith, Daisy’s other trainer. As Sharron and Keith develop a relationship she likens to “divorced parents handing over the kids,” she becomes curious about Keith’s life story. When Sharron uncovers a tragic event from Keith’s past, she realizes she must take a lesson from Daisy and “think like a dog”— react to circumstances in the present, not the past.

Sharron applies this way of thinking at home too, using the lessons she learned from Daisy to mend her rocky relationship with her teenage daughter. Where once a dramatic eye roll from her daughter would have sparked a battle, Sharron has learned to employ the patience and understanding she practices with Daisy to become a better mom. As Sharron and Keith work tirelessly to ensure Daisy passes her service dog test, she is taught priceless lessons in empathy, compassion and affection. In the end, Sharron’s weekends with Daisy have taught her more than she could ever have imagined.

What Did I Think?

I really loved this book!  I think the author is a fantastic writer.  I commend her honesty.  I realize it takes an immense amount of courage to truthfully expose every thought and feeling for the world to read about, but that is why I enjoyed it so much.   She makes you feel like you are right there with her throughout her entire experience of being a weekend puppy raiser to Daisy.

I really enjoyed learning about the NEADS  (National Education for Assistance Dog Services) program, something I had never even heard about before.  Inmates train the puppies during the week since they are able to provide them with the attention necessary to train the dogs properly.  On Friday evenings, the weekend puppy raisers go to the prison to pick up the dogs for the weekend.  They then take the puppy home with them and allow the puppy to experience many different situations and environments throughout the weekend, and then the weekend puppy raiser returns the dog to the inmate on Sunday night.  There is so much good in this program.  It is a win-win for all:  the weekend puppy raisers, the inmates who train the puppies during the week, and the clients the puppies are eventually placed with.

Reading about Sharron’s experience gave me a new appreciation for dogs.  This book even inspired me to teach my dog a few tricks.  They are smarter than we sometimes realize!  I have not always been a dog-lover, but I appreciate their worth more than ever now after reading this book.

Today I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by the author at my local library.  She was accompanied by her newest puppy-in-training, Samurai.  Samurai is now the 10th puppy she has trained, although some of the puppies did fail out of the program for one reason or another.  It was so exciting to hear her story and to watch Samurai obey her every command.  She is an excellent speaker as well as writer!

Recommendation

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.

Book Review: The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

The Artist’s Way:  A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

The Artists Way Cover

My Rating:  ***** 5 out of 5 Stars

Why Did I Read?

The book that has had the biggest impact on my life so far has been Life Makeovers by Cheryl Richardson.  Through that book, I discovered myself.  I have been through the 52 weekly challenges in that book for over 8 years now, and I am grateful to author Cheryl Richardson and the book for helping me on my journey of personal growth.  At the end of each weekly challenge, there are a list of resources if the reader wants to go further in depth with the topic of the week.  The Artists Way is listed as one of the resources.  If The Artists Way helped shape Cheryl Richardson into the person she is today, I decided it was worth checking out.  So, I borrowed it from my library, began my journey on the twelve-week challenge, and just I finished it (although I completed it in about 6 weeks instead of 12 so I could get it back to the library before the due date.)  I am planning to take the challenge again.  There are very few books that I actually buy since I can get them at the library, but The Artists Way is one that I feel would be worth buying.

Summary

From the back of the book:  The Artists Way is an empowering book for aspiring and working artists.  With the basic principle that creative expression is the natural direction of life, Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan lead you through a comprehensive twelve-week program to recover your creativity from a variety of blocks, including limiting beliefs, fear, self-sabotage, jealousy, guilt, addictions, and other inhibiting forces, replacing them with artistic confidence and productivity.

The Artists Way links creativity to spirituality by showing in nondenominational terms how to tap into the higher power that connects human creativity with the creative energies of the universe, and guides you through a variety of highly effective exercises and activities that spur imagination and capture new ideas.

What Did I Think/ My Recommendation

I love this book, and I see why it was recommended by Cheryl Richardson in the book Life Makeovers!  There are a lot of great tips in this book that could help anyone looking to unleash their creativity and rediscover the artist within.  I took away some great ideas from this book, and when I applied them to my life, I noticed a huge improvement.  Writing morning pages have helped me to focus on gratitude and prioritize my days.  When I don’t do them, I feel lost and unproductive.  The artist date has been something I have come to look forward to each week.  As time goes on, I hope to schedule more time for artist dates.  There are many other suggestions in the book that would greatly improve one’s life.  Completing the tasks have helped me identify some of my fears and limiting beliefs so I can work past them.  This is not a book that you just sit back and read.  You must do the tasks provided to get the most out of it.  The more time you put into it, the more you will get out of this book.  I plan to go through the twelve-week program again in an even more thorough fashion.

I also loved that the margins of the book are loaded with inspiring quotes, many of which resonated with me.  My favorite quote of all from the book is one from Julia Cameron herself:

“Creativity is God’s gift to us.  Using our creativity is our gift back to God.” ~Julia Cameron

creativity julia cameron

For more information or reviews on The Artists Way, or for more about the author Julia Cameron, check out The Artists Way on Goodreads.

Book Review: The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story

The Julian Chapter:  A Wonder Story by R.J. Palacio

The Julian Chapter cover

My Rating:  ***** 5 out of 5 Stars

Why Did I Read This Book?

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.  In the book Wonder, you get the perspective of six different characters, but one important character is not included:  Auggie’s bully, Julian.  I was really excited when I found out there was a book on Julian’s perspective, and I couldn’t wait to read it!  My daughter found it at her school library included in a Special Edition of the book Wonder.

Summary (from Goodreads)

From the very first day Auggie and Julian met in the pages of the #1 New York Times bestseller Wonder, it was clear they were never going to be friends, with Julian treating Auggie like he had the plague. And while Wonder told Auggie’s story through six different viewpoints, Julian’s perspective was never shared. Readers could only guess what he was thinking.

Until now. The Julian Chapter will finally reveal the bully’s side of the story. Why is Julian so unkind to Auggie? And does he have a chance for redemption?

What Did I Think/Recommendation

Like Wonder and 365 Days of Wonder, I LOVED this book!  I loved that this was a very easy read (only 89 pages)  and the chapters were very short (1-2 pages), just like the book Wonder.  The Julian Chapter completes the story of Wonder.  It is realistic and helps the reader identify with Julian and his family.  It helps the reader understand the reasons for some of the actions Julian took in the book Wonder…because there is always more than one side to every story!  Like Wonder, this book brought me to tears.  I would recommend this book to EVERYONE, young and old.  If you have already read Wonder, The Julian Chapter is a MUST read!

This advice from Julian’s Grandmere is my favorite quote from the book:

“But the good thing about life is that we can fix our mistakes sometimes.  We learn from them.  We get better…One mistake does not define you…You must simply act better next time.” (Grandmere, p.391-392)

What I love the most about this story is that Julian truly does learn from his mistakes.  He is genuinely sorry for his actions.  He apologizes for them, and in the end, Julian and Auggie are able to reconcile.

For more information or reviews on The Julian Chapter or author R.J. Palacio, check it out on Goodreads.

Book Review: Rachel’s Tears

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

Rachel's Tears CoverMy Rating: ***** 5 out of 5

Why Did I Read This Book?

I just finished reading this book for a second time.  It was VERY inspirational to me the first time I read it and much of it stayed with me, so I wanted to read it again to give it a proper review.  The first time I chose to read it, I was at the library waiting by the Nonfiction Young Adult section for my daughters to come out of story time, and the title and cover just caught my eye.  I love it when that happens, because usually those are the books that change my life.  This one sure did…

Summary (from Goodreads)

“I am not going to apologize for speaking the name of Jesus . . . If I have to sacrifice everything . . . I will.” -Rachel Scott

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. Rachel’s Tears comes from a heartfelt need to celebrate this young girl’s life, to work through the grief and the questions of a nation, and to comfort those who have been touched by violence in our schools today. Using excerpts and drawings from Rachel’s own journals, her parents offer a spiritual perspective on the Columbine tragedy and provide a vision of hope for preventing youth violence across the nation.

What Did I Think/Recommendation

This book had a huge impact on my life.  Rachel’s spirituality inspired me greatly.  After I read the book, 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.

For more information and reviews on the book, check it out on Goodreads.