Monday, December 20, 2010

Bookshelf Update

I think it's time to admit defeat for 2010.  I didn't even read a whole shelf of books from my bookshelves.  I managed to get a little over half a shelf done though.  :) 
It's the stinking library...and book blogs...and recommendations from friends...and book club books in a series that I then have to finish the whole series...and needing some information in particular areas. 
This just means I already have a New Year's Resolution for 2011.  To read through (and clean out) my bookshelves - keeping only those I love and blogging along the way.
Thanks for joining me so far on the journey.  Stick with me as I continue reading through the pages and bookmarking my life.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Aprons on a Clothesline - Traci DePree

The third book in the Lake Emily Series.

The focus of this story seems to be more on Virginia although there was definitely a lot of information about the other characters as well. Virginia has a stroke at the beginning of the book (not a spoiler because the back of the book says she has one before you even read the first page). Because of this, she struggles with her faith and who she is and her continued place in the world. I could relate with her some and appreciate the character who came alongside her to help her have hope and see the good in it all. None of us walk this road along.

I think I enjoyed this book most of all. I don’t know if it’s because I have become somewhat attached to the characters. Or because the book didn’t have as many crises in it…but I enjoyed it.

Although I did still have issues with some of the time frames/jumps.

Ms. DePree did seem to leave herself openings to write a fourth book in the series. What happened with the crops and the money due? Does Jessie find a new normal again? Will David really stay? Does Frank ever get part of the farm?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dandelions in a Jelly Jar - Traci DePree

The second book in Traci DePree’s Lake Emily series.

Dandelions in a Jelly Jar focuses more on Trudy, Mae Morgan’s sister, although we still get glimpses into the lives of other characters introduced in A Can of Peas. Trudy decides to move to Lake Emily to be closer to her boyfriend, Bert. However, things don’t go as smoothly as she hoped. Trudy has to face some harsh realities about herself as she works toward the future she wants.

I enjoyed this book. Again, it was an easy read with a pleasant story. Not spectacular but a good escape.

I did have the same issue I had with the first book: time. Sometimes the reader gets moment-by-moment details and then, all of a sudden, you’re days or weeks in the future. Also, some of the timing didn’t make sense.

Still, I would recommend it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Original Intent - David Barton

This book takes an intense look at the First Amendment, the courts, and the intent of the founding fathers. David Barton goes directly to the source of both the Constitution (which does not ever state “separation of church and state”) and the founding fathers’ writings and quotes. He also sites many court rulings throughout history that have both supported the “original intent” as indicated in the wording of the constitution and the founding fathers own words and have reshaped and revised the intent of the first amendment.

While the text was hard to push through at times, with all the citations and legalize, I found the reading to be interesting. I was challenged to reexamine some of the things I believed when it comes to religion and the government.

I do have one very large issue with the book. It continued to reference “Chapter 18” and the “Appendix” for further information on given topics. However, the copy I read only went to Chapter 11 and had no Appendix. So I feel like I am missing good chunks of knowledge and information that I would like to have been able to read.

Even with that, though, it was worth the read.

The Quiet Little Woman - Louisa May Alcott

This book is actually composed of several short stories Louisa May Alcott sent to a family of girls. The girls were inspired by the March sisters’ literary society and paper written about in Little Women. When they wrote to Ms. Alcott to share their admiration, she wrote them back.

The short stories carry Christmas as a theme and are quick reads. They are well-written little tales of charity and kind hearts.

Her Daughter's Dream - Francine Rivers

This book is the sequel to Her Mother’s Hope and is definitely worth the time to read (it’s thick but fairly quick).

This book starts with a focus on Carolyn and Hildemara more and follows the generations down through Dawn and her daughter. It is a compelling tale of family dynamics, misunderstood intentions, lives and relationships redeemed.

I enjoyed how Francine Rivers wrapped it all up with a return to Europe to see where the family story began and a reconnection with Rosie’s family...

Okay, so really I bawled my eyes out for the conclusion.  :)

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Return to Modesty - Wendy Shalit

This was a very interesting look at modesty…the lost virtue. It was also very cerebral quoting many articles, studies, etc. I sort of glossed over that part, honestly.

I enjoyed, agreed with, and appreciated the premise. Modesty is a natural instinct. We have lost modesty in our modern world and, as a result, have lost what makes us uniquely women.

Wendy Shalit does an excellent job of detailing the issue of modesty through her research, personal experience, etc. This is not a religious view of modesty, but a societal one.

One thing I do disagree with is the future as Ms. Shalit saw it when writing the book in 1999. She writes of observing a change back toward modesty in the late 90s and believes that a modesty revolution was beginning. Of course, I have the knowledge and experience in living in the ensuing years and have to say: the modesty revolution fizzled fast if it was at all. And that is saddening to me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Creative Correction - Lisa Whelchel

My sister-in-law actually recommended this book to me when we were discussing parenting.

The copy I read was from the library. However, it is on my “to buy” list. While I got some ideas just through reading it, I would love to have it on the shelf to pull out and look up specific behaviors and corresponding consequences. Or even corresponding Scriptures. Lisa Whelchel does a great job of have Scriptures with most of her corrections (or rewards). And as a parent trying to raise her kiddos to love God and follow Him, I think that is important.

Jeff read it too. Our biggest take-away that we’ve implement so far is the “chore jar.” You know, sometimes there isn’t a consequence that fits the crime. Or there are ongoing infractions of the same rule. That’s when they visit the chore jar to pick a chore to do. These are the chores are bigger than their weekly chores. They are the things that need to be done but we never get around to doing (i.e. cleaning all the baseboard in the house, weeding/winterizing the flower beds). So the girls get to do them.

There is an added benefit to the chore jar. Our girls are both saving up money toward a goal. So we’ve assigned dollar values to each of the chore jar chores. Of course, if they are doing an extra chore as a discipline, they don’t get paid. however, if one of them has some extra time and wants to do an extra chore for extra money, we don’t have to think of one on the spot. They just pull from the jar.

I think this book would be a worthwhile resource for any parent – but especially for those trying to parent from a Godly worldview.

Fascinating Fact: Lisa Whelchel was Blaire on the T.V. show Facts of Life.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Can of Peas - Traci DePree

Book Club book for November

Peter and Mae Morgan make a decision to change their entire life-style. They are leaving their city existence in St. Paul to move to Lake Emily, Minnesota, and take over the family farm. Their learning curve is steep as they learn about farming and try to find a place in this small community.

This book was pleasant…a nice story, nice characters…for the most part. It wasn’t until the end that the characters and the story really caught me and spoke to me on a deeper level.

One of the frustrating things for me was the dropped story lines that would come in and out. Not the background stories of the different residents of Lake Emily. Those were interesting and well done. It is more the story line of Trudy and Bert or Mae and her mother. Also, occasionally the pacing of the story didn’t make sense. On one page Mae is talking about how exhausted she is all the time, but the next page (when it doesn’t appear much time has passed) she has regained all the energy the early stage of her pregnancy had trained for her.

Still, it was a pleasant story if not completely satisfying.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Unlocked - Karen Kingsbury

I was so relieved to read this book. After watching Like Dandelion Dust, I was left a little adrift. The movie was so different from the book that I wondered if I misinterpreted the book. This is back to true Karen Kingsbury.

Unlocked tells the story of two teens with a history one of them doesn’t remember and a link in the past that will help them both and their families.

Holden Harris was a normal little boy until her turned three. Then he began retreating into his own world and was diagnosed as autistic. However, in his autism Holden understands more than most.

Ella has everything going for her when you look from the outside – the guy, the friends, the lead in the school musical. But on the inside, she is empty and alone as her family is disintegrating.

I really enjoyed how Holden and Ella interacted with each other. I liked the portrayal of Holden’s mother – frustrated yet committed to helping her son.

My only qualm with the book was the few times it was mentioned that Holden’s three year old vaccines were the cause of the autism. Those statements are always quickly followed with – well, just maybe. However, based on the research I have read, there is no link between vaccines and autism.

Regardless of that small qualm…the book is great.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Her Mother's Hope - Francine Rivers

Book club book for October…and I really enjoyed it. To the point that as soon as I finished it I got online and put in my library request for the sequel.

In reading the author’s note at the end, it was interesting to find out the story is somewhat biographical. I think that made it a bit more impactful to me.

Francine Rivers covers three generations and several countries in this novel of family dynamics and why we sometimes act the way we do and treat one child differently from another.

The story center around Marta, beginning with her childhood and spanning the years through to Marta’s children having children of their own.

Marta felt driven and determined to be more than her father declared she would be. She sets out on her own to make her dreams come true. She does achieve some, finds love, and makes a life for herself.

Along come children of her own. She hopes to give them a better life. Because of her past, she wants her own children to be strong and independent. Able to stand on their own two feet. She doles out tough love, especially to her most sensitive child.

In all relationships, good intentions can have unintended consequences. Motivations can be misunderstood. We can never truly look at the heart of another and know the “whys” for their “whats.” That’s why grace is so important.

This books shows this in a moving and engaging way.

Sink Reflections - Marla Cilley

I (sort of) have been following the Fly Lady system for a few years now. And it works when I follow it. My house is more in order, and I don’t have to do marathon cleaning sessions. It even works when I only sort of follow it because I do think I might be one of those “born organized” people…at least a little bit.

This book is kind of a compilation of her Fly Lady system and emails all in one book. It was kind of interesting reading them all at once and getting reminders about things I could do to make things a little smoother around here. And a huge reminder that I can’t change those I live with and if I want to live in order instead of CHAOS, it’s up to me.

You can read the book…or you can just sign up for the email system. It’s free. I recommend it. And if you’re starting from a really low place, the email group might be less overwhelming. Baby steps.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

City Dreams - Lyle, Lynxwiler, Murray, & Paul

Four sisters from rural Nebraska head to different big cities to chase their dreams in these four novellas.

Fluff, pure and simple. And predicatable.

Exactly what I needed. :)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Remarried with Children - Barbara LeBey

This is probably the last book of its kind I’m going to read for awhile. Not that it was bad; in fact, it was really pretty good. I’m just ready for a break.

What interested me most was that Barbara LeBey is not just a step-mother but is also a lawyer and former judge. Yet doesn’t back down when talking about how messed up our court systems are when it comes to custody, child support, and step-families.

The book contains a lot of practical advice interspersed with real-life vignettes.

Probably one of the best books I’ve read on the topic.

And I’m still working on changing what I can and accepting what I can’t change. :)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Like Dandelion Dust - Karen Kingsbury

Book club book for September – mainly because the movie is being released across the country over the next three weekends (although not here until Oct.8).

In Like Dandelion Dust Karen tackles the topic of adoption…and what happens when the biological parents decide they want the child back.

Rip Porter was sent to jail for domestic violence right before Wendy, his wife, discovers her pregnancy. To protect her child, she signs adoption papers. When Rip is released and learns of it, Wendy joins with him to regain custody of the little boy that has always lived in her heart.

Jack and Molly Campbell adopted Joey when he was just an infant and have had an idyllic past for years. Life couldn’t be any better. It is perfect. Wonderful. Bliss.

Then they get the news.

A judge has ordered that custody of Joey will revert back to his biological parents, Rip and Wendy.

I enjoyed this book more the first time I read it many years ago than I did this last time. Although I did still enjoy it. Partly, I was reading it in a rush this time. Also, the answers seemed a bit to pat and the conclusion a bit too rushed.

Still, I recommend: Read the book…go watch the movie. Do both.  :)

Lessons from the Classroom - Hal Urban

Wonderful, wonderful book. Inspiring and practical, duplicable information.

Hal Urban was a classroom teacher (high school) for thirty-some-odd years. and he was an excellent teacher at that. This book covers the 20 things good teachers do.

I already greet my kids at the door every day. I might try to make it more formal next year. They couldn’t care less this year, it seems.

I love the way he always established the atmosphere of his classroom before he ever got into the curriculum. If I had one thing to do over about this school year, it would be that. I would have spent more time on guidelines, procedures, and the classroom environment. His sign examples and toxic word pictures are great.

I already plan to go through a unit on goal setting using his plan with my 7th and 8th graders. Although I think I’ll wait until December. It will be something good to do right before Christmas.

I also will be implementing his “Good Kid” notices. I do try balancing my phone calls/emails home between the good and the bad. But I think just jotting a note on a postcard and popping it in the mail might help me be more proactive in recognizing and letting parents know of the good in their kid.

Definitely going to do the teacher performance review at the end of the year.

Where The First Days of School by the Wongs is great to set up your classroom, establish your guidelines, procedures, etc., Mr. Urban’s book covers some of the more intangible things that are still necessary for education and learning of the material to take place – effort, attitude, environment.

A recommend it to any teacher…whether you’ve taught 20 years or just a year or two.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Christian Atheist - Craig Groeschel

This book took me two sessions to read. Fairly thought-provoking.

I picked it up after reading Nancy Alcorn’s (founder of Mercy Ministries) blog about reading it. I figured if it was worth someone as busy as her reading it, I should definitely check it out.

The subtitle Craig Groeschel gives his book kind of sums up the book and defines “Christian atheist”: Believing in God but living as if He doesn’t exist.

And in reading through the pages, I came to the realization that I am more of a Christian Atheist than I would have though. Although he certainly doesn’t approach it in a “Bash you over the head; You’re a horrible person” kind of way, you still close the book surprised by what you’ve seen in yourself and committed to change.

I believe that all Christians are subject to a little atheism. The point of the book is to help you see where you still have room to grow in your faith and relationship with God.

The chapters cover the various “areas” of Christian atheism. When you Believe in God but…

          1. Don’t Really know Him
          2. Are Ashamed of Your Past
          3. Aren’t Sure He Loves You
          4. Not in Prayer
          5. Don’t Think He’s Fair
          6. Won’t Forgive
          7. Don’t Think You Can Change
          8. Still Worry All the Time
          9. Pursue Happiness at Any Cost
          10. Trust More in Money
          11. Don’t Share Your Faith
          12. Not in His Church

Each one deals with an aspect of not having full faith in God or trusting Him at His Word.

Pastor Groeschel shares stories, Scripture, and practical advice for each area to help you move closer to God and deepen your relationship with him.

I think it’s one of those books that I will revisit every now and then for a spiritual “check up.”

The Ordinary Princess - M.M. Kaye

This is one of my favorite books from when I was young. I just finished reading it to the girls as their bedtime story.

M.M. Kaye just has such a whimsical way to her word choice and use of those words. And I love the story concept. A fairy’s mischief creates a princess who is most ordinary…something not quite acceptable in the royal kingdoms. However, despite this perceived issue, Her Serene Royal Highness Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne (Amy for short) is ready for adventure and a good life lived on her terms.

I can say that I enjoy the story concept because when I was younger and dreamed of being an author myself, I fashioned many at tale from this concept.

It is a delightful read.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Have a Little Faith - Mitch Albom

Book club book for August. I’ll admit it…I was not thrilled about this pick. I had read The Five People You Meet in Heaven and had not been as impressed as I felt I should have been from a NYT Bestseller. And it left me feeling a little unsettled.

So I began Have a Little Faith with trepidation. When the first chapter or two didn’t really catch me, I was really worried I might not be able to get through it. Then it picked up. It got my attention. I connected. And I ended up really enjoying it and thinking about my own faith and the faith of others.

This story begins with a request. From a rabbi to a congregation member. From “the Reb” to Mitch. A request for a eulogy. That sets Mitch Albom out on a journey to discover more about Rabbi Lewis. Which becomes a discovery of faith – the rabbi’s, Mitch’s, and others in the world. And, ultimately, Mitch discovers many things about himself.

It was a very satisfying read. Short chapters. Once it got going – it was easy to breeze through…until there was a phrase that grabbed me and caused me to stop and ponder. I enjoyed the contrast between the Jewish faith and other faiths and the concept of building a community. I learned a lot about the Jewish faith (easily done since I knew next to nothing going into it). Was reaffirmed in some of my Christian beliefs. And again felt a longing for true community.

The only thing I disagreed with is the conclusion which eludes to all religious paths leading to God and whatever is good in the hereafter.

Takeaway Quote: “And it hit me, finally, that this was the whole point of my time with the Reb and Henry: not the conclusion, but the search, the study, the journey to belief. You can’t fit the Lord in a box. But you can gather stories, tradition, wisdom, and in time, you needn’t lower the shelf; God is already nearer to thee.”

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Bookshelf Challenge: An Update

Well, I am more than halfway through the year. So I figure it’s time to update my few followers on the progress I have made on reading through my bookshelves. In two words: not much. I have not yet read half as many books as I did last year AND I haven’t even read half a shelf on my bookshelf (although I’m getting close to that).

I blame the library. And friends who recommend books. And reading book blogs that recommend books. All that seem more interesting than some of the books on my shelves. I know. It makes no sense that I would buy non-interesting books and get the interesting ones from the library. I should do it the other way, I’m sure.

And while I’m blaming, let’s blame housework and kids and husbands. And going out of town and jewelry work and getting ready for the new school year and a new teaching position.

I’m just not reading as much as I used too. Or as much as I would like to. And I think I’d like to blame non-fiction as well. They take me longer to read than fiction books because I have to think about them more. They are not so much an escape as a time of reflection. I have read more non-fiction this year than I probably have any time in the past.

So I’ll keep plowing through. And no doubt need to continue into 2011.

Thanks to those who read. Huge thanks to those who comment so I know someone is reading.

Perfectly Dateless - Kristin Billerbeck

I don’t know if I just was not in a “Young Adult” fiction state of mind when I read this today or if I just have such high standards for Kristin Billerbeck because I loved her What a Girl Wants books.

Daisy Crispin is not your average teenage girls. She is smart, but that is about all she has going for her. Her mom makes her clothes, and her parents won’t let her date. But she is determined to go to prom her senior year...and with a date no less. A mix of journal entries and narrative tells the tale.

While I enjoyed the story concept, I was lost several times in this story as it seemed to jump around a lot and things came out of left field that didn’t make a lot of sense.

I think I’ll give it to a teen to read and see if their response to it is better. Maybe at 31 I just can’t get youth fiction any more. :(

At the Altar: Matrimonial Tales - L.M. Montgomery

The last of my most recent L.M. Montgomery reading phase. This is a collection of her boilerplates and short stories that involve marriage. Definite fluff. But we all need a little fluff reading sometimes. It was a nice, easy read for my day yesterday of being absolutely useless and non-productive.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Your Best Life Now - Joel Osteen

I know I’m several years behind on reading this one. But the reminders it contains came at a good time, for sure.

In this book, Pastor Joel Osteen lays out “7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential.” These seven steps are:

1. Enlarging Your vision

We need to look out of where we are right now and what current situations and circumstances our lives are in and envision more. Along with that comes having a continual awareness that the favor of God is on our lives because we are His children and to believe for that favor.

2. Develop a Healthy Self-Image

Have an understanding of who we are in Christ and be happy with where we are on the way to where we’re going.

3. Discover the Power of Your Thoughts and Words

Our thoughts and words shape our present and our future. We need to be so careful of what we think and say. I know that I have a propensity to look at the more realistic to negative end of the spectrums. So I have been trying to consciously replace those thoughts and words with more positive ones…preferably based on God’s Word and what He says for and about me.

4. Let Go of the Past

Whew. This is a tricky one for me. I’m not very good at it at all. I do tend to hold onto things, even when I don’t want to. They pop into my mind at inopportune times (see point 3). But God is my avenger, and He will do it far better than I did. But even beyond that, I need to forgive and let go for me. I find myself having a hard time with balancing forgiveness with not putting myself into the same situations to be beaten up (figuratively) again.

5. Find Strength through Adversity

Jesus promised us in the Bible that we *will* have hard times. It’s a given part of life and this world. But He follows that up with the encouragement that He has overcome the world. He’s already done it and that gives me hope.

Also, God will use any trial and adversity for the ultimate good. So, hey, at least the trouble is worthwhile. :)

6. Live to Give

I need to give more out of my needs. The whole principle of sewing and reaping. This one isn’t so hard for me though – I love to give. Sometimes to the extent of being empty myself.

7. Choose to be Happy

Happiness is a choice. Focus on the moment. Live for today. And have enthusiasm in that living.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Then Comes Marriage - Angela Hunt & Bill Myers

Bill Meyers and Angela Hunt team up on this novella exploring the true first years of marriage as two individuals are trying to mesh their lives together to produce something beautiful.

The Stones are celebrating their first anniversary. But it’s not much of a celebration as they have had a huge fight and gone their separate ways for the day. The story moves between highlights (and low points) of the past year and current day as they each try to decide where to go from here.

I enjoyed this book if simply to have affirmation that the rocky first years of marriage isn’t just me or my fault or my marriage. It’s normal and common as two individuals strive to become one. And that of course mine is exacerbated by two step-kids, and ex-wife, etc. As I read about Heather and Kurt Stone, I totally got where they were coming from (Heather more than Kurt, of course) as far as the struggles and changes and compromises they had made in that first year just to get through it and then to wonder occasionally if it was all worth it and will it ever get better. Their love for each other was there all along. But sometimes things can be bigger than that love. That’s when you need to remember the commitment…and walk it out.

Take-away Quote: When Heather’s dad is giving her advice in under the veil of what a car needs and she sums it up by saying: “And if a person makes a promise, he or she should work at keeping that promise every single day.”

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Dare to Dream and Work to Win - Dr. Tom Barrett

I read this book for two reasons:

1. I am going to be training on it next Tuesday at our jeweler training

2. It was referenced multiple times at the Premier Rally a few weeks ago

And it is a good book about understanding how to be successful in your network marketing business. I did find it to be more cerebral and less practical. But good nonetheless. I think anyone in network marketing should read it (or read the first ¾ and skim the last few chapters like I did).

The New-Teacher Toolbox - Scott Mandel

While not a brand new teacher, I’ve been out of the mix for two years. So I pulled this book off the shelf and scanned it. Most of what was covered I had already read about in my First Days of School book.

I like the format of this one a lot. However, I found it lacking in the practical: Here…Do This information.

Still, got a few reminders that I added to my task list.

And was finally able to mark off reading another book on my shelf.  :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Opposite of Me - Sarah Pekkanen

This is potentially the best book I’ve read this summer…or in awhile. Not bad for Sarah Pekkanen’s new book.





Lindsey and her fraternal twin sister, Alex, have always had clearly defined roles in their family, friends, and life. Alex is the beautiful sister and has focused on being the center of attention, sculpting her life and career around her looks and appeal.

Meanwhile, Lindsey is the smart, successful sister. She has a skyrocketing career in advertising and lives for her work.

Then her whole world implodes over night. And she left not certain who she is and where to go. Returning home seems the only option. But that means returning to life in Alex’s shadow. However, Alex is about to endure life changes of her own.

The sisters learn together how to cope and to begin to discover who they truly are.

LOVED this book. It was hard to put down. The characters were engaging. The story line wasn’t completely predictable – it was at a comforting level. And, having a sister of my own (who has always been both the “pretty” and the “smart” one), I could relate. Although I’m glad my sister and I each found our own identities apart from what others said about each of us sooner than Lindsey and Alex did.

I recommend reading this one for sure.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Time to Dance - Karen Kingsbury

Thinking back, I do believe this is the first Karen Kingsbury book I ever read. Not positive, but pretty sure. She has rereleased this book and its sequel, A Time to Embrace, with new covers (they look nice).

This novel tells the story of John and Abby Reynolds. She loved him since she was 10…it took him a bit longer. However, theirs is a story filled with love, romance, and God’s design. Everyone looks upon their relationship as an example of what marriage should be. But no one sees the truth. The slow drifting apart of hearts that has led to a point of crises and decision.

What I love about Karen’s books is that God really does use her stories to get your attention and speak into your life with cautions or reminders or encouragement. This one reminded me (again) to not get so caught up in the kids’ schedules and activities, work, the cooking and cleaning, etc. but to keep Jeff a priority even if that means all those other things have to fall to the wayside. Focus on him, my marriage, and continuing to build that relationship so that it will see us through the many tests life will throw our way.

Akin to Anne - L.M. Montgomery

Yep, still on a L.M. Montgomery kick. This is a collection of her short stories, or boilerplates. The stories, of course, all had more than happy endings and fantastic resolutions. But I enjoyed it as some light reading anyway. It was nice to read something other than her novels (which I enjoy as well).

How to Become a Rainmaker - Jeffrey J. Fox

This book was recommended to me by one of my mentors in my Premier Designs Jewelry business.

Jeffrey J. Fox has a lot of good information in this little book that requires more unpacking than I gave it in my cursory read. So it’s going on the list as one I want to own and reread again and again.

Each chapter discloses one small nugget to getting and keeping customers and clients. Not all of the advice can I apply to my business (seeing as how jewelry is a want not a need and corporations won’t save money through buying it – although my customers might as it will expand a basic wardrobe) but most of it I could.

The First Days of School - Harry K. & Rosemary T. Wong

This is the book I always turn to when beginning a new teaching position. And since (WooHoo!) I was recently hired to teach 7th & 8th grade Language Arts – grammar and writing – at a local junior high, it was time to pull this book off of the shelve and peruse once again.

Side Note: It is also one of the very few “reading through my bookshelves in 2010” books that I’ve read recently. I’m not doing real great on that goal.

This book is chock-full of both pedagogy and practicality. I made pages and pages of things to do, procedures to put in place, and questions I need answers to. Now I just have to put all of that to good use so that I’m ready for the start of school in less than a month.

The Wongs also discuss the “why” behind what they recommend doing.

Great book for beginning teachers, teachers who are moving to a different position, or veteran teachers who just want to improve their effectiveness.

The Undomestic Goddess - Sophie Kinsella

Samantha Sweeting is an up-and-coming lawyer at a prestigious London law firm. She is, while not enjoying life, at least accomplishing her goals and is set to be named partner any day. Until…she makes a huge mistake.

Unable to cope with her perceived failure, Samantha wanders onto a train heading anywhere. And the story that ensues is an entertaining mix of misunderstandings, romance, and discovering herself.

This is the second time I’ve read this book. Had to read it again this month for this book club. My original assessment of “entertaining but predictable” still holds true. It truly is an enjoyable read…you just have to ignore the language.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Emily's Quest - L.M. Montgomery

I do have to say when I am about halfway through the second book of Montgomery’s, I am starting to get over the details and word choice that so enchanted me to start. By the third book, I’m skipping large portions of description and detail. 

Also, this book covered 6-8 years of her life in one fell swoop. It seemed like a lot of ground was covered and so there gaps in the story (although the gaps *could* be due to my skimming at times).

There was a lot more character development of Emily in this book though. She had some hard rows to sew and some great successes. I would have liked to have learned more about how Teddy spent his time during those years. But I guess that’s why it’s “Emily’s Quest” instead of “Teddy’s.”

Emily Climbs - L.M. Montgomery

The second in Montgomery’s Emily trilogy covers Emily’s years at Shrewsbury High school and staying in the home of her great Aunt Ruth.

Emily has many scrapes and adventures – some inadvertently and some with intent. Her character didn’t grow much in this novel, I don’t believe. So that was somewhat of a disappointment. I still enjoyed it though.

Emily of New Moon - L.M. Montgomery

Last summer I reread Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series after reading a biography on her. This summer I thought I would delve into some of her other works, and started with her Emily Starr trilogy.

I enjoy reading L.M. Montgomery because of the feelings she evokes through her word choice and the enchantment of her stories and characters.

Emily shadows Anne’s characters in some ways. Emily is also an orphan. But she knew her parents and is taken in by relatives. She loves nature and writing and life. She is considered impertinent by the adults around her who simply don’t understand.

This book covers Emily’s growing up years at New Moon with her aunts and uncle – her adventures, her friendships, her development.

Liked the book. A wonderful beach read.

Cure for the Common Life - Max Lucado

In Max Lucado’s book, he describes the “common life” where you are just getting along. Nothing real great. Nothing real horrible. But lacking in fulfillment and passion that God longs for us to have.

The cure for the common life that he advocates is living in your “sweet spot,” the place that you were created to hold in this world. God created each of us with a purpose and a plan. And He equipped us with the tools and traits needed to bring that to fulfillment.

It is our job to “unpack the toolbox” we have and discover what we were made to do. We do that through looking into our past as seeing the things we were interested in and good at as children, teens, young adults. Add to that praying and seeking God’s face, and we can all find our “sweet spot.”

This was an encouraging book that I want to go through again. I read it on vacation, but there are all sorts of questions and tools in the back to help you find your sweet spot. I didn’t get to those.

There is more to life than this.

Love in the Time of Homeschooling - Laura Brodie

By the end of fourth grade, Laura Brodie realized that her daughter, Julia, was burnt out. Her love of learning that she had previously had been squelched. So she decided to homeschool her for fifth grade. This is the tale of that year.

Laura is a college professor but homeschooling was a new world for her. She sought the advice of others, had some successes, and made some mistakes. It wasn’t just that Julia was burnt out in the traditional classroom with worksheets and homework. I had the impression Julia didn’t really concede without a fight to do anything she didn’t want to (math) regardless of how creatively it was presented. Julia’s takeaway from different events wasn’t always what the “educational goal” was meant to be, but I believe she received an education regardless.

People often ask me why I don’t homeschool the girls. My simple answer is: they don’t need it (although the more complicated answer would involved discussions of joint custody and permissions and personality conflicts). Yes, I am an educator by heart and by trade. And, yes, I do take issue with many things in our public schools. However, that doesn’t equal homeschooling for me. It does equal being very involved in the girls’ education and overseeing it at home and connecting with their teachers when there are issues and correcting false information or information that doesn’t line up with our beliefs and morals. And, like Laura Brodie, if they come to a spot where they need homeschooling for whatever reason (educational, social, emotional, physical), I would do it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Other People's Rejection Letters - Bill Shapiro

Hmmmm…I really thought this book would have been more entertaining than it was.

Bill Shapiro collected rejection letters from various walks of life – swimming lessons, the workplace, friendships, romance, art galleries, families, etc. There are even rejection letters to people who went on to become famous.  Many of them were just basic form letters that the recipient had decorated. I did like the scathing break-up letters. But probably my favorite part of the book was at the end where there is a little background and follow up story for the recipients of some of the letters. I guess I do just like a little more narrative to go along with the rejection.

Take Four - Karen Kingsbury

I read Karen’s latest book after seeing her at the Baxter Family Reunion in Bloomington. I do have to say, if possible, I like her even better now after hearing her speak and share. But I already liked her and her writing a lot. 

Take Four is the final book in the Above the Line series. Again, Karen does an great job developing and concluding multiple story lines that all tie together – at least slightly. Keith and Dayne are working on filming Unlocked. Andi is dealing with her unplanned pregnancy and the struggle to know whether to keep the baby or give him up for adoption. Bailey and Cody are drifting apart…again (I am really starting to not like Cody very much at all). The Baxters pop in and out. And faith is always there. Clearly it is God they all run to in the good times and the bad.

Well done.

And I do appreciate the fact that her next series will focus on Bailey Flannigan so we can keep up with the Baxters and Ellisons through her life’s intersections with them.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pursuing the Pearl - Dannah Gresh

In Pursuing the Pearl, Dannah Gresh addresses how to build the marriage that God has planned for you – a marriage that is a reflection of the relationship between Jesus and the Church as His bride. She touches on purity that is not just sexual but also purity of mind and heart in many areas. She writes about the “fake pearls” that Satan puts before us to distract us from the true pearl that God has in store.

I really thought there was a lot of good and truth in this book. So much so that I want to own it (this copy was from the library) so I can take the time and do the exercises she has at the end of each chapter.

Definitely worth a read whether your marriage is great or if it’s struggling.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fanny & Sue - Karen Stolz

I will have to admit, I did not like this book much for the first four chapters…and then again at the end.

It is a tale of two sisters – twins – growing up in Depression Era St. Louis. The first four chapters really had no voice. It wasn’t until I got to chapter five and the chapter “voice” swaps between Fanny and Sue for the ensuing chapters that I really started getting into it.

It is definitely an easy read. Nothing real heavy or deep. And it keeps moving (the 236 page books covers from 4 or 5 years old until about 20). I enjoyed reading about the places in St. Louis I have visited – Casa Loma, Ted Drewe’s, the Muny, etc. – and their experience there.

There were some holes in the story and I struggled to understand why Sue always bowed to Fanny’s dictates – so I chalked it up to their connection and Fanny’s first born nature.

And I hated the end. Too many loose ends. Grrr…

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You - Anita Renfroe

Yep, she’s still funny.

Although I did end up rereading some material that was in her other book. Or in the video that I saw of her. That was a bit annoying. But okay.

It also contained a lot of Christmas in it. Which I wasn’t expecting from the cover or can really appreciate in the humid, hot June weather currently experiencing.

Regardless, it was a nice, light read. I laughed out loud more than once. And that was needed right now.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Love Must Be Tough - Dr. James Dobson

Dr. Dobson’s best seller from 1983 republished in 1996.

I read this book upon a recommendation and with the understanding that the “marriage crisis” Dr. Dobson focuses on primarily is adultery but that the “tough love” principles outlines can apply to really any situation. And after reading it I find that to be very valid.

Successful marriages are not about lovey, dovey gooey feelings (I’ve always known that). It comes down to respect and knowing your boundaries. And I’ll be honest – while I have known my boundaries I have not enforced them. They have been trampled all over on a regular basis. So this was a good wake up call to me that if things are going to change I need to change and be “tough” in my love.

Dr. Dobson does not in any way recommend divorce but does stress the value of a separation so the other person can think on and decide what they truly want.

Also, as I was reading I realized that affairs aren’t just with another man or woman. We as humans have love affairs with all sorts of things that can tear down our marriages – work, children, video games, etc. The affair takes place when we get our priorities out of balance and it is no longer God, spouse, etc.

The book also talks about “tough love” in other relationships and in good marriages as well. I’m sure it will be one I revisit from time to time.

Quote to Take Away: Forgiveness is surrendering my right to hurt you for hurting me. ~Archibald Hart

Monday, June 7, 2010

If You Can't Lose It, Decorate It - Anita Renfroe

I am on an Anita Renfroe kick.

And for those of you who may be wondering, I am completely not getting very far on reading through my bookshelves. I’ve read recommendations from others, books I’ve read about, books from the library, etc. But only a handful of books I actually own. I’m hoping to get back on track over the summer. Just a half a dozen more books from the library to finish up first…

Now back to Mrs. Anita. She absolutely cracks me up. I have watched her videos on YouTube and her website, follow her on Facebook, and even rented a full length video of hers from the library.

She is so entertaining and has such a fresh and funny perspective on things yet still the ability to get to the heart of more serious issues.

This book is about dealing with your reality. If you can’t change your reality decorate it, look at it differently, focus on the positives, etc. If you can’t change it, adjust your attitude about it. And in this book, Anita helps us do just that.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Tying the Family Knot - Terri Clark

Perhaps it’s just because I’m tired of reading these stepfamily self-help books that don’t seem to offer me real solutions, but this book really annoyed the tar out of me. The author just seemed really inconsistent in several areas:

• At the beginning of the book she states that the marriage is the most important thing to protect and focus on but then the rest of the book is about compromising with the kids and making sure they are comfortable with everything so their wounds can heal. [Note: I know that kids of divorce are definitely wounded. I was one and still deal with some fallout and I have two step-kids. And there does need to be some sensitivity to what they are experiencing. However, kids also thrive on stability and boundaries…even though most would state they don’t like them and try to push them every chance they get.

          • At one point she states that the biological parent should be in charge of all discipline and instruction. However, later she talks about both parents being respected and seen as an authority – which doesn’t happen if they are not both able to enforce discipline. Also, how does that work when the person spending the majority of the time with the kids is *not* the biological parent? Do you just keep a list of the offenses for the bio parent to deal with when they get home? That’s not much fun plus can lead to conflicts in interpretation.

          • In the first part of the book, the author talks about having consistent rules that are always in place and apply to everyone paired with specific consequences when those rules are disobeyed. However, later in the book she is talking about her kids versus her husband’s kids. She was naturally stricter than her husband, and so her kids were used to stricter rules and they kept that in place with them. However, her husband’s kids were used to more lax standards having only been with their dad for visitation before he got custody a year after their marriage. And her husband felt that it was better to be more lenient on rule and consequence enforcement than to risk having the girls return to their mom’s home. This caused a lot of resentment in the author (and I imagine her kids) until she decided to compromise with her husband and go with leniency on his kids. WHAT?!?

Also, her “blended” family was a two step-parent home. Both brought children into the marriage and that is certainly a different dynamic. As a result, most of the applications applied a lot from a biological parent standpoint that I just really stretch to grasp since I’m not one.

Their family had clear custody with every other weekend/summer visitation. So a lot of the ideas, again, were not practical for a home like ours where the kids go back and forth every 2 – 4 days. For example, my MIL loaned me this book to read (no, that’s *not* why I’m finding fault with it) and specifically pointed out the way the author solved the “clothing dilemma.” I’m sure it happens in every house. It seriously does in ours. I go through the girls clothes with them each season to see what fits, what doesn’t fit, and what we need to purchase. Then go out and purchase new clothes. New clothes that are then worn to their mother’s house and we never see again because they are returned to us in clothes I either need to dispose of (don’t fit, stained, torn) or that I make sure to send back to that household or the younger one is sent in the older ones clothes that week or vice versa. So I’m left without clothes and trudge back to the store to purchase another wardrobe for that season…or at least stop up the gaps again. Case in point: summer clothes this year. I have already had to go purchase more shirts for the older one because most of the ones for school have vanished over the last month. The author’s solution is a great one. In the suitcase she puts a list of everything her step-kids take with them for the weekend so they can pack them up to bring back at the end of the weekend or month (during summer). Fabulous idea! Doesn’t work for us. We don’t use suitcases. The girls get taken to school by one household and picked up by the other on transition day. And so we continually buy clothes.

I do have to say, what this family did clearly worked for them. Their kids are all grown up and they all still like each other. Kudos. But my take away from the book wasn’t really practical. Just the reminder that I need to keep praying and communicating with my DH.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D? - Gina Pera

I read this book at the request of my husband, who was diagnosed before we met with adult ADHD but does not receive treatment for it.

It was both a frustrating and educational read.

It was educating in that it clearly identified several issues in our lives and family as far as forgetting, lack of follow through and consistency, hyperfocus alternating with no focus, etc. To know that it’s not just me being a stickler or going crazy but there’s an actual diagnosis causing it to be.

The frustration comes into play in that there’s not a lot to do about it except go on medication which he has tried and the side-effects apparently outweighed the benefits.

Still, I’m hoping that my increased knowledge on the topic will at least help me understand him a bit better and be more patient while still upholding the boundaries I need for me.

Little House in the Big Woods - Laura Ingalls Wilder

I have loved the Laura Ingalls books since I was in elementary school and have owned them all since then as well. I am currently reading the series to my stepdaughters before bed – a chapter at a time. And they seem to be enjoying them as well.

Little House in the Big Woods is the first of the series and introduces us to Laura and her family. They live in the Wisconsin woods, a far bit from town and neighbors alike. The story details their family life, the perils of the wilds, and is very educational regarding what life was like back then (the girls and I plan to make clove apples this fall).

Take Three - Karen Kingsbury

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big Kingsbury fan. I waited several months for this book from the library.

In the third book of the Above the Line series, Chase Ryan and Keith Ellison have finally found success by Hollywood’s standards. But at what cost? When Chase determines the cost is too high, where does that leave their production company, the film they are releasing, and the film to come?

I enjoyed seeing the Baxters and Flannegans again. I won’t lie. I’m excited about Bailey’s series to come next and the prospect of the Baxters becoming a television show.

Things with the production company came together a bit too easily for me. And quickly. I absolutely believe that God has a plan and works all things together for the good of those who follow Him. When something unexpected happens, He can turn it for good. But for me it’s usually not right after I’ve had the bad or unexpected news. He usually makes me sweat it out a bit. :)

It was all a bit predictable this time around. However, with all her books, I still enjoyed the journey.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Go to Your Room - Shari Steelsmith

The subtitle of this book is "Consequences that Teach," and there is so much I like about that. 

There is no doubt that I am a bigger supporter of consequence systems that reward ones.  I don't believe kids should be rewarded for expected behavior.  Now, if they're learning something new, rewards are useful in the short-term. 

And I like consequences that are logical.  That's what this book is about.  It talks about natural consequences some...those results of your actions that just happen.  But focuses on logical consequences as implemented by a parent or caregiver.  Consequences that fit the misdeed.  Consequences that make sense with the offense and aren't just random.

The majority of the book is very practical as well.  It lists behaviors and several logical consequences that could be implemented.  I like that it gives more than one option because if there's one thing I've learned with just two kids is that not everything (okay, almost nothing) works for both of them.  They are completely different little personalities with motivations to match.

Now, sometimes I thought the consequence's suggested length was too short, especially for ongoing behavior issues.  Still, I feel the book was a good resource and got my wheels turning about what would work with the girls.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Legacy - Nevil Shute

Book club book for May.

The Legacy was also published as A Town like Alice. It is the story of a young woman who comes into a sizeable inheritance. Jean Paget returned to England after suffering through the war in Malaya. While working as a typist, she is notified of money in a trust for her left by her late uncle. Jean wants to do something useful with her money and returns to Malaya and the people who helped her. While there she learns more regarding the man who risked his life to help her. And so she sets forth to Australia and adventure.

This book seemed a little slow and somewhat predictable to me. But sometimes I like predictable. I think it was slow because I sort of knew what it was about (or thought I did but misunderstood some of that) and kept waiting for things to happen.

I really liked Jean’s “go get ‘em” attitude and how the story is told through the point of view of her solicitor back in England.

Verdict: Worth a read

Friday, May 7, 2010

Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House - Cheryl Mendelson

I stumbled upon this book while reading a magazine article on spring cleaning, and if it has anything remotely to do with the home, chances are it is covered by this book. I found parts of it rather interesting (or gross - like the bedbug/dust mite discussion). I enjoy details and minutia. It was inriguing to read about how I've been doing laundry wrong all these years and how long leftovers really are good for.

Home Comforts covers every area of the house from the kitchen to the bathroom to outdoor storage. And ever facet of home care: papers, safety, cleaning, book care, fabrics, lighting, laundry, etc.

While I don't recommend reading this book cover to cover as I did, it would certainly make a great reference book. I plan on ordering it (the one I got was from the library) to keep on the shelf for those times when I would like to look back at it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I'm Not Wonder Woman but God Made Me Wonderful - Sheila Walsh

Another book not from my shelf but a book I felt I needed to read. I'm not sure I'm going to make it through my goal of reading through my bookshelves in 2010. Maybe summer will help me pick up the pace when I'm not working full time.

Sheila Walsh knows what it's like to pretend you have everything together. To run around in a cape saving the day, your kid, your friends, your employer, the word. But inside you are falling apart or just not as fulfilled as you believe Jesus died so you can be.

In this book, Sheila goes through the myths that we believe and helps us to identify and let go of thought patterns and ideas that keep us bound. She then goes a step farther by talking about the truths in the Word of God and how we need to capture vision from them.

A lot of the materials is concepts I've heard or read before. But I need to keep hearing/reading as clearly it isn't sinking in yet. Otherwise I wouldn't be so driven to live up to the expectations of others - or the expectations I believe others to have of me.

Quote to take away: No human being can destroy what God has purposed [referencing Joseph and the twists and turns his life took after God gave him a vision]. God's timing is perfect, His will is perfect.

The Help - Kathryn Stockett

This was my book club book for this month.

Love, love, LOVED it.

It was a real eye-opener to me about how different our society was even just fifty years ago and made me wonder how much more (good, bad, both) it will change in the next fifty years.

This book tells the tale of white women in 1960s Mississippi and thier African-American (see, now they were referred to as "black" throughout the book and that makes more sense as I said "white" women not Anglo-American but I feel that wouldn't be politically correct - I've been trained well - and wouldn't want to cause offense) household help.

The story line encompeses several maids and their employers but the stars of the show are Aibileen and Minny (as maids) and Skeeter and Hilly (white women). This novel take you through both the good and the bad of these interactions. Sometimes the situations were mutually benefial to both. More often, though, it was a difficult situation for the maids to be in. To take care of someone's home but not be able to eat at the same table or use the same bathroom. To raise someone's kids to the point the kids are now adults and are your employer, treating you with disdain.

I really enjoyed seeing how the characters grew and developed through their interactions and events. I also liked learning a bit more about that time in history through the real events Stockett included.

I could have done without some of the language and the naked man scene.

Over all, an excellent job for a first novel. Everyone in my book club liked it (well, I think one enjoyed it for the most part but not the end).

Monday, April 19, 2010

How to Read 100 Books in One Year - Guest Post by Demian Farnworth

**Post by guest blogger Demian Farnworth [link to]**

One hundred books in one year is a lot of books to read. Let's do the math.

One hundred divided by fifty-two [fifty-two is the number of weeks in the year for those who are curious and not too bright] equals 1.92307692 books a week.

Let's round that up to 2.

That means you have to read 2 books a week if you want to read 100 in a year. Or about one book every 3.5 days.

Up to the challenge?

Well, if you're like me--an incorrigible sucker for ridiculous challenges and a shameless book addict--then this is right up your alley.

But here's the deal: You're likely to fail. Like me.

Two months from now you and me will be hopelessly behind and wondering what in the world we were thinking.

We're likely to shove our little challenge under the bed and pretend it never happened.

I don't know about you, but I don't want that to happen. I WANT to read 100 books in a year--and I WANT to succeed.

So let's add a little twist to this challenge. Let's make this challenge a competition. You know, an old-fashioned, cut-throat rivalry.

Here's what I mean.

Choose someone you know who likes to read and invite them to join your challenge. Once you've got them nodding their head say, "By the way, let's keep score."

I'm telling you, when it comes to motivation--THIS WORKS.

For example, my wife and I are rabid readers. I tend to keep lists of books I want to read. She keeps lists of books she has read. And when I saw the list of books she had already read for 2010 [this was back in late February], I was floored.

I thought, "She's smoking me."

Since then I've streamlined my life as best as I could to make reading books my single and solitary focus. My goal is not to beat her necessarily. It's simply to read 100 books in a year [especially if she does, too!].

Granted, two months later I'm still hopelessly behind my wife who systematically rifles through hefty books at a blistering pace...but I've vowed to not give up.

I've vowed to read...and read...and read until I see the last word on the last page of the last book for the year.

And hopefully when I do that it will be December 31, 2010 and it'll be book number 100 that I'm closing.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Honestly - Sheila Walsh

This book isn’t from my bookshelves either (I’m not doing so great on that challenge). But I saw Sheila Walsh speak back in March and just really connected to her message. She has been through the ringer and come out victorious in Jesus and her relationship with God. I could relate to so many things she said that I just wanted to read everything she’s written trying to find additional help for myself.

So I got this book from the library. It is basically her story from one of the lowest points of her life through healing and recovery into the amazing life she is living in God now.

Sheila was a talented Christian singer/songwriter with her own spot on The 700 Club. But what she showed to the world wasn’t who she truly was. She was empty inside, crying out for someone to see her pain and help her. When she took a step of faith that many discourage, she found true freedom.

Practical and applicable. Heart-touching and impacting.

I’ll leave you with a quote:

When the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of change, you’ll change. –Sheila Walsh

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle - David Wroblewski

This book is not one on my bookshelf. However, I read it on the sort-of recommendation of a friend. She had bought it and thought it might be too dark for her, so I said I’d give it a try. I found it interesting for the most part.

Edgar Sawtelle was born mute but with an uncanny ability to sign and communicate in his own way. He lived on a farm in remote Wisconsin helping his parents breed “Sawtelle dogs.” These dogs have amazing abilities in following commands and as companions.

Edgar’s life is all a boy can ask for until the day his father dies. His mother and he try to continue on with the dogs until his uncle (his father’s brother) steps into both the business and his mother’s arms. Edgar reacts and is forced to flee into the woods with three of the pups he’s been training. There he finds some of the strength he needs to return home.

This story was VERY well told. It was slow starting out but a few chapters in I was really engaged with the characters and the storyline.

As far as it being dark, the first half of the book wasn’t. But towards the middle, there were definitely some darker or more oppressive themes and scenes.

It’s a big book, but in my opinion, worth the read.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore - Wayne Jacobson & Dave Coleman

An allegory of sorts that seems to have some autobiographical content from the authors.

The title alone drew me to this book about fictional character Jake Colson. Jake meets a mysterious man, John, who challenges his views of himself, God's love and acceptance, and his concept of the church body. This book chronicles many encounters as Jake walks through months and even years of coming to terms with his "need" to "earn" God's love, his craving for acceptance, and his disillusionment with the church "machine." He comes out the other side with his priority fully centered on connecting with Jesus and following Him every day and experiencing true fellowship with other believers outside the church walls and organization.

While I disagree with the premise of that can be assumed from the book - all churches are evil, we don't need them, don't go - I think that assumption is also wrong. I believe that John made it clear that true fellowship and focus on living with and following Christ and growing in that relationship *can* be found in a traditional church body. However, it often isn't because we all get so caught up in our programs and activities that we lose sight of Him...and each other. I know tht I have experienced that personally and even know struggle with the lack of authentic connection to other believers in my life...even though I regularly attend and am involved in the ministries at a church.

From the appendix in the back, one of the authors says that no where in the Bible does it say that you have to attend church. Which I guess is valid in and of itself if you view church as a certain way. But Hebrews 10:25 does state: Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

In our culture that most likely means traditional church. But I understand that it doesn't have to. It is just the most likely way to meet people who are hungry and pushing after Jesus to join along with the journey.

A lot of the points in the book DID hit home with me, though, and echo some of my thoughts and feelings. So it has given me a lot of fodder to think and pray on. I will continue to attend church but with God's help my focus will shift more from the tasks and programs and to do lists and the superficial relationships to really delving into what Jesus has for me to do there and for the connections that He can make through the leading of the Spirit so that I can experience authentic fellowship and relationships that help me (and I can help others) along the path. Because, really, isn't that where it's suppose to be at anyway: focus fully on Jesus and doing what He is calling you to. And the church is purely a mechanism to help that process and to help others come to know Him and be on that journey as well.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson

Okay, so I will admit up front that I read the “Young Reader’s Edition.” I actually started out reading the regular old adult edition for my book club this month. But I kept getting bogged down in details and rabbit trails and having to look back because I confused the similar names of various mountains and various people – sometimes even across categories. I really wasn’t enjoying it…as much as I had hoped I would because I’m all about education.

I also knew there was no way I’d be able to finish the book before tomorrow night. So last yesterday I picked up the YA one and finished it tonight. Conveniently, the chapters are all named the same in both books. So it was easy to pick up where I had left off in the other version. And I enjoyed it a lot more this way.

Greg Mortenson is definitely a man cut from a different cloth. Adventurous, yes. A little lost and bouncing in his younger days, for sure. But all of those things ultimately led him to discover and pursue his passion. And I have to admire that. He was not afraid of hardship. He was not afraid of hard work or inconvenience. He lived like no other (in his car, in a stinky sublet apartment, etc.) so he could do what he could to make this world a better place. I like that.

While I don’t know that I can jump onto his education is the only way to solve terrorism bandwagon, I can acknowledge that it is a huge step in the right direction.

Definitely a worthwhile read…if you read the juvenile version.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Alibis in Arkansas

Three Romance Mysteries:
Death on a Deadline - Christine Lynxwiler
Drop Dead Diva - Jan Reynolds
Down Home and Deadly - Sandy Gaskin

I have typically found that these types of books are a bit hokey, shall we say. But I truly enjoyed each of these three stories.

Written by sisters themselves, they chronicle three separate murders that sisters Jenna Stafford and Carly Reece stumble upon. Actually, Jenna typically does the stumbling; Carly seems to be more along for the ride.

They are not heavy in the romance department even though the cover says “Three Romance Mysteries.” And I was great with that. There was just enough to be interesting but not drawn out or intense.

The mysteries themselves were also good. Either I haven’t read a mystery/suspense in a long time or I’m losing my edge. Because I was unable to figure out “who dunnit” in each one.

Quick, fun reads.

The Language of Love & Respect - Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

In this sequel to Love and Respect, Dr. Eggerichs breaks down how love and respect are reflected and seen through our communication with one or another.

My aunt gave us the original book as a wedding present. We both read it. And as long as I keep it visually in front of me, I remember that respect is a deep need for Jeff (and all men) and am better at meeting that. Out of sight…usually out of mind within a few weeks. Yet I was still excited to dig into this second book that has more practical application for how I communicate…and receive communication.

Also, before you single folks check out, I think that it’s a good book to read even if you’re single. Yes, the target audience is married people. However, all men – married or not – have an innate need to feel respected and all women – married or not – have an innate need to feel loved. So in all communication, if you speak towards those needs, you’re going to be more successful.

Although, I do have to say I’m either incredibly delusional or I’m an exception to this love/respect rule. I would much rather know that I’m respected than feel like I am loved.

However, the communication keys in the book are still applicable, and I’m going to keep working on it until I get it right.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Eat This Not That = David Zinczenko

An entertaining look at the best and worst foods in America.

I really enjoy these books. Granted, I don’t use them as a resource guide like you’re supposed to. I just read them from cover to cover, giggling and learning as I go. Some of the items are fascinating and others are horrifying. And it does sink into my brain and affect my grocery shopping and eating out. Random trivia from the book will pop into my head. Just think how much more effective it would be if I *did* use it as a reference.

250+ Activities and Ideas for Developing Literacy Skills -M. Ellen and Hilda L. Jay

A great resource for parents of young kids or anyone working with smaller children. This book contains over 250 activities to do with kids to help increase their literacy. The activities and ideas are quick and easy to integrate in everyday life. It’s about being more purposeful in the interactions you already have.

I picked up this book because as a part of my job I work with kids who need help with their reading and literacy skills. While most of the ideas and activities are children from the pre-literate stage through pre-school, I did find some ideas I can adapt for the older kiddos I work with. Also, I appreciated how the authors touched on all forms of literacy, not just reading. The book contains ideas for numerical literacy, cultural literacy, charts, graphs, money, and even computer literacy.

Definitely a book to check out.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Step-Wives: 10 Steps to Help Ex-Wives and Stepmothers... - Lynne Oxhorn-Ringwood, etc.

I had waited so long to get this book from the library…to find it completely useless. To be honest, I skimmed a lot of it.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that this ex-wife and this step-wife found a way to get along and communicate effectively. And they say you can do the same even if you are the only “step-wife” working on the relationship. But I just don’t see how that’s practical. Especially when ones’ step-wife has told you that her kids are none of your business and then blatantly ignores any communication from you regarding them.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Notes Left Behind - Brooke & Keith Desserich

Elena Desserich wanted to become a teacher. But at 6, a rare form of brain cancer threatens her very survival. This book is the story of her struggle as told through journal enteries written by her parents.

Based on the title and the synopsis I read, I really thought the book would be more about the literal notes that she left behind in their home. It wasn't, even though there were some copies of those notes scattered throughout the book. The synopsis also said that the book was written for Gracie, Elena's younger sister, so that she would be able to remember Elena. I don't really see it accomplishing that goal either as the book more deals with their parents thoughts surrounding Elena, her illness, and coping.

It wasn't realy well-written. But I'm sure that my journal enteries, compiled and published, wouldn't be either.

This book did make me think about how I would handle being in the same situation. Would I do things differently? The same? And how incredibly challenging a terminal diagnosis to one's child would be.

I give kuddos to the Desserichs for being so transparent, but I don't know that this book is a recommended read.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Split Ends - Kristin Billerbeck

Sarah Claire is an up-and-coming hairstylist from Wyoming. That is until she moves to LA and is relegated to chief hair sweeper and coffee maker. Sarah Claire is determined to make a name for herself in this market and break the Winowski curse when it comes to love. She has talent. She has grit. But will her past keep her from success in the future?

Better than the last Billerbeck book that I read. But I was still disappointed. I loved her Ashley Stockingdale series and recommended them to many people. However, I haven’t loved a lot since. This one had several dropped or randomly arranged story lines. Also (and I know this isn’t the author’s fault), there were many typos, misspellings, etc. And being the grammar-freak I am, that always takes away from the overall pleasure for me.

I did like the main plot and the old movie references. Since this is our book club pick for February, I’m interested in seeing what everyone else has to say about it.

Boundaries with Kids - Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Award-winning Boundaries authors have now adapted that material for anyone working with children. The book has practical tips on how to help your child instill boundaries and self-control in children and to maintain your boundaries as well.

I thought this book was excellent. As I read it, the thought most often in my mind was of situations and scenarios in which I could apply what I was reading about. There were many areas – both with my step-kids and the kids I teach – that I could see myself improving by using the practical ideas Doctors Cloud and Townsend present. I also was faced with the realization of where I let my own boundaries fall and how to shore them up.

It was very well organized and easy to read.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Love Him, Love His Kids - Stan Wenck & Connie J. Hansen

Okay, completely not a fan of this book. Now, I have to be honest and say I didn’t really read it. I more just scanned it. Even the title kind of turned me off. Just because you love someone doesn’t mean that you are automatically going to love the people attached to them. Yes, you need to act lovingly towards them. But you won’t necessarily love them right off the bat.

But that’s not my main beef with this book. It is completely kid-centric. Do whatever you can and need to in order to make the kids’ lives easier. They have been through a lot (granted – they have. I was a kid of divorce too) and need understanding and coddling. I just can’t buy into that. They do need understanding. But they also need guidance and rules and stability. After all, doesn’t the Bible teach that if you love your children you will discipline them? How is this different for your step-kids

This book is a bit too far off center for me. I believe that the focus needs to be on your marriage…that’s why you’re there in the first place. And then the kids come after that. Also, in all of that, you need to be careful to not lose yourself.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Back to Life - Kristin Billerbeck

By being a “trophy wife” Lindsay expected to outlive her husband. However, she did not anticipate being a widow at thirty-five. Or to have to deal with Ron’s ex-wife, Jane, as the executor of his estate. But everyone has their secrets, and Ron had a reason for wanting them all together.

I have to be honest, I love Kristin Billerbeck but I was pretty disappointed in this book. (Fingers crossed that her other “newer” book is better since it’s what we chose for book club in February). The story telling was very disjointed and jumpy. And I don’t think that is solely because the chapters alternate voice between Lindsay and Jane. Even within the chapters things didn’t flow.

Additionally, I didn’t really feel or see a lot of character development and change. Lindsay still hasn’t found a plan for her life. She has just found another man (and not the one I was cheering for). Jane grows a bit more, but still not to a satisfying level in my opinion.