Summer Book Reviews

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When summer break began, I had a couple books in mind at that I wanted to read, but seeing as I don’t really like to read (I know, I’m an English teacher, it’s weird.), I wasn’t too sure how far I’d get.

Well, I amazed myself and read a couple more than I had originally intended.

I really want to dedicate more time to reading, but my motivation is low.  Even with the most exciting of books, I seem to end up falling asleep!  I can’t help it!  Really, I can’t, I totally blame my astigmatism.

Though, since I’m coming off of the high of surpassing the goals of my summer reading list, I have high hopes that I’ll keep up this pace for the school year.

Anyway,  here’s a compilation of what I’ve read and my mini-review on each selection. All books are linked to Amazon, so if you’re intrigued by a title and want to see what other people think about the book too, click and follow the link to the Amazon reviews!

1. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and John and Elizabeth Sherrill

 I set out to make this my first read of the summer because 1. I had a few copies laying around at school and 2. several of my students had read it during the past school year and they really seemed to enjoy and be inspired by it.  I knew I would like The Hiding Place because it falls into the non-fiction category, which I can’t seem to get enough of lately, but I really was uplifted by the story and all of the “coincidences” that happened throughout.  Corrie’s faith pulls her through the Holocaust, and her complete reliance on God provoked me to consider how I would think and act if I were in her situation.  I have read various stories on this topic, but Corrie’s view was different for me because it began as a comfortable story about her family and slowly spiraled into chaotic, war-torn scenarios.  The way the novel unfolded was relatable and made it seem like a situation in which anyone could find himself.


2.  This is a Book by Demetri Martin


This little gem caught my eye at the library, so I just had to snatch it up.  Demetri has been a favorite comedian of mine for a long time, so I will pretty much read anything he writes.  This is a book; however, it is written as if you are at a comedy show…kind of?  That’s the best way I can describe it.  Jokes, scripts, charts, and drawings fill the pages and they will keep you laughing, chuckling, smirking, and wondering.  One reason I have always been drawn to Demetri is because of his quirky, WAY-outside-the-box thinking.  That being said, this book probably isn’t for everyone, but if I’ve ever made you laugh, then it’s possible that you might laugh at this book too.





3.  Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

This is another book that I put on my list because of my students.  I heard great things about this true story over the year so I had to check it out myself.  Unbroken is the story of Louis Zamperini and his incredible life.  This guy was an Olympic distance runner, survived a plane crash as well as being stranded in the ocean for 47 days, and he endured ridiculous levels of torture at various Japanese POW camps.  I couldn’t believe the events that Louis lived to talk about, and I found it really cool that he also realized that he couldn’t have gotten through any of them without the help of the Lord.  I haven’t decided if I want to see the film version of his story or not… I’m betting (like usual) the book tells it best!


4.  I Want My Epidural Back by Karen Alpert

Eeeek!  Mrs. Alpert has quite the potty mouth!  But, if you can get past that, this book is pretty entertaining.  Karen definitely “goes there” and writes about the things that moms try to keep to themselves because they are too taboo.  As much as I love reading about the “right” way to parent, and researched procedures about how to deal with your child in every situation possible, and the optimal diet for your little one at every age and stage—-sometimes my brain needs a break.  I Want My Epidural Back gave me that breathing room I so needed and helped ensure that there is no right way in the momming world; we’re all just doing the best we can.  Might as well laugh about it along the way!


5.  Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

This was my favorite read this summer.  The story is about Chris McCandless, a young man who attempted to journey into Alaskan wilderness but is found dead just a short while later.  Jon Krakauer puts the pieces of this real-life scenario together by talking to friends and acquaintances of Chris, and adding his own investigation and research to provide the answers to all the questions surrounding Chris’ death.  I found the story line intriguing right off the bat, and once I got into the book, I couldn’t get enough.  Just. Read. It.


6.  Frida Kahlo by Gerry Souter

If you like a lot of pictures, and not a lot of words, this book is for you! 😉 Frida’s paintings are displayed across from a paragraph or two of text on each page spread.  Initially when I got this book I had hoped that the text would give background information on the corresponding painting, but it does not.  The text tells an abbreviated biography of Frida Kahlo and occasionally refers to the images included in the book.  This was a quick read, and I learned a couple details about her life that I did not previously know.


7.  The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

This is my current read, I’m about 1/3 of the way through, and so far, so good.  This is another true story (see a pattern here?) about the construction of the World’s Fair held in Chicago in 1893.  The book is split between the story of the fair’s production including architectural design and details, but then switches to a story line about serial killer who was also working quite tirelessly during the fair’s construction.  I look forward to reading the rest.



I’ve got a few books lined up for the fall, but I’m open to suggestions!  Drop any you have in a comment below!

10 Things That Should Be On Your Summer Bucket List

With a heavy heart, I have to admit that summer is winding down.  July will be running on fumes by the end of next week, and once August hits, school will be back in session before we know it.

For the past several summers, I have made a “Summer Bucket List” in which I list all the places I want to go, chores I need to accomplish, people I should catch up with, projects I hope to try, etc.  While cleaning the other day, I found these lists from the last two summers.  I lovingly gazed through the items on each list and my mind filled with fond memories of the summers that once were.

This year, I did not make a formal list, but I scribbled down a few intentions of mine (one being to start this blog-check!) With the end of my summer vacation in sight, I decided to come up with a condensed version of my summer bucket list to help make the most out of these next several weeks.

10 Ways to Squeeze the Last Bit of Life Out of Your Summer

Get Outside – This one should be obvious- there are SO many fun activities to do outdoors during the summer.  Sand volleyball, a walk to the park, bicycling, rollerblading, sun-tanning, gardening-whatever you’re into, do it outside!

Get Wet – Another obvious one; it’s 90 degrees!  Find some water!  I don’t know if we’ll make it to the lake this year, but our family is all about spending time at the Splash pad. We have found a few of these local spray parks, but if all else fails, you can just hook up a sprinkler in the back yard.  Here’s another fun activity for the kids that we tried earlier this summer.  Fill containers with water, add food coloring, and hand out spoons and cups and let your kiddos pour, scoop, mix colors, and explore!13256580_922249897883440_1853070564_n

Get Together – I have a running list of people in my head who I don’t see often enough during the school year, or that I know I need to make more time for, and my summer break is a wonderful opportunity to play catch-up.  In such a fast-paced world, we have to make extra effort to plan out time to see everyone.  I try to keep balanced and schedule with people in these categories: time for family, play-dates for my daughter, girl-time with my close friends, and date (or double date) nights for my husband and I.

Get Away – What? A vacation is not in the budget? I feel ya.  But getting away doesn’t mean you have to go far.  Explore somewhere that you’ve never been before.  Experiencing something new and out of the ordinary helps you feel recharged and refreshed as opposed to going through the same motions everyday.  Check out a new hiking trail, park, or beach (Free).  Try out a children’s museum; the zoo; a local winery ($).  Travel to a state park, enjoy a concert, stay overnight at a spa in the city ($$) Whatever your budget, you have options!

Get Cooking – This is my fave.  (Maybe I should also create a summer bucket list just for cooking?! 😀 ) I cook no matter what, but the freedom of summer allows the time to cook more complicated dishes as well as breakfast and lunch options; whereas, during the school year, I’m typically just making dinners as fast as humanly possible (or not making dinner at all – don’t ask my husband about this one).  One thing I wanted to start this summer is a Sunday brunch.  Go to the early service at church, get home, and create a series of culinary masterpieces which fit in the breakfast and lunch categories. It hasn’t happened yet, but last Sunday I made a few pancakes..So by the end of summer, I should be able to get this mini-tradition together.

Get Eating – Well, if you cook, you’re going to eat what you make, I would think.  But, what I mean here is something a little different.  Try a new restaurant in town, invite friends over to enjoy a meal together, pack a picnic and dine amidst nature. My hubby and I have decided to visit the restaurant we used to frequent in college on our next date night, and our family is going to venture out for a picnic before summer ends.

Get Reading – I try hard to “read for pleasure” during the school year, but with (close to a million…okay maybe not quite that many) papers to grade, among other job-related literature I have to keep up with, it can be hard to find the time.  Extra free time in the summer months is perfect to check out a new best seller, a magazine that peaks your interest, or subscribe to a blog that you can’t get enough of.  Curl up with your new read in a lawn chair and ahhhh…life is good.

Get Creative – One way I get my creative juices flowing is writing for this blog, but creativity comes in all fashions.  Cooking, painting, building, playing, dancing, designing, whatever you are gifted with-go for it!  Set a day or two aside to explore your interests.

Get Cleaning – This item probably wouldn’t make your bucket list, so I made sure to put it on there for you. 😉 Besides the normal vacuuming and toilet scrubbing, it is nice to get some deeper cleaning accomplished.  I am good at coming up with organization projects, but not so great at executing them.  I’m sure you have piles of stuff on your counters and in corners of your house that need a forever home, but if you have trouble deciding which dust bunnies to escort to the garbage first, check out this handy cleaning checklist  I have pinned here.  And, if you want to enlist the help of your children, try the age appropriate chore chart pinned here.

Get In The Zone – By this, I mean the relaxation zone.  After all, it is summer.  There is a lot to be said about saying “No” and deciding not to over schedule yourself or your family.  Take the time to just be.

There you have it!  (Or if you like a more visual format check below.) Take what you need and add your own ideas and saturate the rest of this summer with memories.

Summer Bucket List

What are your plans for the rest of the summer?  Leave me a comment below!