Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Early Fall Reads

Thanks for stopping by again to catch up on the mini-reviews.  I hope you find some books you can add to your WishList for the winter!  {to read how this mini-review series got started click here}

Rising Strong by Brene Brown 

I have so much to say about this book that I am at a loss for words trying to fit it into a "mini-review."  Rising Strong is full of story, applicable insights and in depth research.  Dr. Brown, once again, brings years of behavior research and presents it in a way that is life changing when applied to the day in and day out happenings of life. Vulnerability, she says, is the key to rising strong after a fall. Brown walks you through a step process of how to "recon" and "rumble" with conflicts, both internally and externally, and she brings you to the stage she calls "The Revolution" where you see the fall (or conflict) in its truest form.  Please, grab this book and give it a read.  Sit with it, apply it and grab some friends to do the same.
"The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness—even our wholeheartedness—actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences, including the falls."

{ If you are an audio book fan, Brown actually reads her own book.  I always enjoy re-reading (or reading for the first time) when authors are the voice to their own audio book. }

Kiss The Wave by Tara Leigh Cobble

I happened upon Kiss the Wave because many of my friends were posting about it via social media. A few years back I had read Cobble's book Orange Jumpsuit and REALLY enjoyed it. So I added Kiss The Wave to my wishlist and got it for Christmas. It sat in the "I really want to read these books next" pile for almost a year, when in the providence of God, I took it on our 2 month trip to California. Cobble is a wonderful story teller and brings you into her life so that you can see the hand of God moving. This particular book is on the attributes of God, so each chapter she tells a part of her life and in the telling the reader is able to see that attribute of God's character so beautifully.  This book was so timely for me.  If you are in need of seeing God move, longing for Him to still be at work, this is a great book for you.  I ended up reading a chapter a day, gaining courage and hope along the way.
{If you click over to buy this book or add it to your wishlist, I recommend you add Orange Jumpsuit too! You will enjoy both!}

For The Love by Jen Hatmaker

 Oh that Jen, at it again! Hilarious and insightful as ever, Hatmaker delivered to us another fantastic book.  In For The Love, Jen covers topics ranging from raising children to giving yourself a break, from knowing when to say yes to addressing racism and prejudices. The last section of this book was my favorite as she addresses The Church. So good.  Hatmaker got hundreds of women around the globe in on this project.  She uses their quotes and additions through out the book adding an element of creativity and humility to her writings. This book is such great mix of serious and fun!  A wonderful book club choice for a lighter reading month.

Let's All Be Brave by Annie Downs

 As I mentioned in the Kiss The Wave review, this book also got put in that ever growing "I want to read these books next" pile earlier this year.  It also went with me on our trip to California and was a timely read as well.  Let's All Be Brave is a series of stories from Annie's life where she had to rely on God to give her courage for what was to come in her life.  Each chapter is separate from the others in that you can pick it up and read one chapter and not have to know the previous details mentioned in the book.  Almost like little mini-memoir-essays....if that is a thing. :)  I enjoyed this book as a bedside table book.  Each evening winding down to a story about Annie's life brought me courage in a time I needed it most.

Seven Women by Eric Metaxas

 I have to say up front that I am a big Metaxas fan. I have read many of his works and really enjoyed them.  His Socrates In The City podcast and video series are some of our favorites on the inter-webs.
In Seven Women, Metaxas writes a shortened biography on the lives of 7 women in history:  Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Saint Marie of Paris, Corrie Ten Boom, Rosa Parks and Mother Theresa.  Last year I read Metaxas' Seven Men and FLEW threw it.  I couldn't put it down.  I had the same hopes for Seven Women, but it wasn't the same.  While it was intriguing an superbly written, as a female, each chapter left me with so many more questions, hoping to find out more about the lady's lives.  I guess this was probably his intent, as the book made me want to know more and continue learning about these ladies.  But to compare, Seven Women seemed more informative and less story than Seven Men.  The first chapter on Joan of Arc was rough for me but I AM SO GLAD I stuck with it.  The chapters on Saint Marie of Paris, Corrie Ten Boom and Hannah More were beyond worth it.  Lastly, if ever there was a book you would buy or pick up ONLY for the Introduction, this would be it.  The introduction to this book is so well written and I found it profoundly encouraging as a female.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, Mindy Kaling writes a series of memoir like essays on life lessons she has learned through out her childhood and into her life as a writer/actress on The Office.  It probably goes without saying but I should take time to point out that Mindy is hilarious! What I found intriguing about this book was her relationship with her parents.  She portrays them with such dignity and class.  She has  deep respect for them and how she was raised.  If you are a fan of The Office or of Mindy, this would be a fun book for you to read.
{Again, if you are an audio book fan, Kaling actually reads her own book.  I always enjoy re-reading (or reading for the first time) when authors are the voice to their own audio book....she is hilarious.}

Happy Reading, y'all!

Monday, October 26, 2015

End Of Summer Reads

I have been slacking again on keeping up with these mini-reviews. But here goes::
(see THIS post for why I started posting these)

Disciplines of A Godly Woman by Barbra Hughes

On a trip to Kenya earlier this year, a friend recommended this book. I told her I had read a book by that title just a few years out of college and it meant a lot to me. When she showed me the cover I thought it was a totally different book, as I remembered that the one I read was purple. With out checking on the author,  I bought myself a copy. Less than a chapter in I thought it seemed SO familiar so I went searching through our family library for that wonderful purple book with notes in the margins and underlines all over. When I found said purple book, IT WAS THE SAME ONE. The publishing company had come out with a second edition {with a cute trendy cover} by the same author.  I decided to continue to read it but I used my old copy.  It was the dearest thing for my heart to catch a glimpse at what 24-year-old-me thought was worthy of underlining, to see the chapters that pierced my heart all those years ago. It struck me time and time again how much this book must have shaped my life ever so gently back then. I also found it very interesting that the chapters that lacked in underlining and that you could tell had not been revisited were the very chapters my heart needed this time through. Barbra Hugues does a beautiful job of gently spelling out spiritual disciplines and how they specifically relate to us as women. If I had to do a one word review on this book it would be :: timeless.  This is a wonderful book to grab some girlfriends and read through it at the same time. You will have a lot to talk about when you get together to discuss.

The Pastor's Wife by Gloria Furman

This book looks small on the shelf, but it packs a big punch. Gloria Furman is empathetic and kind, full of life and encouragement for Pastor's wives. {while it is specifically for Pastor's wives, I think this book could benefit a much wider audience!} The first part of the book, for me was something I knew I needed to read but wasn't what "caught" me. With her stories, Gloria snagged my heart in the second half and brought healing to some areas I didn't know need healing, and boundaries to the same.  I loved her balance of seriousness and hilarity. Her stories were honest, not all with beautiful resolutions but with earnest, wide open transparency which I found helpful as I navigate life in ministry.

Anything by Jennie Allen

I originally bought this book {and Restless- see below} because I know so many people who have read Jennie's books and have had major life change from reading them. I have been so proud of my friend's as they have stepped into all kinds of ministries as a result of the Lord's work through Jennie's writing. I have to be honest and say that I was reluctant, to say the least, as I did not want to read another blogger's book about a blog she read that made her want to quit her life and move to the other side of the globe and adopt a hundred orphans. **cynical much? sometimes I make myself gag**  I had witnessed a similar response years ago when Wild At Heart came out and all the guys I knew quit school, dumped their girlfriend's and moved to the woods...I kid...kinda.

Anyway, I fell in love with Jennie's heart as soon as I read the first few chapters. I read this books so quickly and repented of my aforementioned cynicism. ;) Jennie's story is compelling and challenging and the prayer throughout it is intriguing.  I am SO glad I read this book.  You will enjoy getting to know Jennie but be prepared for ANYTHING.

Restless by Jennie Allen

As I mentioned above, I was reluctant to buy this book but after reading Anything, it was a fantastic second act! I told my husband that this book is such a gift to the Church. The book itself is a TOOL. Restless is a workbook/tool to help you find out your passions and how God has wired you to serve, in your stage of life, RIGHT NOW. Jennie tells story after story of women and men who have found a passion they have had since childhood and are now applying it toward greater good of the Kingdom. If you are feeling like you were "made for more," this is a fantastic tool to help you find your strengths and loose the restlessness. While this book didn't apply directly to me personally in this phase of life, I am SO thankful I read this book.  I highly recommend it to those who are feeling restless, for sure, but also for those who tend to be giving advise to the restless.

 Switch On Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf

Dr. Caroline Leaf is a brilliant cognitive neuroscientist who has become known widely for her 21-day Brain Detox Plan.  In this book she details the research and highlights the important scientific evidence for each key phase of the detox plan.  Each chapter and EVERY piece of research she lists is backed by scripture, which I found fascinating. In fact she does most of her research by finding scriptures about the mind/brain connection and proving them true with science. This book was very technical and not for the faint of heart. I wouldn't recommend it for bedtime reading. This book will stretch your ideas about the mind and its ability to remember and receive information. It will encourage you as you learn about how the Bible aligns with most of her research. For my Calvinist friends, you may not like what she has to say quite often but I would really enjoy your thoughts.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

HAHAHAHAHAHA!  I can't even think about this book with out chuckling. Tina Fey is hilarious as she lays out her life memoir for all of her fans to read.  I laughed and I thought and I disagreed and I changed my mind. I always enjoy reading about peoples lives, learning where they come from and why they do what they do. Tina chronicles her childhood and gives us a glimpse of her up bringing, her early years at UCB and then at SNL.  I particularly enjoyed the end where she told about 30Rock as Vern and I have laughed A LOT over the years at that show. This was a fun, quick read but definitely not for all audiences.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Latest Reads

I have been meaning to post this blog entry since mid-last month so as to help all of those who have asked me about summer reads but I am just now getting around to writing the mini-reviews on them. {see previous post for why I started posting these reviews!} 

Here you go, in case anyone is still looking for some summer reading!

Sara Hagerty pens an honest account of her deepest longings that seemingly are going unfulfilled. She shares stories from her life, specifically about their infertility and road toward adoption, where time and time again she has had to choose to see the goodness of God in the midst of pain and suffering.  Hagerty is a remarkable story teller. Her writing is poetic and beautiful.

The Pastor's Kid by Barnabas Piper
Barnabas Piper talks candidly about what it is like to grow up as a Pastor's Kid.  He tells stories of his struggle to find his own faith and identity as people in the congregation seemed to place upon him expectations that were unrealistic. Because of his father's teaching has a large reach these expectations followed him into college as well as his adult life.  Piper gives fantastic insight and advice for pastors and their wives on how to help shape & protect their kids. I think this book would be beneficial for youth leaders, close friends of pastor's families, as well as many congregants.

Nobody's Cuter Than You by Melanie Shankle 

This book had me laughing and crying and then calling all my best friends and telling them all the stories!  Melanie Shankle memoirs her life by letting you meet her best friends in all the different seasons of her life. As she tells the stories of how various friendships shaped her life, I found myself reflecting on my own life and the kind of friend I hope to be. This was a wonderful book, a page-turner. (and if you are into audio books, she actually reads her own book so you get to hear alot of her personality through it!)
Scary Close by Donald Miller
In Scary Close, Donald Miller recounts his realization of destructive relational patterns in his life and how he went about working through them. His openness about such personal things draws you in and in a sense offers healing to you, the reader, as well.  He tells the story of how he got help, what therapists, mentors and friends helped him through along the way. Through his telling, I found myself reflective on my own patterns, milling through the advice he received, and finding clarity on some aspects of my own life.  Miller is a renown story teller and this book is no different.  He tells a story so well that some how you can find yourself right in it.

From Tablet To Table by Leonard Sweet
This is a book about a subject that I love: the sacredness of the table. I could go on and on listing quotes and ideas he gives, but you should just pick it up and give it a read instead.  While this is not my favorite book on this topic, Sweet covers A LOT in a small, easy to read book.  I said a few times while I read this book, "He could write an entire book off of each chapter." So needless to say he just skims the surface of why the table is sacred.  This will wet your appetite to read other books on the subject for sure!

Everything Else by Brett Laxton
Laxton had me laughing so hard I snorted, on a plane, next to strangers...yep, that funny. I tried to keep reading this book the rest of the flight but I had all the poor people around me worried about my emotional health because next thing they knew I was bawling.  Everything Else is full of true, honest, heart warming & hilarious stories from Brett's life. A fantastic story teller, Laxton circles each chapter around in such a way that you can relate to your own life.  He shares about his families ups and their downs.  Laxton self published this book as it is his debut in writing.  I HIGHLY recommend you grab a copy and support this longtime friend. You won't regret it.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Not Sure How To Start This Thing Over So I'll Start With Books!!

I realize that I've not blogged in years.

I also realize that unintentionally my blog became a homeschool blog.

While I hope that the Letter's Of The Week posts are helpful and continue to encourage young homeschoolers, I do hope to move this blog forward. I have high hopes to update my profile and the photos and add tabs to separate categories with ease, but for now, if I don't just start, I never will. 

I get asked on the regular for book suggestions and I love that question! I have been posting the books I read onto Instagram for a the last few years and always have emails and text following the posts asking for more details on this book or that. As I prepped to post my latest reads onto Insto, I decided to write a mini-review for each book to help as people decided which books to read next. The more I wrote I realized that, in my social media opinion, this broke all the Insta-rules. SO MANY WORDS. SO MANY WORDS. INSTO IS FOR PICTURES. Just kidding...kinda. 

This led to me remembering that I do, in fact, have a blog AND that blogs are the social medium in which it is appropriate to write "long-mini-reviews." *wink*

So with out further ado... 

What I've Been Reading and My Thoughts For Those Who Care::

Tables In The Wilderness- by Preston Yancey - I read this book at the end of last year and I can not believe I never posted about it. Yancey's writing is honest and beautiful. I was raised with Liturgy, the Church Calendar & Creeds as the basis of my faith and in college landed in a church that had none of these practices so I found Yancey's story intriguing as it is the EXACT opposite of mine. This memoir is full of thought provoking insights and I highly recommend it!!

The Best Yes- by Lysa Terkeurst - This was my 1st read of 2015 and I am so glad it was. Lysa gives practical advice on how to approach decisions where both options seem great.  She shares stories about how to decide if you have enough time to say yes to obligations and gives some fantastic tools for the reader to take away. She coaches you and reminds you that "no" is not a bad word but in fact is a very healthy one. This is an easy, practical read.

The Pearl- by John Steinbeck - I feel like anytime you write a review for Steinbeck all you need to say is, "Steinbeck." As with most all Steinbeck works, this is a thoughtful parable that you can find yourself in most all the characters. This is a short book, clocking in under 100 pages, but is full of mystery, love & terror with little resolve. I mean, it definitely resolves, but not in your heart...for a long time at least.

Yes Please!- by Amy Poehler - This book is by Amy Poehler so it goes with out saying that well over 40% of the book is COMPLETELY inappropriate in every way (so much so that I am sorta embarrassed to be posting about it). BUT the other 60% is HILARIOUS and doubly insightful. I laughed so much. I love learning from and listening to friends with a totally different worldview than my own and that is how I felt as I read "Yes Please!". While I'd be very sheepish to recommended this book because of it's content, I did really enjoyed her balance of candor and privacy. If you choose to read this book and it is at all possible (and children are not in ear shot!! ) I recommend the audio of this book on Audible.com. Amy is actually the reader along with Seth Myers and they add A LOT to it as they banter back and forth. They are hilarious. 

Jesus Feminist- by Sarah Bessey - I didn't know what I would think about this book before I read it, so I tried to go in with an open mind. I was afraid, as the book had been accused of, that it would be another hate book toward patriarchal leadership. What I found was quite the opposite. Bessey, kindly shares her story of being raised in an egalitarian, Jesus loving home in Canada, her move to southern United States and the cultural differences that ensued. She makes a strong and equally humble case for the Bible's teaching on women, both in the home and in the church setting.  I never once sensed a harshness or manipulating tone, just her story and Biblical evidence on which she had landed. I was thrilled as I entered the back portion of her book. She lays out the upside down nature of Jesus's teaching on the Kingdom and her final chapters are filled with encouragement to all readers, egalitarian and complementarian alike.  

Girl At The End Of The World - by Elizabeth Esther -  Y'all. I am obsessed. I mean, not really but I am having a hard time not thinking about this book.  I found myself googling facts and being more disturbed by the seemingly true nature of it.  I read this book in 2 days. I was pretty much useless to my family due to lack of sleep but I just couldn't put it down. This is a memoir about a girl who was raised in a fundamentalist cult and her life's pursuit to get out of it. The author, who is telling her own story, lets you in on the mindset of a child who endures abuse in the name of God, love and sacrifice. I'm really going to need some of my friends to read this in the next day or two so we can talk about...okay? okay. Thanks!

Hope these reviews are helpful!!

Happy Reading!