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.