Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Banned Books Week

Did you know that this is banned books week? I'm against banning books.

I feel that I should be free to read whatever I choose and so should you. That being said, I feel that children are to be treasured and protected, so discretion should be used when forming a collection for a children's library or a section for children in a bookstore.

Some titles on the banned books list, might not be my choice to read, but I alone should make that decision. As a matter of fact, as I read down the list of book titles that have been banned, although there are some I choose not to read, there are plenty I've read and enjoyed. So read away; celebrate your Freedom to Read!

How do you feel about banning books?

Monday, September 29, 2008

We Have A Winner! New Giveaway!

The winner of Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts is: Susan at Sweetpea Sue's Cottage.

Susan said,
"I would love to win the book-I am part Creek-Muscogee Indian and the name Harjo is actually a Creek Word (means Crazy basically). So my interest is piqued."

Congratulations, Susan! I've emailed you that I need your mailing address.

If Susan does not respond within the next three days, another winner will be chosen and notified.
To those who entered but did not win, perhaps you'll win the next book giveaway: Altar Call, a frothy, fun read by Hope Lyda. You can read my review here.

This book will go to a blogger who lives within the US. To those living outside of the United States, I'm sorry, but postage is too steep. It comes out of my pocket, and they're not too deep.

I must have a way of contacting you, and I hate to have to search. So be sure to leave your email address in code on the comment: you[at]yourmail[dot]com

I'll close the comments 6 PM EST October 20th and pick the winner. I will contact the winner via email for their snail mail address. The winner will have three days to respond. If I do not hear from them within three days, I will select another winner.

If you are interested, tell me why in a comment on this post.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts - Giveaway

In 1972, the town of DeClare, Oklahoma, was consumed by the terrifying murder of Gaylene Harjo and the disappearance of her baby, Nicky Jack. When the child's pajama bottoms were found on the banks of Willow Creek, everyone feared Nicky Jack was dead, although his body was never found. Nearly thirty years later, Nicky Jack mysteriously returns to DeClare. His sudden reappearance will stun the people of DeClare and stir up long-buried emotions and memories. But what Nicky Jack discovers among the people who remember the night he vanished is far more than he, or anyone, bargains for. Piece by piece emerges a story of dashed hopes, desperate love, and a shocking act with repercussions that will cry out for justice...and redemption.

My Review:
This is my first experience with Billie Letts, but it will not be my last. She tells a compelling story, with characters who live after the final page is turned. Mark or Nicky Jack, as he was named at birth, finds more than he hoped for when he travels to DeClare, Oklahoma, searching for the mother who birthed him.

The town is astir as they find out that Nicky Jack is alive. When the story leaks, reporters camp out and trail him. I can tell no more without giving away things the reader must discover for himself.

If I could wish for anything, it would be that the profanity not be included.

NOTE: In connection with BBAW, I am giving this book away to a blogger who lives within the US. To those outside the United States, I'm sorry, but postage is too steep. I must have a way of contacting you, so be sure to leave your email address in code: you[at]yourmail[dot]com

I'll close the comments 7 PM EST September 28th and pick the winner. I will contact the winner via email for their snail mail address. The winner will have three days to respond. If I do not hear from them within three days, I will select another winner.

If you are interested, tell me why in a comment on this post.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Firm Place to Stand by Marja Bergen

A Firm Place to Stand is a must-read for Christians who struggle with mental health challenges and the faith communities who minister to them.

For too long, society has misunderstood and feared individuals who live with mood disorders. This book dispels the lingering stigma attached to mental health conditions and encourages people to lovingly welcome the sufferers into congregations by understanding them better and supporting them in practical ways.

Most importantly, for the sufferers themselves, the book shows that it is possible to have a mental disorder yet be close to God and derive strong support from a growing relationship with Christ.

In her sincere and candid style, Marja Bergen reflects on her forty-two years with bipolar disorder, showing how faith in God can help a person with a serious illness turn weakness into strength. She describes how God transformed her from an insecure, withdrawn person into a leader, an activist, and the founder of Living Room, the growing Christian support group for people with mood disorders.

My Review:
A former pastor of mine stood in the pulpit and announced that his daughter had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder; I'd never heard of it before. When presented with a review copy of a book written for Christians by someone living with the illness, my curiosity got the better of me, and I had to read it. Although a bit repetitive, I'm glad to have read it. Bergen writes:

The feeling of shame that comes with a diagnosis of mental illness is the biggest reason the diagnosis is so difficult to accept. The stigma is the most unjust and regrettable aspect of living with these diseases. Many suffer in silence, feeling forced to keep their illness secret.

I have learned what the symptoms of the disease look like and how the author has learned to live her life with the steady hand of a good psychiatrist, medication, and the saving Grace of God.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - That Was Different

What was the most unusual book you ever read? Either because the book itself was completely from out in left field somewhere, or was a genre you never read, or was the only book available on a long flight… whatever? What (not counting school textbooks, though literature read for classes counts) was furthest outside your usual comfort zone/familiar territory?

And, did you like it? Did it stretch your boundaries? Did you shut it with a shudder the instant you were done? Did it make you think? Have nightmares? Kick off a new obsession?
I once read one in a Latin American Literature class that was so weird I had to reread it three times just to begin to understand it. Only after I realized that everyone in the book was dead, did it make a teeny bit of sense. I have long since forgotten the title, and no, I did not like it.

Years ago, I read The Novelist by Angela Hunt--an amazing read, and one of my all-time favorites! It's a story-within-a-story. (I must admit, I'm always intrigued by that. For that reason, Hamlet's play-within-a-play is one of my favorite Shakespearian plays.)

The frame story is that of a successful novelist, with a young, headstrong son, who teaches a class on writing and is confronted by one of her students who challenges her to write from her heart rather than use her standard formula. She meets the challenge by writing an allegory which is the story within. Jordan is the protagonist.
From Publishers Weekly:
As she writes, her desire to change her 21-year-old son Zachary's chaotic life as a suicidal addict becomes an impetus for a story she wants to communicate about life, loss and second chances (told alongside mother and son's actual plight). God, she believes, is the ultimate writer, complete with an outline for one's life story—yet even the characters in the hands of a novelist have choices. Jordan's reality and fiction alternate and finally converge as Hunt spins her tale, with flashbacks to Zachary's innocent childhood that are guaranteed to wring tears from even the hardest-hearted reader.
As the stories unfold, parallels are drawn between real and fantasy. The twists and turns kept me reading long past tired, watery eyes. I still reflect on it. This is one I would recommend to any reader!

Check out the BOOK GIVEAWAY! I'm giving away a copy of Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Altar Call by Hope Lyda

As her friend Sadie moves closer to the altar, Mari Hamilton makes a U-turn to help her family's youth shelter back in Washington, D.C. leaving behind boyfriend Beau, and gal pals Caitland and Angelica (who predict this decision is socially courageous or crazy). But with frequent-flyer miles and determination, Mari keeps her long-distance relationship and friendships alive and is certain she has pulled off the impossible--made the status of "single woman living with parents" advantageous.

But when her past and present collide, this maid-of-honor must discover what she is made of. Will Mari take her own trip down the aisle, or will she risk it all? As she moves forward in faith, will she finally trust the heart God gives her?

My Review:

I spotted this book on a sale table and bought it based on the cover and the blurb on the back (typed above for your perusal).

I had not read the first book of this series, Hip to Be Square, but that did not hinder me from jumping into this chick-lit. I particularly enjoyed the snappy dialogue and the way the author played with words. Mari, the protagonist, keeps a list of "least-favorite words." That's something that I might want to begin! There's "poetry pizza night" and a "phone closet." Mari mentions the "disease to please" that I have--as do most women.

I appreciate a nice romance like this one, as a change of pace. I recommend it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fall Into Reading: 2008 - Time to Read!

This is my first time to participate in the Fall Into Reading challenge hosted by Katrina at Callipider Days. The plan is to make a list of books I plan to read this Fall and share my experience. Join along if you wish!

Here's my list. If you see a title that's been crossed off, it means that I have finished reading that title. Look for the review by clicking on the title or the author's name in my sidebar.

1. Altar Call by Hope Lyda (reading now)
2. Rain Song by Alice Wisler
3. Out Of Her Hands by Megan DiMaria
4. Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin
5. One Holy Night by J. M. Hochstetler
6. White Christmas Pie by Wanda E. Brunstetter
7. The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips by Stephne Baldwin/Mark Tabb
8. Beloved Captive by Kathleen Y’Barbo
9. Rhapsody in Red by Donn Taylor
10. The Rook by Steven James
11. The Jewel of Gresham Green by Lawana Blackwell
12. The Outsider by Ann H. Gabhart
13. A Firm Place to Stand by Marja Bergen
14. Pure by Rebecca St. James
15. The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters by Lorraine Lopez
16. by george by Wesley Stace
17. Never Surrender by LTG (Ret.) William G. Boykin
18. Move On, Move Up by Paula White
19. Arsenic Soup For Lovers: When Chicken Soup Doesn't Work by Georgia Post
20. The Good Person Guidebook by Richard Bayer, Ph.D
21. Key West: A Comprehensive Guide to Florida's Southernmost City by Sarah Goodwin-Nguyen
22. Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby
23. Alphine Americas Photography by Olaf Soot; Essays by Don Mellor
24. What You Should Know About Politics by Jessamyn Conrad
25. In the Beginning: Art of Genesis by Chuck Fischer
26. Queen Vernita's Visitors by Dawn Menge
27. Cole Family Christmas by Jennifer Liu Bryan
28. Crafting Jewish by Rivky Koenig
29. Thou Shalt Not Whine: What We Whine About. Why We Do It and How to Stop! by January Jones
30. Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God by Mark Batterson
31. Lady Flatterley by Linda Wagner
32. Sunset by Karen Kingsbury
33. Flirting with Forty by Jane Porter
34. For the Love of St. Nick by Garasamo Maccagnone
35. Christmas Around the World by Chuck Fischer
36. The Tutu Ballet by Sally O. Lee
37. One Perfect Day by Lauraine Snelling
38. Dark Pursuit by Brandilyn Collins
39. Flirting with Forty by Jane Porter
40. Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn
41. Frasier Island by Susan Page Davis
42. The Little Giant of Aberdeen County bt Tiffany Baker

I hope I haven't bitten off more than I can chew/digest/read!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How To Hear from God by Joyce Meyer

In the hustle and bustle of today's busy world, sometimes it's hard enough to hear yourself think, much less to take a minute to stop and listen for the voice of God. But learning to recognize God's voice and the many ways in which he delivers his message is vital toward following his plan. In How to Hear from God, Joyce Meyer reveals how listeners can develop a more tender conscience and attentive ear when it comes to really hearing what God is saying.

My Review:
Divided into two sections: Learning to Listen and Learning to Obey, with discussions questions at the end of each of the fourteen chapters, makes this book a good source for an individual devotional or for a group Bible study. The author uses tons of scripture and real life situations to make her points. This is a good one for any fan of Joyce Meyer.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Healing Choice: How to Move Beyond Betrayal by Brenda Stoeker, Susan Allen

In the wake of betrayed intimacy, you may feel nauseated, angry, humiliated, desperate. Why am I not enough for him? Can our marriage be saved–and do I even want to try? Will this unbearable ache ever go away? Amid the devastation that follows a spouse’s sexual disloyalty, you need to know that you are not alone. God walks alongside you, offering comfort and a promise to transform the pain of the present into hope for the future.

In addition, there is a community of women who know firsthand the agony caused by a husband’s sexual compromises and who offer the compassion, strength, and biblical wisdom you need to make healthy decisions for yourself and your family. The Healing Choice reveals the hope-filled stories of two such women, authors Brenda Stoeker and Susan Allen, who draw on their own experiences and those of many others to offer step-by-step advice for rediscovering intimacy with God and finding the support you need to move toward genuine spiritual and emotional restoration. Their down-to-earth insights light the path toward help and healing for every woman who longs to move beyond the pain of broken trust and experience God’s promise of hope.

My Review:
The book is divided into two parts. The first part is Brenda's story, the traumatizing experience and subsequent death of her mother from mesothelioma--lung cancer. As a Christian, she felt that God had betrayed and abandoned her. She felt out of control and makes the case that her suffering parallels that of a woman whose wandering husband has betrayed and abandoned her.

The second part of the book is Susan's Unintended Journey. She tells her experiences of the heartbreak of being married to a man trapped in pornography addiction. Adultery and abuse are touched on as well. The topics are grim. As Susan writes, "It is a certainty that you aren't reading this book for your pleasure." Both sections of the book are filled with Bible verses to help direct a path back to God if the healing choice is made, and that's the key--it is a choice.

I feel that the first half of the book is the weaker half. The second half begins to tackle the problems. This book would be of help to women in any of these circumstances. A workbook is sold as a companion.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Johnny Big Ears, the Feel-Good Friend by John Paul Padilla

Johnny Big Ears is just like every other five-year-old child, but when he starts his first day of kindergarten, children begin to tease him because of his enormously large ears. Follow Johnny as he faces the challenges that being different presents. How will Johnny react to being teased? Find out why Johnny turns out to be the winner in this endearing, thoughtful book that addresses typical childhood bullying and offers children advice on how to deal with teasing.

My Review:
It's exciting to experience a children's book about a child being different and bullied with the emphasis on the child feeling special rather than rejected. The premise is a good one. However, there are some problems.

Children do not learn to spell words in kindergarten. The target audience is ages 6-8, and the story may be a stretch for that group. There are eight pages of text with no illustrations. Johnny looks closer to a ten-year-old than a five--year-old. When teased by boys who follow him, Johnny reacts in a manner way too mature for a five-year-old. Most adults are not so wise.

Another good point is the naming of the characters. Mrs. Wrinkles, is the teacher. I would have liked to see a smile on her face. Charlie Freckles is a boy who becomes Johnny's friend. More good points are the themes: that everyone has differences in appearance that make them unique, and fighting and name calling are not the only solutions to bullying.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

An angry rebel, John dropped out of school and enlisted in the Army, not knowing what else to do with his life--until he meets the girl of his dreams, Savannah. Their mutual attraction quickly grows into the kind of love that leaves Savannah waiting for John to finish his tour of duty, and John wanting to settle down with the woman who has captured his heart. But 9/11 changes everything. John feels it is his duty to re-enlist. And sadly, the long separation finds Savannah falling in love with someone else. "Dear John," the letter read...and with those two words, a heart was broken and two lives were changed forever. Returning home, John must come to grips with the fact that Savannah, now married, is still his true love—and face the hardest decision of his life.

My Review:
No doubt about it. Nicholas Sparks is a good storyteller. From the first page, I want to be left alone to read undisturbed. The story moves along from scene to scene in a smooth fashion.

"What does it mean to truly love another?" The answer is found in this a love story about a man's life, but this is not an expected romance between a man and a woman. It's easy to see that Savannah and John are meant for each other; however, love goes beyond romance. The relationship between John and his father is also closely examined. The friendship of John and Tony, his army buddy, is believable.

The story takes place in North Carolina and spans several years, including the 9/11 attack. Autism and Asperger's conditions are written about with great care, giving me a bit of an education. The pain of old age and illness are included. The dialogue is well written; the characters are realistic.

Although there is the gratuitous sex scene, I liked this book. This book should be read!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fireworks by Elizabeth White

Following a devastating explosion, insurance investigator Susannah Tait, a former ATF Agent, is sent to investigate pyrotechnics expert Quinn Baldwin. Susannah is sure someone deliberately set the deadly charge--and it looks like Quinn is the culprit. Can Quinn and Susannah overcome distrust—and an enemy working behind the scenes—to find the truth?

With her faithful black Lab Monty, she moves to the charming backwater city of Mobile, Alabama to uncover the truth. But this world-traveled military brat with a string of letters behind her name finds herself wholly unprepared to navigate the cultural quagmires of the Deep South.

Captivated by the warmth and joy of her new circle of friends, Susannah struggles to keep from falling for a subject who refuses to be anything but a man of integrity, compassion, and lethal Southern charm. Fireworks offers a glimpse into heart of the South and a cynical young woman’s first encounter with Christ-like love.

My Review:
This enjoyable book proved a quick read. The straightforward way the story is laid out allows the reader to zip through it in no time. I learned a bit about pyrotechnics--fireworks--how they're assembled. I feel that's a bonus!

The character of Susannah is a bit of a stretch. She's presented as a novice to church attendance, yet she has a nagging brother who is a long-time believer, married to a believer. I feel that even though she may never have attended a church, she would have heard more of the language of church people from her brother and sister-in-law. In spite of that, I liked Susannah. In fact, I liked Quinn too, the super shy thirty-year-old bachelor who is immediately attracted to the Yankee. Another interesting character is the city of Mobile, AL. Although I've never visited, I now feel familiar with the city. The landlady, Elva Kay, makes a hummingbird cake that sounds so yummy, I actually Goggled it and found the recipe!

There are just enough hints in the plot for this reader to figure out the twist, which I suppose means its not twisted enough. The ending is drawn out a bit, but some will appreciate the final fireworks display.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

ABC's of Lighthearted Living...My Rx by Dr. Maggie Mears

Maggie Mears shows us how to achieve a higher level of happiness without ever popping a single pill. What's her prescription?

Twenty-six alphabetically arranged proven principles leave you laughing, inspired, confident and more connected-to your inner feelings and to those around you. Packed with moving stories of those who have overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve great joy-stories gathered from Dr. Mears'

With thirty-plus years as a physician of Internal Medicine, Dr, Mears offers a profound message of hope for anyone struggling to find fulfillment in a challenging world. In this alphabet, A is for Attitude and V is for Vacation. Dr. Mears' ruminations on such apparently simple topics reveal the immense power of transformation inherent in all of us.

My Review:
This is the best way for adults to recite the ABCs. An internist talks to grown-ups about health care issues in a frothy, lighthearted, and encouraging manner. Following the good doctor's advice surely will add life to anyone's years. This easy-to-read manual could be zipped through in no time, or better yet, slowly digested one letter of the alphabet for every day. I think this would make an excellent gift for anyone with a chronic illness.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Choice by Nicholas Sparks

Travis Parker has everything a man could want: a good job, loyal friends, even a waterfront home in small-town North Carolina. In full pursuit of the good life -- boating, swimming, and regular barbecues with his good-natured buddies -- he holds the vague conviction that a serious relationship with a woman would only cramp his style. That is, until Gabby Holland moves in next door. Despite his attempts to be neighborly, the appealing redhead seems to have a chip on her shoulder about him...and the presence of her longtime boyfriend doesn't help. Despite himself, Travis can't stop trying to ingratiate himself with his new neighbor, and his persistent efforts lead them both to the doorstep of a journey that neither could have foreseen. Spanning the eventful years of young love, marriage and family, The Choice ultimately confronts us with the most heart wrenching question of all: how far would you go to keep the hope of love alive?

My Review:
I enjoyed this love story. This is what Nicholas Sparks does best--romance. The characters were believable; in fact, I would enjoy spending time with Travis, Gabby, Stephanie, and the gang. I'd enjoy petting the two dogs too. When Travis is giving Moby a bath after the dog rolls in something smelly, I related; I've been there!

There is one R-rated scene which is unnecessary.

The story moves along in a fairly predictable manner, until the end. Then comes a bit of a twist, and a too-quick ending which tries the imagination. I cannot say more without spoiling it for you. Get a copy and read it for yourself.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Pope John Paul II: An Intimate Life by Caroline Pigozzi

This behind-the-scenes perspective offers a unique opportunity to experience Pope John Paul II's character and reign, as well as a look at the inner workings of the Vatican. French journalist Caroline Pigozzi discovered a man both awe-inspiring and surprisingly warm and generous.

Passionately prayerful and unimpressed by pomp and celebrity, John Paul II was the most-traveled and perhaps the most popular of the popes to date: a people's pope. Pigozzi reveals the intimate details of his daily life, his sometimes surprising philosophies, his revolutionary desire for accessibility to ordinary people, and his relentless drive to unify the church. This book unveils, in a friendly and richly informative way, a close-up of the man whose "eyes radiated infinite goodness" and whose life touched so many.

My Review:
First off, in the interest of fair play, I must state that I am not Catholic; I know little of Karol Wojtyla, the man described as the People's Pope, the first non-Italian Pontiff since 1522. However, after reading his biography, I have learned much.

The biography contains interesting tidbits such as how the statues of the Pope in Poland have the Holy Father's cassock turned up on the right as a symbol that the wind blows from west to east to denote that he would always remember his Polish roots.

Writing in first person, the author, a journalist for Paris Match, who became a member of the inner circle, shares information gathered from her numerous audiences with the Pope, extensive interviews with him and his closest friends, sermons she witnessed, the times she shared meals with him as an invited guest, the trips to many countries where she tagged along, and the special occasions where her daughters meet him. A bit nervous, they call him "Very Holy Father."

At first, I enjoyed it, but then it seems to bog down with so many facts and details. Perhaps it seems that way to me because I don't venerate the Pope. However, I think that this would be an interesting book for any Catholic to own and read.