New on the Stack–January Reads

One of my favorite blogs is The Deliberate Reader. I’ve added to my TBR list from her plus some of my favorite reads have come from her suggestions. Her blog is short and sweet and her reviews are honest and to the point. Easy for a busy person like me.

I love to read. I read fiction for relaxation and enjoyment. Non-fiction I read to grow in my walk with the Lord. Sheila at The Deliberate Reader has started a new monthly link up “New on the Stack.” Since I read 99% of my books from Kindle or other reading apps, my stack is “virtual.” I’m going to follow her lead and do a monthly listing of books I have read that previous month or am in the process of reading. If you’d like to get more ideas for books to consider for yourself, go to her blog and see what she and others have linked up.

For January:

Fiction

In Plain Sight and On the Run by Lorena McCourtney

I can’t remember how I found out about this Ivy Malone series, but I’m loving it. These two books are the second and third in the series. The first is Invisible. I typically don’t read murder mysteries, but these are cute and Ivy is the main part of the book, not the murders that seem to stumble into her life.

Non-fiction

Keep It Shut by Karen Ehman

I’m reading this to participate in the Proverbs 31 Book Study on-line. But, needless to say, I need it!

AHA by Kyle Idleman

Reading this because our small group is doing this for our current study. We’re watching the videos during our Wednesday evening times together.

If I Had Lunch with C.S. Lewis by Alister McGrath

This one, also, I can’t remember where I heard about it. I’m slowly going through it. May take several months to finish it, so you may see it again on this list.

Great Lives: Moses: A Man of Selfless Dedication by Charles R. Swindoll

Reading this to go along with our study of Moses in Bible Study Fellowship. This one, too, will take me several months to finish. I started it in the fall.

There you go. Any of these interest you? Have you read any books lately you’d like to recommend? Comment below if you have. I’m always looking to add to my ever-growing TBR list. And, please, go check out the Deliberate Reader’s post.

Book Review: The Lost Art of Mixing

Product DetailsThis is the third book I’ve read by Erica Bauermeister. It is my third favorite of her books. My favorite is Joy for Beginners, next The School of Essential Ingredients. The Lost Art of Mixing has some of the same characters as School and I liked that. I enjoy reading how characters have continued on after the end of a book I’ve enjoyed.

Erica Bauermeister seems to like to have each chapter feature a certain character and continue her plot thread through those characters. It worked in the previous two books, but for this book, I found it to be a disjointed approach. I felt as if I was reading a compilation of short stories with a similar, though minor, thread. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a bad story, just not as good as the ones of hers I’ve read before. You, also, don’t have to have read The School of Essential Ingredients to understand what is happening in The Lost Art of Mixing.

If you only have time to read one of Ms. Bauermeister’s books, then I’d recommend Joy for Beginners. It is a wonderful book. You can read my little write-up about it here.

The book’s description from Amazon (since I couldn’t quite figure out how to explain it):

Lillian and her restaurant have a way of drawing people together. There’s Al, the accountant who finds meaning in numbers and ritual; Chloe, a budding chef who hasn’t learned to trust after heartbreak; Finnegan, quiet and steady as a tree, who can disappear into the background despite his massive height; Louise, Al’s wife, whose anger simmers just below the boiling point; and Isabelle, whose memories are slowly slipping from her grasp. And there’s Lillian herself, whose life has taken a turn she didn’t expect. . . .
Their lives collide and mix with those around them, sometimes joining in effortless connections, at other times sifting together and separating again, creating a family that is chosen, not given.

For my 2013 reading goal, I am keeping up with one fiction book per month. I am also linking up with the Deliberate Reader for her 2013 Reading Challenge.

January’s read–The Quarryman’s Wife

February’s read–Better Than Chocolate

Those are my thoughts for today.

Fiction Review: Better Than Chocolate

Samantha Sterling runs Sweet Dreams Chocolate Company, started by her great-grandmother. Now the company is having financial problems because her mother’s husband didn’t manage it well. Waldo has died and Samantha’s mother is blind to the destruction he has caused. How is Samantha supposed to save the company that has been in her family for generations? And to top it all off, the bank manager handling her loan is an ogre, or is he?

PictureBetter Than Chocolate by Sheila Roberts is a fun read. It mixes family drama with a little unrequited romance. The setting is a small town in Washington state. The author’s writing is easy to read. She provides just enough back-story to let us in on the family dynamics and she doesn’t add too many secondary plots (a pet-peeve of mine). She starts each chapter with a quote from one of Muriel’s (the mother, a moderately successful author) books, which is a fun addition.

The main character, Samantha, is perfect as the oldest sister of three. I could easily picture the sisters’ realtionships with each other. I also could easily understand the relationship their mother had with each of them and how she was probably a mildly dysfunctional mother when they were younger, even though that is never brought up in the book.

I thoroughly enjoyed Better Than Chocolate. I was rooting for the Sterling sisters to make their loan payment and for Samantha to be able to keep her family’s company running. Though it is obvious what will happen in the romance department between her and bank manager, Blake, it still was fun to ride the ride with them.

I recommend Better Than Chocolate if you’d like an easy, fun read. Roberts has two other books in this series and one more coming out in March. I may just have to read them all.

So, far, I am keeping up with my 2013 fiction reading challenge of one fiction book per month.

January’s read–The Quarryman’s Wife

I am linking up with The Deliberate Reader for her 2013 Reading Challenge Check-in.

Those are my thoughts for today.

2013 Reading Challenge–my non-fiction check-in

Initially for my non-fiction books, I was going to read some classics. There was a list put out in 2000 of the top 100 Christian books of the previous century. I’ve long wanted to wade through that list and that was my intent for 2013.

But, as with most resolutions, I changed my mind. As I was looking at my e-reader and my bookshelves, I realized I had quite a few great non-fiction selections right at my finger tips. No need to go to the public library or our library at church or try to find the book on-line. So, instead of the classics, I am going to read what I already have purchased.

First up is Everything by Mary DeMuth. As I previously stated in my earlier post, I didn’t intend to read both my fiction and non-fiction books in January by the same author. It just happened.

I enjoyed and got a lot more out of Everything than I did The Quarryman’s Wife (my fiction selection).

1400203988rgbDeMuth states her reason for this book: “As I’ve pondered my journey and mined the pathways of Everything Christians—those who learned the secret of giving Him every part of their lives—I’ve realized something–Some folks grow while others stagnate. Why? What causes growthlessness? What, on the other hand, makes people more Jesusy—more like Him? My exploration of the whys behind that kind of radical change forms the framework of this book.” And explores it she does. She looks at three areas of our liveswhere we need to give God Everything in order to live the life He has for us: (1) Head–What we think; (2) Heart–Who we are; (3) Hands–How we live

DeMuth’s basic question throughout the book is “What accounts for maturity, the hallmark of growth? Why do some languish and while others thrive?” And a good question it is. Not only when looking at other believers, but at ourselves, too. Why do we thrive and grow like a weed in our faith sometimes and why during other times are we stagnant like a scummy pond?

DeMuth tells us that what we think about God matters; how we allow Him to reign in our hearts matters; and how we obey Him in the moment matters.

She covers each of the three areas very well. My copy has a lot of highlighting in it–my test of a book that is worth reading and can offer lessons to be learned. It did take me awhile to get through it. Don’t know why, probably life getting in the way, but you might want to allow some time for reading Everything so that you can get the most out of it and take time to digest what DeMuth is teaching.

One of my favorite lines in the book:

We may live ordinary lives, but we are indwelt by an extraordinary God.

I’m participating in the Deliberate Reader’s 2013 reading challenge. I’ve linked up there. If you’d like to join in on the challenge, go here.

Those are my thoughts for today.

2013 Reading Challenge–February check-in

2013 Reading Challenge Progress

For 2013, my goal was to read one fiction and one non-fiction book each month. For January, I met my goal for one fiction book; however, I am still reading my non-fiction book so will have to write a review of that one later in the month.

I did not intentionally plan to read both my fiction and non-fiction books by the same author, but it just happened. Both of them are by Mary DeMuth, a blogger that I follow. For my fiction read of the month, I read her first novel, The Quarryman’s Wife. For my non-fiction choice, I read her newest submission Everything.

 

I started The Quarryman’s Wife sometime in the fall. At that time, it didn’t keep my attention. After Christmas, when I was trying to find something to read, I ran across this book on my e-reader and decided to give it another try. This is a memoir based on DeMuth’s great-grandmother. Just like the main character, Augusta, DeMuth’s great-grandmother lost her husband and had to raise her children as a widow.

The time-frame for the novel is the depression. The setting is Ohio. However, I found myself losing track of where the family lived and what time period we were in. Now, that might be a good thing, making the novel universal. But, I found it to be distracting as I was constantly trying to remember when and where the characters were placed.

I, also, had a hard time being sympathetic to Augusta. I don’t think DeMuth expressed her grief well enough for me to empathize. I also had a hard time remembering the six children and their birth order. I did like the youngest son John-John. His character seemed to be the most fleshed out. I was also taken with the secondary character of Olya who was from the Ukraine and wanted to get her family here to the United States. I found myself wanting to know more about Olya and her husband (who was hurt in the same quarry accident which killed Augusta’s husband) and hoping her family could come to the U.S.

The novel was a little long for me. I felt like things could have been wrapped up sooner and that all of the side stories with each of the children caused some disconnect with the main story, which was how Augusta was dealing with her grief and trying to raise six children on her own. As I said before, I didn’t find much empathy with her maybe because her story just didn’t seem to be emphasized enough for being the main character.

DeMuth, herself, says on her web site, that she probably won’t write an historical fiction novel again. She has several other novels she has written since The Quarryman’s Wife. I don’t know if I’ll try them or not.

I am enjoying Everything, my non-fiction read and also by DeMuth, so maybe that is her strength.

For February’s fiction book, I am reading Better Than Chocolate by Sheila Roberts. Check back at the beginning of March to see how I like that one (so far, better than The Quarryman’s Wife).

Those are my thoughts for today.

Fully Alive by Ken Davis: A book review

I have been given the privilege of being a part of Ken Davis’ Fully Alive book launch team. It has been fun connecting with people from around the globe to discuss the book and how we are each learning to live Fully Alive. I previously wrote about the impact his Fully Alive movie had on me, now I delve into the book.

Today, I am going to review the book. Then, in the upcoming days, I will be telling about how I am taking steps to make myself Fully Alive. There are four areas in the book that Ken focuses on – physical, mental, social & spiritual. I will focus on those areas also (last Friday, I covered my physical Fully Alive moments). Hopefully, by seeing what I am doing, you also will take the plunge to live your life to its fullest, no matter what your age or stage of life. If you are looking to ramp up your physical, mental, social, and/or spiritual lives, I highly recommend Ken’s book. He will provide you with much encouragement to get going living the life God intends for you to live. If anything, the book is worth it to read about Ken’s own transformation in each of the above-mentioned areas. He also gives examples from other people’s lives that will either make you laugh or emotionally tug at you.

It feels as if he wrote this book for me. All of these areas are parts of my life that I have been working on for the past one to two years. It was eerie reading something that seemed to be written specifically for me as if the author was watching or reading my mind. I’ve read about others who have felt the same way. Maybe it is being middle aged and seeing time going by way too fast. Or maybe it is just that we all want to make sure we are living our lives to the fullest intent so as to honor God with this special gift. As Ken says in his book, this life “is not the waiting room for eternal life.” God has a plan and a purpose for us right now and we are to live it out to the fullest extent possible.

I, myself, have been spending way too much time “treading water.” I’ve put off losing weight, becoming physically fit, being an intentional friend, and seeking God’s will for my life. I had all kinds of excuses—raising kids, homeschooling, busyness of life, no more room on the calendar, etc. etc. That’s not really excuses, but fear. Fear of change. Fear of hard work. Fully Alive has spurred me on and showed me that I better put things in high gear now, because tomorrow may never come.

I highly recommend Ken Davis’ Fully Alive. The book is available now where books are sold. Learn more, watch video, and access additional resources such as a DVD and Action Guide at http://fullyalivebook.com/. The book is also available on Amazon at http://bit.ly/fullyalive.

Those are my thoughts for today.

Here’s a trailer from Ken that you can watch

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