Tag Archives: book reviews

What I’m Reading, November 2017

On the home front, looking at the carnage of two rotten trees in our front yard makes me philosophical about loss.

I think it’s good to remember, to try to make sense of loss, to let yourself feel the sadness.

I also think it’s helpful to focus on what’s left, not necessarily on what’s gone.

Linking up on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase goes to support this site.)

On to the books–

 Buy now from Amazon

The Secret of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers by Matt Bird

I am fascinated by story.  I believe with every fiber that story is one of the most powerful teaching tools, and probably the most underutilized.

I found Matt Bird’s observations to be insightful and helpful.  His field of expertise is TV and film, but I think a lot of the principles he’s discovered are universally applicable.

Here’s a few gems:

“You must write for an audience, not just yourself.”

“Audiences don’t really care about stories;  they care about characters.”

“Your story is not about your hero’s life; it’s about your hero’s problem.”

Good stuff.

 

 Buy now from Amazon

Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

Five stars for being a wholesome, well-written YA.

It’s interesting to stop and think about what it’s like to be blind from birth. How impossible it is to picture anything. What it means for your social interactions.

Add the fact that you’re sixteen years old and transferring from a blind school to a public school.

This is an engaging, feel good story. Satisfying.

 Buy now from Amazon

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Viktor was a prisoner in a concentration camp in Germany. But, he was also a psychartrist. So, he analyzed the fellow prisoners, the ones who had given up hope and died and the ones who had the will to live.

He concluded that everyone needs to find their own reason for being on the planet: their life’s work. He had a book he was working on before he was imprisoned and he was also married.

Focusing his thoughts on finishing his book and seeing his wife again sustained him during the horrific experience of the concentration camp.

  Buy now from Amazon

Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday

The main premise of this book is that traditional PR, marketing and advertising with it’s big budgets and campaigns are no longer necessary for success.

Ryan Holiday should know. That was his field.
But today the playing field is leveled with desktop publishing, everyone as a photographer and social media taking your message viral.

I believe in some ways it’s easier than ever to get your message out. In other ways, you have more competition because everyone has access to what used to be only available to a few.

The challenge now is to stand out and be noticed in an avalanche of everyone promoting their message.

What are you reading this month?

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What I’m Reading, November 2016

leafinfrost

The weather continues unseasonably warm, but we got our first heavy frost last week.  We’re enjoying the lull between soccer season and basketball season.  The bookstore got a facelift with a new paint job.  Still waiting for our new signs to show up.

I thought I only had read a few books for review, but I had forgotten about some.  Some good picks this month.

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit

(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a small percentage of your purchase goes to support this site.)

magnoliastory Buy now from Amazon

Chip and Joanna Gaines are extraordinarily ordinary people.

The Magnolia Story takes you behind the scenes of HGTV’s star couple.

They are unusual to take so many risks, but very human.  Hard working people with  a strong marriage.  No TV in their lives.  Talented, yes, but, really, it’s the synergy that they bring to the table that catapults them to success.

 

mr-penumbras   Buy now from Amazon

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore is a fun mix of old books and new technology. The characters are fairly engaging, likeable and relateable.

It did start to slog about a third of the way through, but a new character was introduced and that made a big difference.

The story is not really about a bookstore, it’s about a secret society, so there’s some mystery there that keeps you turning pages.

 

 

hamsterprincessBuy now from Amazon

The Hamster Princess is a re-telling of Sleeping Beauty.  Cute interpretation.  Not sure if I’ll read any more in the series, but that one was entertaining.  Really not sure which age level it’s aimed at.  I’d guess elementary school girls.  It did have some layered humor, now that I think about it, with all the references to organic cabbage and so on.

tribe Buy now from Amazon

Tribe is fascinating.

Interesting food for thought.

So Tribe talks about some interesting things, some are not intuitive.  One is that people miss war.  They miss the comradrie, the breakdown of natural human barriers, the absence of isolation that comes with war.  There’s actually less mental illness during war.  Possibly because people aren’t focused on themselves, but on a common enemy.

Here’s another thing:  sufferers of PSTD from rape have an easier recovery than war victims.  The author proposes that war victims have a harder time separating the good from the bad in their experiences.  Sleeping in close proximity with a lot of people apparently is better for your mental health than being isolated.  Maybe nursing home are a good idea.

Another thing was the difficult adjustment that servicemen had coming home and re-adjusting to civilian life. Again, there’s that loss.  The loss of living and sleeping in close proximity.  The loss of a common enemy.  The loss of people who understand you and your way of life.  So much of that can be applied to missionaries returning to their passport country.  There’s the loss of the expat community.  There’s the loss of the cause and the common vision of evangelizing a lost people group.  There’s the camaraderie of fighting a common enemy.  There’s even the living and sleeping in close quarters.  There’s a loss of living life together, even under less than ideal living conditions, maybe especially under less than ideal living conditions.

There’s a loss of identity in coming back.  There’s re-negotiating your marriage.  There’s re-negotiating all your relationships.

This type of sociological analysis intrigues me.

I was intrigued by the publisher of Tribe, also:   Twelve.  Apparently they only publish twelve books a year.  This one was a short book, shorter than most, and it is well-written.  I’ll be interested to see what else they’ve published.

acuriousbeginning  Buy now from Amazon

A Curious Beginning doesn’t get five stars for promoting morality, but at least it wasn’t immoral.  Four and a half stars for traditional values.

I bogged down a little in the middle, but I love a book that surprises me: honestly, a curve ball I didn’t expect.

I appreciated the two main characters in the book, even if I didn’t identify with them, I found them entertaining.  There’s also something enticing about a story set in England in the 1800s.  It almost makes me want to look up a little history from that time period.

lovewarrior Buy now from Amazon

Wow.

Raw. Real. Brutal transparency.

I’m haunted by her story. What a triumph of grace.

Not many memiors are page turners.  Love Warrior is.

It’s not just the honesty and transparency that’s compelling.  It’s the victory of the human spirit.  It’s the journey everyone takes that they are afraid to voice.  It’s the courage that it takes to say those things out loud.  It’s being afraid and doing it anyway.

And the reader, from the safety of their lazy boy, is free to judge or not.  But there’s something holy about a soul laid bare, exposed for the world to see.

She was bulimic and alcoholic that grew up in a loving home.  This book focuses primarily on her marriage and how two broken people try to find themselves and each other.

It’s messed with my mind at many different levels. It’s rare to find such gut-wrenching honesty about life without a spin.

Her hallmark is extraordinary courage.

Heads up for language and some graphic passages.

Postscript:  Since Love Warrior was published, Glennon Doyle Melton’s life has changed.  That has given me more food for thought and I’m hashing through it.

blackstar   Buy now from Amazon

I read SD Smith’s The Black Star of Kingston, mainly because I couldn’t get my hands on a copy of The Green Ember, which is the S.D. Smith book that I really wanted to read.  I was little underwhelmed by the story of a community of rabbits that has power struggles for control of the kingdom and fights enemies and is bravely loyal to king and country.

But, then again, I didn’t ever make it to the end of Watership Downs.

I’m hoping The Green Ember will be better, because I’m always on the lookout for great books to give my nieces and nephews.  I was hoping for a stronger spiritual message in the book.  Maybe I missed it.  There is a good classic conflict between good and evil and more than a glance at traditional values.  Those qualities alone are hard to find. I can live with that.

What are you reading?

 

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What I’m Reading, October 2016

fallleaves

The weather in Indiana has been unseasonably warm for October.  Not that I’m complaining.  Cold weather is not my thing.  Soccer season has wrapped up.  Camping is over for the year.  I’m working fewer hours now at the bookstore, which is good for my sanity and good for my reading life.

(Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase goes to support this site.)

4disciplinesof-execution   Buy now from Amazon

The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling

I liked the emphasis on trying to move forward in the midst of the whirlwind.  This resonates with me.  There’s so much daily pressure.  Lots of details that must be tended to every day and some that fall through the cracks.  To move forward, you have to resist all that pressure and focus on the things that move you forward.  Those are your priorities.  Even when there’s so much else to do.

The book deals with how to achieve your “wildly important goals” through lag measures and lead measures.  It took me awhile to understand the main concepts, but I they were helpful once I understood.

To be honest, I didn’t make it to the end of the book, but I will revisit it.

 

undoingofsaintsilvanus Buy now from Amazon

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus by Beth Moore

I wasn’t expecting a novel by Beth Moore to start out with a dead body.  But, it works.  She calls this project “novel” in every sense of the word, because it is her debut into fiction.

The story centers around Jillian Slater, and the dead body belongs to her father.  From the front dust cover  “She hadn’t seen her or her grandmother, the ice queen— in almost twenty years.  Jillian walks into a web of spiritual and personal danger borne out of her family’s broken history, and despite Adella’s wiliest efforts, only God himself can orchestrate the undoing of all that is going on at Saint Silvanus.”

I had to push myself to finish because the story started to slog in the middle.  Although Jillian as a main character lacked some emotional development, there was a strong plot and the story was redemptive.  I didn’t expect any less.

rulesofcivilty  Buy now from Amazon

The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

I loved the setting of this novel, one that was unfamiliar to me—New York in the thirties and forties.  There’s something about New York that captures the imagination. When I visited as a child, two things made an impression on me: the streets were dirty and the unusual dress and hair styles of the Hasidic Jews. Still, the allure of New York transcends reality.

Katy Kontent is a working girl, but she runs in circles with the wealthy of New York.  But, life doesn’t go as planned and people aren’t always who you believe they are.

The novel is well-written and compelling.  The morality leaves much to be desired.  I can’t quite identify the intrigue is in this novel.  It certainly includes unexpected twists.  It’s a tribute to the complexity of human nature, and especially human love and romance.

elizabethismissing  Buy now from Amazon

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Loved the unique premise of this book. It’s told from the viewpoint of an older woman whose wandering, forgetful mind is sliding into dementia.  It flashes back to her childhood. The greater portion of the book focuses on the events of Elizabeth’s early years.  It’s interesting as she’s losing her grip on remembering details, she still remembers the feeling of loss.

To me, that rings true.  The human psyche is a wonderful and marvelous thing.  It never ceases to amaze me.

The pain of dementia is offset by the complexity and sweetness of family relationships.

thehidingplace  Buy now from Amazon

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

The Ten Booms built a secret room in their house to hide Jews during the Hitler’s occupation of Holland. They were discovered and arrested by the Germans.

I didn’t see it in the past, but the real hero of the story is Casper Ten Boom, Corrie’s father.  He taught his children the truth.  He led his family to believe the Word of God and live it out in practical, every day life.  They did what was in their power to combat evil.

This book has impacted me for decades.  I remember going through hard times and thinking “If Corrie Ten Boom can survive, I can survive.”

tellyourtime  Buy now from Amazon

Tell Your Time by Amy Lynn Andrews

Such a great book!  I learned so much on her blog and through her e-book.  I’m kind of excited about e-books now that I know some of the inside story.

I think there dollar, 50 page e-books are the way to go.  It breaks down a lot of the barriers people have about buying books and reading books— too much money, too much time.

Amy calls it her unique selling proposition to sell a short book on time management.  (Maybe someone should sell a cheap book on money management?  Of course, you can find lots of free stuff on the internet.)

I learned from her blog why she turned down a traditional book publisher.  The book publisher wanted it 7 times longer, to justify the cost of printing and selling the book.

Of course, that defeated her purpose.  Which goes to prove a lot of books are “stuffed with fluff” (to quote Pooh) in order to make them long enough to print as a traditional book.

Tell Your Time is concise and practical.  She implements and tweaks principles from two of my favorite books, Margin by Richard Swenson and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stepehen Covey.

thekeeperofthebees  Buy it now from Amazon

The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton Porter

Gene Stratton Porter is one of my all time favorite authors.  A guest on the Read Aloud Revival called this her favorite Porter book. I liked it well enough, but don’t think it’s better than Girl of the Limberlost or Freckles.

She does a good job with plot, keeping you guessing while you’re turning pages.  Five stars for wholesomeness.  If anything, this one erred on the side of preachy.  It’s so interesting to see what things have changed in the last 100 years, and which have not.  Baby care certainly has.

The Bee Keeper centers on a wounded soldier who has escaped a government hospital and throws his fate to God.  There’s some things that could be considered coincidence in the story, and some that’s predictable, but overall, satisfying.  Stranger things have happened in real life and God does work in mysterious ways.

 

 

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What I’m Reading April 2016

WIRApril2016

We’ve had snow here several times this month and it just feels wrong to be cold in April.

Some great reads and re-reads this month (plus a few that were abandoned and didn’t make the list).

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit for April.

 

livingforward Buy now from Amazon

Living Forward by Michael Hyatt

I think if I would have read Living Forward 25 years ago before I discovered Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, it would have revolutionized my life.  Reading it now feels like a good reminder.

This book is for you if:  you’re struggling with clarity, purpose, your life is out of balance or you’re flailing in some area of life.

This book is not for you if:  you have a good handle on life’s direction, setting goals and you’re making progress in areas you want to improve and grow.

That being said, I’m still a huge Michael Hyatt fan.  I listen to his podcast regularly and I highly recommend his book, Platform.

Natureofthe Beast Buy now from Amazon

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny

The Nature of the Beast is the 10th book in Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series and I read it first.  Let me first say, I love an honorable hero.

As intriguing as James Bond movies are with all the fun spy gadgets and suspenseful plot lines,  I don’t like James Bond because he’s a playboy.

On the other hand, Jack Ryan is just as brave, clever and cunning, but he’s a great family man.  He has a solid, loving marriage and reads Dr. Suess to his kids.  Can’t rate much higher than that for me.

That being said, I love Inspector Gamache’s honorable character. I love the values he stands for.  I truly believe we shape cultural norms with fiction.  For all the talk of being politically correct these days, I believe Judeo-Christian values can co-exist with great art and I applaud anyone who can do both.

I also love the way Louise Penny has human nature nailed.  The intricacies, the complexities and the subtlties.  It’s all there.

StillLife Buy now from Amazon

Still Life by Louise Penny

Still Life by Louise Penny is the first Inspector Gamache novel and I read it after the tenth.

Still Life had everything that I loved about The Nature of the Beast except for one thing.

There was a small story thread in the book that bothered me.  Since I’m still wrestling with how to address it, I’ll leave it alone for now. There’s still a lot to love.  I’ll be looking for more in the series.

HandsFreeLIfe Buy now from Amazon

Hands Free Life: Nine Habits for Overcoming Distractions, Living Better and Loving More by Rachel Macy Stafford

I appreciate the author’s insights, love her writing and I’m taking her philosophy of life to heart.  One problem that makes it hard for me to relate to her is her age and stage of life.

I turn 49 next month.  I’ve been married 28 years. My oldest is 24 and my youngest is 16.  So, what she’s dealing with in her life is a totally different scenario from mine.

I read a lot from authors in their twenties and thirties.  Honestly, they have a lot to offer.  But, occasionally, it’s nice to hear from someone who’s done some miles.  Not that every mature person is wise.  Some people have been around the block but didn’t learn anything on the trip. But, I do appreciate reflections from thoughtful, observant people with years of life experience.

Partly stimulated by these thoughts and since I’m turning 49 next month I’m working on a series posts:  advice to my 19-year-old self, advice to my 29-year-old self and advice to my 39-year-old self. Stay tuned.

PenderwicksGardam Buy now from Amazon

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall

There’s no good reason that I am reading children’s literature at this point in my life.   My youngest is sixteen and we don’t have any grandchildren (yet). In spite of that, I can’t get enough of the Penderwicks.  The second book in the series is satisfyingly predictable.

PenderwicksPoint Buy now from Amazon

The Penderwicks at Point Moquette by Jeanne Birdsall

Usually “predictable” is not what you want in fiction, but predictable doesn’t ruin a Penderwick story. Still timeless.  Still engaging, quirky characters that are relatable.

Re-Reading:

BoysintheBoat Buy now from Amazon

Boys in the Boat

I’m reading this aloud to my 16-year-old son, and appreciating it even more the second time.  As inspiring as Joe Rantz is as a hero, the interwoven history of our country and Europe  at the time these events unfold gives the backdrop that accentuates the drama.

Penderwicks Buy now from Amazon

The Penderwicks

I’m reading the first book in the series to the teens in my carpool.  We’re all loving it.  I’m so glad I bought the kindle version when it was on sale for a couple of dollars a few weeks ago.

I haven’t joined the adult coloring book craze yet. But have you seen the new journaling Bibles?  Some of them are gorgeous.

What are you reading this month?

(Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a small percentage of your purchase goes to support this site.)

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