Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ronald Reagan: 100 Years

Synopsis from B&N:  February 6, 2011, marked the one hundredth anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth. Known as "the Great Communicator," Ronald Reagan combined the best of small-town values and remarkable virtues with the eloquence and charm that came from a life spent in the public eye. As governor of California, Reagan earned the respect of world leaders and the American public. But it was as president of the United States that his strength of character, leadership, and love of country were best displayed. His eight years in the Oval Office ushered in remarkable change domestically and brought international peace, prosperity, and freedom.

I’ll admit it, I was a toddler and in elementary school while Reagan was president.  So I don’t personally recall a lot of what happened; I wasn’t big into politics when I was 9.  J  However, every time I’ve heard something about him or watched bits of speeches he gave, I am inspired.  He was a true American leader; a president working for the people.  He believed in the power of the human spirit and in the greatness of our country.
I love that he came from humble beginnings and was not a career politician.  I knew that he had been an actor, but his careers in sports broadcasting, as governor of California, and as a host for GE and other television shows I was unaware of.
The book was both informational and entertaining.  It was easy to read, and I loved all the pictures.
And, while the book didn’t focus much on Mrs. Reagan, Nancy was one classy lady. 
After reading this I am interested to read both Reagan’s autobiography and his letters to his wife.
His terms as president was a good time in America’s history.  He accomplished what he had set out to do - in his governor role, as president, and in his personal life and goals.  And that in itself is an accomplishment.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Can I Have and Do It All, Please? - Christine Caine

Synopsis from http://www.canihaveanddoitallplease.com:  More than ever before, women are navigating through increasing amounts of responsibility, activity, scheduling and multi-tasking...and we need some answers about how to have and do it all in life!

A book I’ve had on my shelf for over a year now…and should have read when I first got it.  And should probably read at regular intervals throughout life.

Christine Caine provides some answers about how to have and do it all.  And is the first person I recall running across who says this is not impossible.  It’s all about balance and focus, perspective and seasons.

Her book is filled with both humor and grace.  There are questions to encourage regular analysis of your life and why you do what you do and what you really feel is important.

Here is my only challenge:  Caine, like many others, says that as long as you are walking in what God has for you and His plan for your life, you will find fulfillment.  And this I totally agree with.  My struggle is more how to find out His plan.  It is expressed that you should look at what you’re good at and find your passion there.  That is where my challenge lies.  I am good at many things (reading, writing, teaching, cleaning, organizing, pushing paper, hostessing at restaurants, answering phones, reconciling reports…really, I have yet to work a job I’m unsuccessful at.  And I don’t say that in a cocky sense but a frustrated one.).  And, really, I’m not sure I’m super passionate about anything these days.  Sad, I know.

So I will use the tips in this book to continue to look at and pray about my life and my path.  Despite my confusion and frustration, I know my God is faithful beyond anything.  And I need to trust Him that if I’m not on the right path, as long as I keep my heart in the right place, He is big enough to help me reorient despite myself.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dawn - Elie Wiesel

Summary from B&N:  Elisha is a young Jewish man, a Holocaust survivor, and an Israeli freedom fighter in British-controlled Palestine; John Dawson is the captured English officer he will murder at dawn in retribution for the British execution of a fellow freedom fighter. The night-long wait for morning and death provides Dawn, Elie Wiesel’s ever more timely novel, with its harrowingly taut, hour-by-hour narrative. Caught between the manifold horrors of the past and the troubling dilemmas of the present, Elisha wrestles with guilt, ghosts, and ultimately God as he waits for the appointed hour and his act of assassination. Dawn is an eloquent meditation on the compromises, justifications, and sacrifices that human beings make when they murder other human beings.

I jumped into this novel without really understanding what it was.  Each year, I read Night by Elie Wiesel with my eighth grade students in conjunction with them studying the Holocaust in social studies.  So when this year I ran across something that said Night was the first book in a trilogy consisting also of Dawn and Day I assumed it was a continuation of the author’s life story that began in Night

I was wrong.  Guess I shouldn’t assume things.  J

Dawn is a fictional story of a young Holocaust survivor who has joined the resistance movement in Palestine.  And it is a story that needs to be read slowly…and even then I’m not sure I took the time to truly reflect on the different nuances and challenges.  I have a feeling I’ll be chewing on the tale for days to come.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie - Jordan Sonnenblick

Synopsis from B&N:  Thirteen-year-old Steven has a totally normal life: he plays drums in the All-Star Jazz band, has a crush on the hottest girl in the school, and is constantly annoyed by his five-year-old brother, Jeffrey. But when Jeffrey is diagnosed with leukemia, Steven's world is turned upside down. He is forced to deal with his brother's illness and his parents' attempts to keep the family in one piece. Salted with humor and peppered with devastating realities, Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie is a heartwarming journey through a year in the life of a family in crisis.

This was our book club book for May.  And I didn’t want to put it down. 

I don’t know if it was so appealing to me at this time because I have an eighth grade student recently diagnosed with leukemia, and I’ve seen a glimpse of their struggle.  Or if the appeal can be completely chalked up to the Sonnenblick’s writing style and the voice he gives to Steven.

Let me tell you, Sonnenblick is right on with how 8th graders think, act, feel, and talk.  I could easily see many of my students speaking the same way or doing the same things.  And the titles of the chapters made me want to dive right into each one.

Well done.  And one of my students saw me in the hallway, coming back from lunch with the book.  She added her seal of approval as well. 

The Mother-in-Law Dance - Annie Chapman

Synopsis from B&N:  Can two women love the same man and still get along? Absolutely! Annie Chapman believes that a mother–in–law and daughter–in–law can become friends—even close friends. However, this connectedness often takes years to develop. Now that journey can be a joyful one! Offering practical advice and biblical wisdom, this book helps mothers–in–law and daughters–in–law nurture their relationships.

Anyone who knows me knows that I seek information for all sorts of things from books.  And that I’m always trying to improve every area and relationship in my life.  (It’s the bit of perfectionist in me).  So when I came across this book in a blog I figured Why not read it?  I don’t have a bad relationship with my MIL.  However, there’s always room to grow.  At least I know I always have room to grow.

The book was good.  Interesting.  Encouraging.  And it was certainly full of biblical wisdom.  Where I found it lacking was in the “practical advice” part.  A lot of the information was more open ended and less specific.  Which makes sense on one level because the in-law relationship deals with two different people and there is no “one size fits all” solution to make that work.  However, on my 10-step check it off a list side, I would have liked more direction.

Wish You Well - David Baldacci


Synopsis from B&N:  Precocious 12-year-old Louisa Mae Cardinal lives in the hectic New York City of 1940 with her family.  Then tragedy strikes—and Lou and her younger brother, Oz, must go with their invalid mother to live on their great-grandmother's farm in the Virginia mountains.  Suddenly Lou finds herself coming of age in a new landscape, making her first true friend, and experiencing adventures tragic, comic, and audacious. But the forces of greed and justice are about to clash over her new home . . . and as their struggle is played out in a crowded Virginia courtroom, it will determine the future of two children, an entire town, and the mountains they love.

I have been a reader of Baldacci’s works for many years now.  I got hooked on him by reading The Christmas Train in a book club forever and a day ago.  And since then have read – and enjoyed - several of his political intrigue books. 

So when I came across this book and first started reading it, it took me a bit to really get into the plot.  It is SO different from what I’m used to reading by him.  And, quite frankly, I found the story a bit plodding at times. 

However, by halfway through the book I was pretty engaged with the characters.  I really enjoyed the depth of the elder Louisa’s character.  I felt compassion for Oz and was rooting for Lou.  Really, all of the characters were wonderfully written.  They certainly are the heart and soul of the story.

By the time the book was finished, I was sad it was ending.  And my conclusion is that while Baldacci writes amazing political/legal thrillers, this book was wonderful in its own way as well.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Loving - Karen Kingsbury

Synopsis from B&N:  The answers Bailey Flanigan once longed and prayed for are finally becoming clear. In Loving, the fourth and final book in the Bailey Flanigan Series by New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury, Bailey is planning a wedding and making decisions that will shape her future.

I both loved and hated this book.  I started out wanting one thing but by the end of the book was glad it was something else entirely.

This was my favorite book of the series.  It seems to be where most of the growth takes place in the characters.  And, of course, it tied up all the loose ends (last books tend to do that, you know).

However, it was more than that.  The book made me wonder and long and hope.  And remember that God does have a good plan for my life.  And when I get off track, He is still faithful to guide me back…when I listen to Him.  When I am faithful to Him and His word.