Monday, October 26, 2015

My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

The publisher has provided a copy for review.

★★★★ ☐ What does a mother-daughter relationship look like? When it's healthy, all is at peace. But when parent or child are broken, every part of their relationship is conflicted.

My Name is Lucy Barton explores the depth of longing, dreams, and dysfunctions. Lucy's thoughts and conversations with her mother expose a history of small-town gossip, expectations, and disappointments.

Elizabeth Strout makes her characters deeply human. Their flaws draw our sympathy - and our empathy. I wasn't sure where the book was going in the first chapter or two, but I was sorry to say goodbye at the end.

I'll read this again.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Age of Reinvention by Karine Tuil

The publisher has provided a copy for review.

This stream of storytelling left me gasping. The author is a master of description - raw life and the grit of souls consumed by self.

This twisted love story is perhaps most a tale of obsession, greed, and manipulation. I was breathless at the imagination of Karine Tuil in exploring the consequences of human choices and the deceptions that can lie under perfectly orchestrated surfaces of individuals, societies, religion, and government.

I don't know what I expected but the gripping, gritty, emotional barrage of words left me breathless. When the last chapter ended, I kept wondering about the characters: "What now?" and "How could they?"

If you like character mysteries, this book - full of surprises to the end - may be right up your alley. It's not recommended for the faint of heart or for those offended by foul language or amorality. I gave it 5 stars because I was blown away, not because it's a nice book.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Plain Fame by Sarah Price

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.

This was a sweet read. The book offers light entertainment full of the beginnings of romance. In this first book of several, we meet rock star Alejandro, an Amish woman Amanda, and her family. You'll like them right away.

Plain Fame showcases Amish culture through the eyes of people inside and outside of the group. If you haven't been to Amish country, this will make you feel like you've visited. It may even make you feel nostalgic for earlier times, being surrounded by close-knit communities, and living on the land.

If you have a relaxing afternoon ahead or need a book to read on the train or in the car, make yourself comfortable with a cup of tea and this book.
It's pure enjoyment without having to dodge R-rated scenes, so you can relax in the story. Young adults may enjoy reading it, too. 

Have fun! I did.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

50 More Ways to Soothe Yourself without Food by Susan Albers

The publisher has provided a copy for review.

★★★★ Susan Albers offers complementary and alternative medicine techniques (CAM) that are "easy, economical, and effective." Do you habitually eat / overeat when stressed, needing comfort, depressed, -- or even celebrating?

Albers says such "eating is not a problem about food--it's a problem of self-soothing."

After discussing the benefits and effects of stress-eating, Albers offers practical distractions that include physical, mental, and emotional shifts. The book is very action-oriented. "Try this Instead of eating!"

Many of the suggestions are fun alternatives to grabbing a chocolate bar or another snack. Some are religious practices, particularly from Eastern religions. As a Christian, I'll avoid those. I will tuck into some of the writing, music, and sensory exercises to divert my attention from eating as well as other bad habits. Hmmm, can one of these end my nail-biting during Korean dramas? That may be a different issue entirely.

Enjoy it - with the consciousness that the book includes and espouses religious practices that may conflict with your own traditions.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

God with Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, ed by Greg Pennoyer & Gregory Wolfe

The publisher has provided a copy for review.

★★★★★ In 10 weeks we celebrate Christmas. That blows my mind! I found a great link for Christmas preparation - how to sort out the presents, the hospitality, the baking ... all the chores. And I felt overwhelmed. I'm not sure I'm ready this year (already).

Then this book came across my desk = spiritual preparation for the holy day when we celebrate God's gift to the world, his Son Jesus.

Seven authors from various Christian traditions participate in God with Us: Beth Bevis, Scott Cairns, Emilie Griffin, Richard John Neuhaus, Kathleen Norris, Eugene Peterson, and Luci Shaw. Over the 4 weeks of Advent (Christmas preparation) and Epiphany (the 10 days after Christmas), the readings include:

  • historical events and explanations of customs in the Christian church
  • daily scripture passages for reflection
  • a short meditation
  • a prayer of acknowledgement or petition
Table of Contents
Whether or not you are accustomed to a formal Advent and Epiphany observance, 
whether or not you have a Christian background, 
whether or not you know much about Christmas ...

you'll learn and grow by exploring the rhythm of this season. If you are from a non-Christian tradition, you'll understand why this is one of the most precious times of the year for Christians.

So ...
Breathe in fresh spiritual air. 
Make time for the lovely pauses offered.
And experience the joy and peacefulness that Christmas represents.

I recommend it for those who know a lot about Christmas and those who are curious or exploring Christian traditions.

Friday, October 16, 2015

And It Was Beautiful: Celebrating Life in the Midst of the Long Good-Bye by Kara Tippets

★★★★★ published by David C Cook (advance copy supplied by the publisher)
Kara Tippets had Stage 4 cancer and died of it. That's something you have to know when you start her journal. Or the final good-bye will be too much to bear.

Kara's account of her struggle during treatment and her journey of hope and relinquishment is told with raw attention to detail. There's no pretty-fying how hard the diagnosis and the process are.
But the spiritual mindfulness of Kara's journey, her family's love and company, and her courage and care for others shine through.

If you have been diagnosed with cancer or know someone who has, this book may be for you. It shines a light on the inner life that accompanies the disease - and gives spiritual counsel as part of Kara's journey to good-bye. You may cry - sometimes you may laugh - but you will never forget this new friend who bares her soul so we can understand why life is worth living. When she leaves us in the end, we have to admit that ... it was beautiful.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Little Book of Big Change by Amy Johnson

Advance copy provided by the publisher.

The author writes: "Habit is broadly defined in this book as a repetitive thought or behavior that one wishes one did not experience." I was taken aback by the negative assumption.  Habits can be positive or have many other factors besides avoidance.

The author assumes an impersonal life force in the universe, similar to Buddhism, and humanity as a positive blank slate that does bad things through misunderstanding of their true (peaceful, positive) nature. Urges are merely impersonal and controllable thoughts. And the Addictive Voice is not the addicted person's voice. (Whose is it, if not our own?)

Having raised 4 kids, I'd have to use more than imagination to see them as blank slates with a true perfect nature. They wouldn't have needed a mother if they were inclined to goodness!

Strangely, Johnson does not give a source for the Addictive Voice or other negative internal impulses. Who then is speaking when we are prompted to engage in destructive behavior?

The author advises positive thinking and offers pseudo-science for her methodology. I was not impressed by the examples given or the research presented. (Can the results be scientifically replicated?)

Sadly, seemed like a waste of time to read the book. The advice was to 'think away' anything we just want to get rid of. (Shades of the cultic positivism of Christian Science and Scientology.)

I really looked forward to this book from the description but can't recommend it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

INTRO - 3 bags full of books

Aren't we privileged to be readers? To have so many books available to us?

I always seem to have "3 Bags Full" of books. The blog photo was taken in our cabin - even there we have shelves of reading on hand. Mind you, when we travel to teach or explore, we read electronically. So many books, so little time!

Questions: please tell us as much or little about your own reading habits as you'd like.

  • Are you are reader? (Personal habit, preference, mandated by work, etc.?)
  • Your favorite genre/s?
  • Do you prefer paper or electronic books / magazines / journals, etc.?
  • Favorite spot for reading? Tub? Easy chair? Office? Bed? Or?
  • Books you read over and over?
  • Why you read - information? entertainment? pass the time? relaxation? ... or?
  • What else do you love about reading?
Books reviews coming shortly.  Follow the blog for what the books teach or tell me. Your comments and book critiques always welcome!