Tag Archives: What I’m reading

What I’m Reading, December 2017

One year ago today we were in California for our daughter’s college graduation.

This year is more typical: snow, basketball, busy at the store, getting ready for Christmas. Our out of state college kid is home for Christmas.  That makes mama happy.

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

On to this month’s books–

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When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

I’m tempted to go back and re-read this book now that I know the ending.

The plot was slow moving until all the pieces starting falling into place and it made sense.

From goodreads–

“Winner of the 2010 Newbery Medal. Miranda is an ordinary sixth grader, until she starts receiving mysterious messages from somebody who knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late. For ages approx 9-14.”

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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

A Chinese boy and Japanese girl are assigned to kitchen duty at their all white public school.  This is the forties and anti-Japanese sentiment is high.  Their friendship transcends prejudice.

Sweet story that takes an inside look at Asian cultures functioning in the U.S.

I liked it, even though the story was slow moving and a little predictable.

Five stars for being wholesome.  Recommended for all ages.

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Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

Echo tells the stories of four different children growing up in four different times and places.

They all have a love for music.

To be perfectly frank, I was underwhelmed by this book. It just left me feeling kind of flat. I could see the common thread woven throughout so it felt predictable.

None of the sequences were long enough to really identify with the characters, so it was more about plot than characters.

It’s a long book, but not necessarily a long read.

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The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

A fascinating read.

I don’t agree with everything as I have some different philosophies of life than the author does.

The books focuses on how people sabotage their own success when they hit the upper limit of what they believe they deserve in life.  There might be something to that.

I also think he’s on to something with the zone of incompetence, the zone of competence, the zone of excellence and the zone of genius.

Good mental fodder.

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The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Staner

Michael outlines seven simple questions to use while coaching.

His context is managers coaching their employees, but I think the principles are transferable to other situations.

His emphasis is on listening better, giving less advice and helping people solve their own problems.

Though simple, the questions are profound.  They build on each other and are designed to get to the heart of the matter in a short amount of time.

Insightful.  Actionable.

What are you reading this month?

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Breaking Free From the Poverty Culture: Four True Stories

I started this post thinking I had found four books that painted a realistic picture of the poverty culture.

What I didn’t realize was how much they have in common.

They are all overcomer stories.

They are all about boys who grew up with single mothers.

They outline a path of what it takes to beat the odds.

They are also well-written.

These stories stand out because they are unusual. Most boys in similar circumstances are not able to break the poverty cycle in their lives.

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

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Hillbilly Elegy is masterfully written.

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was gratuitous language.  Sometimes language in a dialogue can prove a point, but there’s no good reason for it to be in the narrative.

That being said, I love the social analysis wrapped around a boot-strapping overcomer’s story. J.D. Vance emerged from an impoverished childhood to graduate from Harvard and become a successful lawyer.

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Ben Carson and his brother grew up in a single parent home in Detroit.

Ben credits his mother for the impact on his life that resulted in all of them breaking out of the poverty culture.

She valued education, discipline, the importance of reading and making wise decisions in the use of her resources.

In turn, Ben came to see poverty as a temporary state.  He could see the way out.  He developed a vision for his life.  He eventually attained some of life’s greatest successes as a pediatric neurosurgeon.

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An inspiring story, well told.

“The true story of an 11-year-old panhandler, a busy sales executive, and an unlikely meeting with destiny.” This is another book that makes me philosophical.  The culture of poverty at work again.  And, once again, it’s not so much about the money.  It’s the opportunities, the education, even the relationships that are poor.  And that plays out into material lack.  The whole mindset has to change.  The way you believe about yourself has to change.  The way you believe about your destiny has to change:  are you a victim of your circumstances or do you control your fate? Now that is a good question that I’ve been wrestling with a lot.  Who’s in control of my life, me or God?

Laura Schroff reached out to Maurice in a gesture of friendship and began a relationship that endured three decades.  She nurtured her unexpressed maternal instinct.  He grabbed a lifeline out of a culture of poverty. It’s interesting that one thing he latched onto when he saw a healthy family in action was the idea of everyone sitting down at a dining room table to eat together, to talk and share life.  That was missing in his home.  It just goes to prove that building a culture—even a family culture— has to do with what you value and believe, not about money.

Everything was not idyllic in Laura and Maurice’s relationship for the next thirty years.  This is real life and when is life always smooth sailing?

  

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Note: Heads up for language.

I didn’t really understand apartheid until I read this book.

Seeing how it played out in people’s lives is sobering.

Trevor Noah has a white father and a black mother.  In South Africa, it was illegal for his father and mother to procreate.  His very existance was against the law, hence the title, Born a Crime.

It’s mind-blowing to think about the world and the life that Trevor Noah was born into. It’s a cautionary tale, especially for those who have a vote in their government’s laws and leaders.

I liked Noah’s personal and relatable writing style as well as the occasional political commentary.

**********

Four boys growing up in poverty with single mothers. What did it take for them to break free?
Self-awareness? A caring adult? Purpose in life? A belief that things could be different?

I see four common factors.

  1. The involvement of a caring adult. In some cases it was their mother, sometimes it was someone else.

2.   The importance of staying in school and finishing.

3.  The belief that things could be different.

4.  A vision for their lives.

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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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