Saturday, July 19, 2008

Praying God's Word

Praying God's Word
by Beth Moore

I became interested in this book after taking part in the Breaking Free study by Beth Moore. Each chapter focuses on a different stronghold and how to use verses in the Bible to pray for freedom. Some of the chapters include: Overcoming Idolatry, Overcoming Pride, Overcoming Feelings of Rejection, Overcoming Ongoing Feelings of Guilt, Overcoming Unforgiveness, and Overcoming Food-Related Strongholds. Using scriptures in my prayers and praying God's word is something I want to improve on in my daily prayer life. There is power in prayer and I think it is so important to have God's word in our hearts so we can remember and claim His promises to us.

Here is an example of a prayer from the chapter called "Overcoming Despair."
"I cry to You, Lord, in my trouble. Save me from my distress." Psalm 107:13

Total Money Makeover

The Total Money Makeover
by Dave Ramsey

I am so excited to finish reading this book. It is called The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. My husband received this as a Christmas gift. I knew he wanted it so ordered it for my grandmother to give him. He read through it very quickly. I cannot say enough positive things about this book.

I had heard many things about Dave Ramsey and his book. I really didn't know what all the excitement was about till now I read it for myself! I have always considered us to be pretty responsible and conscious about our spending. We are not frivolous, never have a credit card balance, pay our bills on time, and like to save. This book has brought about a whole new thought process for me now though. It is so exciting to think of the extra money we can have to put into retirement and a college education fund. Then to move beyond that to giving and having fun.
I am pleased to say we are on our way taking the "baby steps" in the book towards a "total money makeover." We established a written budget at the beginning of this month. Since JMP gets paid every two weeks and we're at the end of the first pay period, it is even more exciting to us to see the extra money we have left because we did budget. We had certain categories we used for the envelope system as well. We decided to use some of our savings money to pay off our car loan. We are using the debt "snowball" approach now to work on the truck and then the student loans. It all seems very do-able. At the end of the book Dave gives the reminder of not letting money control you. It is an excellent reminder and something I could all be gone tomorrow and it's all God's anyway.

I've seen what a terrible thing debt can be. It really does create tension and frustrations and takes away peace. Money causes so many issues for so many families. I firmly believe that is not how God intends us to live. We need to be good stewards. I also believe that this book has some key points that can help anyone have financial peace.

If you want to have financial peace I would highly recommend this book to you. If you think you already have financial peace, I think you'd still enjoy reading it. You'll probably learn a lot like I did!

White Chocolate Moments

White Chocolate Moments
by Lori Wick

This is the story of a young girl, Arcie, who loses both her parents in an auto accident. She then goes to live with her wealthy grandfather. She excels in school while her grandfather is wrapped up in his business. Conflict arises when the other granddaughter, Quinn, visits and has to share grandpa for the first time. A turning point for Arcie comes when Quinn comes to live with them and her world drastically changes. This is the story of family troubles, jealousy, and restoration.

I would recommend this book.

Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich

Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich
Genre: adult fiction

There aren’t many things better in this world than a good book; unless, it’s a series of good books. I am a big fan of series. I love the sense of familiarity one gets with the characters, the storylines, and the author’s style.

So when I was browsing recently through a Borders bookstore, I was thrilled to see the latest edition of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, Fearless Fourteen.

Yup, you heard right. This is the 14th book in the series. Before you begin to feel daunted about reading 14 books, don’t. These books are the equivalent of a 30-minute sitcom on television. To call them a quick read would be an understatement.

However, their accessibility does not diminish the joy these books can bring to a lazy, Saturday afternoon or a stolen moment in the bathtub. Allow me to fill in a little of the back-story before I review the latest installment.

The series begins with One for the Money, in which readers meet our unlikely heroine Stephanie Plum. Driven by monetary desperation, Stephanie forces her slimy cousin Vinnie to give her a job as a bounty hunter, a position she has no business taking. During the first couple books, readers cringe constantly at Stephanie’s ineptitude: she gets her gun stolen by a skip, she falls for a wanted man, and she manages to attract every weirdo in the Trenton, New Jersey area, including a couple who want her dead.

After book four, one gets used to the path of disaster Stephanie wages as she doggedly goes after her bounty. However, the plot lines are rather predictable and not as enjoyable as the wacky cast of characters in the series.

Over the series, Evanovich has truly crafted some memorable, if not entirely believable, characters. First, there is Stephanie herself, a stubborn, smart-talking thirty something with an indelible independent streak. Stephanie has managed to attract not one, but two super hot, yet difficult men. First, there is the lean, hard Joe Morelli, bad boy turned decent cop. And then there’s the hot, Latin Ranger, who’s short on words and long on sexual allure.

In addition to the male love interests who keep her flummoxed, Stephanie has collected a troop of interesting sidekicks. The most prominent is her partner, Lula, a former “ho turned file clerk. Lula is a lot of woman, sass included. She is a great friend to Stephanie and they share an honest, often wacky friendship.

There are far too many characters to describe, but trust me, it’s worth it to crack open the series to get to know them.

In Fearless Fourteen, Stephanie experiences her typical trials when she tries to get her latest skip, Loretta, to do the right thing and turn herself in. However, her plans are waylaid when a bank robber kidnaps Loretta. Now, it’s Stephanie’s job to protect Loretta’s son and save Loretta’s life. As is typical with the rest of the series, everything works out well, but not without damage to Stephanie’s current vehicle and self esteem.

I wonder how long Evanovich can maintain the series, given its rather predictable formula. At the end of every book the plot is resolved, yet the everlasting love triangle of Stephanie, Joe, and Ranger is not. It might get a little old eventually, but now it is still highly enjoyable.

Recommended, but for those who need an intellectual recess

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another Collaborator: Introducing Bethany

Bethany, a friend from college, will also now be posting her book reviews. She's already posted lots of them over at her blog, and as she has time she'll re-post those and her new ones.

She filled out a bookworm meme the other day and I thought I'd re-post it here for you.

B is for Bookworm
1. Do you remember how you developed a love for reading? I remember loving books my whole life, as far back as I can remember. I know I was read to as a child, and we went to the library often. I was in a book club and received books in the mail. Reading was always exciting to me.

2. What are some books you read as a child? I had favorites in the book club books. There was one I loved because of the pictures of the little girl. It was a Little Golden Book. I don't know the exact title (Maybe my Mom can help me out). I loved books by Beverly Clearly as well as the Babysitters Club by Ann M. Martin. I enjoyed the Little House series. I don't think I ever finished it all though. It seems like I read the first couple of books multiple times.

3. What is your favorite genre? I enjoy children's literature (the teacher in me) and Christian fiction or Christian romance. Sometimes I like historical fiction, but I have to be in the right mood!

4. Do you have a favorite novel? As a child Charlotte's Web was always my favorite.

5. Where do you usually read? I read in the car when we are driving (anywhere...My husband teases me about always having a book with me, even for short trips). Lately I haven't been reading as much in the car, I guess that is why I haven't finished as many books! I read in bed and in the bath tub while I soak too.

6. When do you usually read? I read before bed and when I'm in my bath. Sometimes I'll read for a few minutes during the day, like when my son is napping.

7. Do you usually have more than one book you are reading at a time? Yes, almost always.

8. Do you read non-fiction in a different way or place than you read fiction? Yes. I usually have my non-fiction books that I read as part of my daily quiet time. I don't read non-fiction while traveling much.

9. Do you buy most of the books you read, or borrow them, or check them out of the library? I borrow them from friends or check them out at the library. My friend and I have our own little book club where we trade out books. It's fun!

10. Do you keep most of the books you buy? If not, what do you do with them? I keep some and share some. I've sold some at a "book barn" too. Non-fiction I like to keep as a reference.

11. If you have children, what are some of the favorite books you have shared with them? Were they some of the same ones you read as a child? We have read many books together, and I love to share my love of books with him. The book I'll Love You Forever is one I have enjoyed sharing with him. Also one we read to him even before he was born was You Are So Special Little One.

12. What are you reading now? I'm reading one book for my continuing ed. credits called 7 Keys to Comprehension. Another one I'm reading is Parents Guide to the Spiritual Growth of Children and a fiction book called A Rush of Wings by Kristen Heitzmann.

13. Do you keep a TBR (To Be Read) list? Yes. When I see a book in a review, in an ad, or as a blog recommendation I add it to my list.

14. What's next? I have a few in my stack that I borrowed from the library. They are just random books that looked interesting. I want to finish the "Annie's People" series by Beverly Lewis.

15. What books would you like to reread? I want to read some of the ones I read in high school and see how they are different to me now that I am older. To Kill a Mockingbird and The Awakening are two.

16. Who are your favorite authors? Karen Kingsbury, Beverly Lewis, Lori Wick

Are you a bookworm also? Answer these fun book questions on your blog!

The Lost Prince

by Frances Hodgson Burnett
ISBN: 0140367543

I really enjoyed this book. It's by the author of The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, and it's very well done. I can see why it's not as popular as the other two books, but I still really enjoyed it immensely. A young boy is raised to be a patriot of his country, and devotes himself to learning constantly. A huge mystery surrounds his homeland because the rightful leader has disappeared, and every generation longs for the return of the Lost Prince.

My favorite idea from this book was that children can be strong and learn and be dedicated just as adults can. The author doesn't insult adults, but she shows how a young preteen can be faithful and courageous in the face of trials.

I highly recommend this book.

The Heavenly Man

by Brother Yun and Paul Hathaway
ISBN: 082546207x
Genre: Non-fiction

This dramatic story details the life of an underground Christian in China who has undergone severe persecution for his faith. It is amazing to read about God's miracles there, as well as the trials that Christians in China face every day. A very intense read.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I Was Told There'd Be Cake

I Was Told There’d Be Cake, Essays by Sloane Crosley
Genre: Essays

To be honest, I bought this book based on the title. Yes, I’m one of those people, those people who browse through Borders and pick books based on the covers. I particularly like the smooth paperbacks. I’m a sucker for bright colors.

To save a little face, I did read one of the essays before I actually bought the book. I also read the back cover and the reviews. The claim is that if one likes David Sedaris (Me talk Pretty One Day), one will enjoy Crosley’s book. Also, the back mentions that she wrote the cover essay for the worst selling edition of Maxim magazine. Sounds like my kind of woman.

Sloan Crosley writes from the perspective of twenty-something, potential intellectual who’s striving to be meaningful in New York City. What’s refreshing about her is that she knows she’s full of crap. She writes about herself with an honesty that has to be difficult to maintain.

Crosley writes about her idyllic upbringing in Westchester, New York, struggling to find her place after graduation, and navigating through the uncomfortable and odd experiences all young women of a certain age endure: the weddings of people you don’t really like anymore.

One of the memorable essays is “You on a Stick”, which tells the story of a random friend from Crosley’s past who asks her to be a part of her wedding. Eventually, the author is promoted to Maid of Honor, without her prior approval incidentally. Crosley agrees to be a part of the wedding mostly based on guilt. The reader has the impression that she is just a bit curious about how this will all turn out, sort of like the over-used car wreck analogy.

Like anything in life that one assumes will be simple, the wedding turns into a big, expensive pain in the bum. To be truthful, this particular essay waxes on quite a bit, but there are little gems in there: Crosley being drafted into making the ribbon hat at the wedding shower, her abdicating her Maid of Honor duty of giving the toast to an ex-gymnast with a lisp who ends up fainting. All good stuff.

Crosley shares other little tidbits with readers, like her collection of ponies from ex-boyfriends. This essay begins the book and confirmed for me that I’d actually want to keep reading. She confesses that she ends up getting rid of the ponies because she’s afraid of how people will judge her for them when she dies. While I don’t have a collection of ponies, I can identify with covering up peccadilloes simply because of the fear of possible humiliation.

There are a couple essays that Crosley could have left out: “Lay Like Broccoli” explains why the author is vegetarian. It’s not particularly funny or interesting. This could just be my bias talking; maybe choosing vegetarianism for some people is interesting, but I’m not enthralled.
For the most part, I enjoyed reading Crosely’s first collection of essays. She comes across as likeable and more importantly, human. She doesn’t take herself too seriously, and she doesn’t seem to expect readers to either. I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

Recommended, but probably just for women

The Sleeper Awakes

by HG Wells
ISBN: 0803298188
Genre: Adult fiction

Written in 1897, this imaginative book explores what would happen to someone who fell asleep for two hundred years and woke up to discover the world has changed (not necessarily for the better), and that he is the owner of the whole world.

It's got action and it's also got philosophy. I enjoyed reading it and thinking about the implications of a society where everyone lived in the city, and everyone was used as unthinking labor.

I would recommend reading the preface and introduction.


A Time of Angels

by Karen Hesse
ISBN: 0786800879
Genre: Children's Chapter Book

Hannah lives in Boston in 1918, and her parents have gone away because of the war. She lives with relations, but then a flu epidemic strikes and everyone gets sick. She is a young artist and we follow her story through trials of many kinds.

This story is hauntingly beautiful with the idea of angels protecting us. Karen Hesse won a Newbery for another of her books, and I like this one even better.


The Wee Christmas Cabin of Carn-Na-Ween

Author: Ruth Sawyer
ISBN: 0763625531
Genre: Children's Picture Book

I wish that I could read aloud with an Irish accent because this story would be excellent that way. As it is it's still a great story, with awesome illustrations about an old lady who has only served others her whole life. Where will she stay for Christmas?

I'm a sucker for lifelike illustrations, and this book fulfills my love for beauty in paintings. I like my picture books to look like art.

I'm excited to read this to my kids and see what we can learn.


The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas

Author: Madeleine L'Engle
ISBN: 0440401054
Genre: Children's Chapter Book

This book is part of Madeleine L'Engles Austin family series. Mother is expecting a baby, and Christmas is coming. Every day they do something special to count down toward Christmas. Vicky is concerned that her mother won't be home for Christmas. What happens when the baby decides to come?

This was a sweet, wholesome book. I enjoyed reading about the traditions of the family. Any child would be concerned about their mother being home for Christmas and the ending is so cute.


The Bee-Man of Orn

ISBN: 0763622397
Genre: children's picture book

This beautifully illustrated book tells a sweet tale of an old man who encounters a sorcerer. The Sorcerer tells him that he can magically help everyone become what they are meant to become. The bee-man replies that he is happy the way he is. The sorcerer convinces him to try his magic, and a wonderful adventure ensues.

I love the illustrations, and the lesson it tells about accepting yourself, and I also like the style in which it was written. A wiggly kid wouldn't sit through the whole thing, but a young one who loves the pictures and is willing to sit for 15 minutes would like this.


Friday, July 04, 2008

A New Collaboration

My old friend Hillary, from high school, has agreed to be a collaborator here at Are You Really Reading Another Book? We had great times being co-editors-in-chief of the high school newspaper.

Hillary's a secondary school teacher in California, and is mommy to a sweet little girl named Emerson. She is super-smart and motivated and I'm glad we are getting to know each other again.

I'm excited because she'll be bringing different ideas and genres to the blog. She and I have different tastes in lots of things, so you'll be getting more of a variety of reviews. I'm also excited because she is an excellent writer, so I don't have to worry about misspellings or improper grammar. :)

Anyway hopefully she'll write something soon. Meanwhile I've got a few books that I've read recently that need writing up.

Happy fourth of July!