Thursday, July 28, 2011

Organized Simplicity - Tsh Oxenreider

Synopsis from Simplicity isn’t about what you give up. It’s about what you gain. When you remove the things that don’t matter to you, you are free to focus on only the things that are meaningful to you. Imagine your home, your time, your finances, and your belongings all filling you with positive energy and helping you achieve your dreams. It can happen, and Organized Simplicity can show you how.

I read about this book on a friend’s blog months ago. There was a wait for it at the library. Absolutely worth the wait, and I will be purchasing a copy of my own.

I consider myself to be a fairly organized, clutter-free (other than books – that’s my weakness) person. However, I also believe there’s always room for improvement. And, hello, a book that offers me a plan to completely spring clean my house in just 10 days – count me in! I’ve been working on spring cleaning all summer and have finally decided my plan is just too complicated. The one Tsh Oxenreider offers seems much more…achievable.

She also takes the time to address the mindset of simplicity. And to approach life and decisions and purchases intentionally. What do you want your home to be and do for you? What is your family’s mission statement and goals for each room? Are you accomplishing that? She helps you to look at the bigger picture and the “why” behind organizing and removing clutter.

Of course, as with all organization books, there are things you can’t/won’t use. I will not be making my own shampoo out of baking soda and water; I have enough hair issues as it is. But I added far more things to my “tool box” than I left behind.

A great reference to have.

If Wishes Were Horses - Robert Barclay

Synopsis from In this unforgettable novel of love, hope, and second chances, a grieving man's personal plan for redemption is suddenly and unexpectedly turned upside down . . . .

Wyatt Blaine desperately seeks a reason to continue. Devastated by the senseless deaths of his wife and son at the hands of a drunk driver, he remains unable to forgive, and to love again. Searching for a sense of peace, he decides to revive his late wife's equine therapy program for troubled teens at the Blaine family ranch. By honoring her memory in this way, he hopes to find the sense of closure that has long eluded him.

Book club book for July. And as one member pointed out – one of the few books we’ve read that had males as dominant characters (or even was written by a guy).

This book been compared to Nicholas Sparks. I don’t really feel it is in the same league, but I enjoyed the story over all. It was a quick read. I had heard of equine (horse) therapy being used with autistic and Down’s syndrome children and adults. However, I had never heard of it being used for those with emotional issues. So that aspect of the novel was interesting.

I didn’t get as connected to the main characters – Wyatt and Gabby – as I did to some of the more auxiliary ones like Ram (Wyatt’s father) and Aunt Lou (the Blaine’s cook/house manager). I felt they were more interesting and less predictable.

I did have a few issues with the book. In a few places, the time sequence was off. That always annoys me. Also, I was disappointed by Ram’s letter at the end of the book and confused by the three year wait for it. That just didn’t make sense to me. Finally, the title of the book is mentioned in Gabby’s thoughts, but I didn’t really understand it.

All in all, though, it’s worth the read.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Oahu Revealed - Andrew Doughty

Synopsis from The most comprehensive yet easy-to-use guidebook series introduces the all-new third edition of "Oahu Revealed." Bestselling author Doughty has covered it all and shares all he finds--from the top of the Ko'olaus to the lost sunken island off Kane'ohe, everything is reviewed anonymously. This book and a rental car are all one needs to discover what makes Oahu so exciting.

Before I went to O’ahu with Jeff (who had to be there for work), a friend recommended I pick up the “blue book” about O’ahu. She had purchased one before her first Maui trip and said it made all of the difference. So I went to my local Borders (A moment of silence, please, over the fact Borders is going out of business.) and found the “blue book” for O’ahu. It is by Wizard Publications, Inc. and proved itself to be absolutely invaluable.

I started reading it before we left for our trip. And it was our constant reference while we were there. The directions were great. The majority of the descriptions and prices were accurate (some prices/hours changed and one restaurant closed down – no doubt since publishing). They did provide an online tool for all in the book as well. I didn’t use that though. We even used the GPS coordinates to figure out how to get to a spitting cave. And spent another day reading through the pages/driving around the coast (Jeff drove – I read), stopping as things in the book struck our fancy.

My only gripe is that I felt some of the maps could have been better. But I’m a horrible map reader, so that could be accounted to user error.

I finished reading the book upon our return, marking notes about what we did and saw. The book and O’ahu itself has entirely too much to cover in the amount of time we were there. But we’ll just take the book next time and know what we still want to see or what we want to see again.

However, if you are traveling anywhere that Wizard Publications has done a guide book too (I know they’ve done 4 of the Hawaiian Islands). It manages to be both entertaining and informative, all the same time.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

'Iolani Palace

I bought this book because I the taking of pictures was forbidden when I visited ‘Iolani Palace while recently in Honolulu. It turned out to be an interesting book overall.

This book details both the history of ‘Iolani Place, the only (former) royal residence on United States soil as well as touches on the lives of the Hawaiian monarchs. It’s a very approachable take on the past. The photographs are absolutely beautiful and capture the essence of the palace that I felt when I was there.

Fight Less, Love More - Laurie Puhn, JD

Synopsis from Harvard-trained lawyer and family and divorce mediator Puhn shows busy couples how to stop fighting and start communicating. She gives simple, five-minute conversations that will instantly improve communication--as well as the quality of relationships.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t read this entire book. I only got to chapter 11. Perhaps I’m burnt out on marriage and relationship books. Perhaps the one five-minute conversation I did try wasn’t well received.

I had hoped for a bit more practical application from the book. It does seem that Ms. Puhn knows what she’s talking about and sites many examples from couples she has mediated or counseled with. But personally I didn’t have many light bulb moments. So I will return it to the library to be revisited another day. After all, summer break is almost over. I need to be reading fun stuff!!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Miles to Go - Richard Paul Evans

Synopsis from Evans presents the second installment in an inspiring new series about an executive who loses everything and embarks on a walk that takes him across America. Alan Christoffersen, a once-successful advertising executive, wakes one morning to find himself injured, alone, and confined to a hospital bed in Spokane, Washington. Sixteen days earlier, reeling from the sudden loss of his wife, his home, and his business, Alan left everything he knew behind and set off on an extraordinary cross-country journey. Carrying only a backpack, he planned to walk to Key West, the farthest destination on his map. But a vicious roadside stabbing has interrupted Alan’s trek and robbed him of his one source of solace: the ability to walk. Homeless and facing months of difficult recovery, Alan has nowhere to turn—until a mysterious woman enters his life and invites him into her home.

The second “journal” in The Walk series was a bit slower of a read than the first and then seemed rushed at the end. Perhaps that is because most of the book takes place during Alan’s recovery. So he is not walking and making progress on his journey.

One of the things that I liked about both books were the nuggets of wisdom you receive from Alan and his journal. For example, one of the overriding themes in Miles to Go is that it is not just what we are able to accomplish ourselves. But it is equally important that we inspire others to do great things.

I think of this in my teaching career. Most days, I don’t feel like I’m doing very great things at all. I believe that education is important, and I love what I do. However, many days I walk away from my classroom in the evening wonder if I accomplished anything at all. Then I think back on all the great teachers (both in and out of school) I had – the ones who inspired me to read and dream and think and write…and to ultimately become a teacher myself. Did they always know what they were planting in me? Or did they have those hum-drum days as well? My guess would be it’s the latter.

So we do what we can. We set goals. And then, ultimately, we set one foot in front of the other and move forward.

The Walk - Richard Paul Evans

Synopsis from What would you do if you lost everything—your job, your home, and the love of your life—all at the same time? When it happens to Seattle ad executive Alan Christoffersen, he’s tempted by his darkest thoughts. A bottle of pills in his hand and nothing left to live for, he plans to end his misery. Instead, he decides to take a walk. But not any ordinary walk. Taking with him only the barest of essentials, Al leaves behind all that he’s known and heads for the farthest point on his map: Key West, Florida. The people he encounters along the way, and the lessons they share with him, will save his life—and inspire yours.

This book was a really quick read. The chapters are short (some just a page), and the narrative really moves along.

I love Al’s determination to just walk away from it all. I don’t know if it’s courage or stupidity on his part. He really doesn’t have anything to stay for. But still, that takes guts.

This first book in the series covers only the first leg of his walk. He doesn’t even move past his home state of Washington. However, he journeys many miles emotionally and learns from others along the way. And the reader gets to learn from him.

It’s written as a personal narrative with some bits of journaling thrown in. I can’t wait to read the second book (which is next up in my stack). Unfortunately, I’ll then need to wait until April 2012 for the third book.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Jane Austen Education - William Deresiewicz

Synopsis from Austen scholar Deresiewicz turns to the author's novels to reveal the remarkable life lessons hidden within. With humor and candor, Deresiewicz employs his own experiences to demonstrate the enduring power of Austen's teachings.

I make no bones about the fact that I am a Jane Austen fan. The satire, the romance, the fun. So I was interested to read this book subtitled: “How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things that Really Matter.” To look at Austen’s work from a more cerebral and educational perspective than from a purely entertainment one.

William Deresiewicz starts out his literary critique by stating that he was not a fan of Jane Austen and her work. It wasn’t highbrow enough for him. So I started out my reading not being a fan of him. However, as he progresses through Austen’s books and grows to like and learn from her, I also come to like him as an author.

I found it unique how Deresiewicz parallels the lessons he’s learning from the Austen novels to what he was currently experiencing in his own life.

Jane Austen does, indeed, have a lot to teach us all. And William Deresiewicz takes the time to point that out to us. Emma helps us to see and appreciate the little things in life. Pride and Prejudice is a story of growing up and becoming a better person. Mansfield Park can show its reader where to find true happiness if one only takes the time to look. The education continues through her six popular books

At times, he is a bit redundant. However, overall it was an interesting and informative book to read. And it helped me to look at one of my favorite authors from a new perspective. I can’t wait to go back and reread some of her books and see if I can connect to the lessons there.