Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Distant Melody

I regret I wasn't born during the Roaring Twenties so I could experience the 1940s as a twenty-something. I love this era. As I continue to decorate my house - built in 1930 - I can't help but continue to add little vintage design nods to the 1940s. When I cook in my vintage-inspired kitchen, I usually have Pandora radio on to "The Andrews Sisters" channel I created - complete with an apron donned of course.

So, it should come at no surprise that I really enjoyed reading book one of the "Wings of Glory" series by Sarah Sundin. "Wings of Glory" is a series of three books about three brothers who serve during WWII. The first book, "A Distant Melody," was a very enjoyable read and I enjoyed it more than "A Memory Between Us" (book two of the series I read at the end of 2010). The third book "Blue Skies Tomorrow" came out in August so I have my request in at the library to get my hands on the final story of the series.

Book Summary: (from Goodreads)
Will a chance meeting in a time of war change her life forever?

Never pretty enough to please her gorgeous mother, Allie will do anything to gain her approval - even marry a man she doesn't love. While Allie has nearly resigned herself to that fate, Lt. Walter Novak - fearless in the cockpit but hopeless with women - takes his last furlough at home in California before being shipped overseas.

Walt and Allie meet and begin a correspondence that will change their lives. As letters fly between Walt's muddy bomber base in England and Allie's mansion in an orange grove, their friendship binds them together. But can they untangle the secrets, commitments, and expectations that keep them apart?

I thought Sundin did a fantastic job of character development. At times you really like the two main characters and, like in real life, you want to kick them in the butt sometimes for their stupidity. I love how she allowed the characters to fall in love via coorespondence and for allowing them to be "real." If I have one dislike it was that there were a few too many "extra" characters in Walt's hometown so much so that I started to get confused who was married to who.

If you like WWII airplanes, you'll enjoy the level of detail Sarah uses during the combat scenes. It would be fun to see this series made into movies or a TV series.

To Recap:
Worth Reading? - Yes
Recommend to a Friend? - Yes
Worth Buying My Own Copy? No
Stars: 4 out of 5


 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Miracle of Mercy Land

I had very high hopes for The Miracle of Mercy Land when I read the back of the book. However, I was sadly disappointed. One of the questions in the reader’s guide at the end asks “When you turn the last page…what is the strongest impression the novel leaves with you?” I’m left feeling confused.

I felt that the author, River Jordan, carried out suspenseful plots way too long and in some cases not really providing any answers. Like…was Cilla Satan? Why does Aunt Ida suddenly become a major character in the plot when I feel like I never really knew her? What the heck is the book?

I did think Jordan did a nice job of developing the characters of Mercy Land and Doc. I felt I really knew them and enjoyed the friendship and companionship they had despite the generational difference. This was a fresh character duo compared to most novels I read. I also felt that Jordan captured the essence of Bay City, Bittersweet and the South well.

I really wish I could recommend this novel to others, but it was too drawn out and I left it with more questions and confusion than I started. I received this copy from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers as part of their Blogging for Books program.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Christmas in Plains: Memories

I received Christmas in Plains as a gift and it has been on my shelves for a couple years. I finally picked it up this holiday season and read it. It was a very nice collection of stories from President Carter's life - all the way from when he was a little boy to his years in the White House to the nineties.

I had the opportunity to meet President Carter a couple times through my media relations position with Habitat for Humanity in 2003. So for me, it was fun to read this prose knowing exactly the tone and personality that President Carter would have if he read this aloud.

To recap:

Worth Reading? No

Recommend to a Friend? No...not really unless you're a Carter fan

Worth Buying My Own Copy? No - Use your local library

Stars: 3 out of 5

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

I apologize for the short review and relying on the recap from another Web site, but just don't have time lately to write thoughtful and poignant reviews. But since, I want a record of what I read...here we go!

Book Description from "Goodreads"

In the bestselling tradition of Loving Frank and March comes a novel for anyone who loves Little Women.

Millions of readers have fallen in love with Little Women. But how could Louisa May Alcott-who never had a romance-write so convincingly of love and heart-break without experiencing it herself?

Deftly mixing fact and fiction, Kelly O'Connor McNees imagines a love affair that would threaten Louisa's writing career-and inspire the story of Jo and Laurie in Little Women. Stuck in small-town New Hampshire in 1855, Louisa finds herself torn between a love that takes her by surprise and her dream of independence as a writer in Boston. The choice she must make comes with a steep price that she will pay for the rest of her life.

My take:

My first "acting" opportunity as a kid was playing Jo March in a radio play I did in 5th grade. I fell in love with Little Women and enjoy the character of Jo March (based on Louisa's own personality/past) so much. So I really enjoyed this glimpse and "what if" about Louisa May Alcott. It definitely had the feel of "Becoming Jane" to it, but it was a nice, relaxing read. The dialog was great and I loved all the historical details about the era. Blew through it in 4 days...that's good for me!

To recap:

Worth Reading? Yes

Recommend to a Friend? Yes

Worth Buying My Own Copy? No - Use your local library

Stars: 4 out of 5

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011 Books I've Read

Throughout 2011 I'll keep updating this post with the books I've finished. I love having this record of what I read each year.


1. All Clear by Connie Willis -- Completed 1/2/2011

2. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O. McNees -- Completed 1/5/2011


4. Cherries in Winter -- Completed 2/2011

5. Little House in the Big Woods - Completed 3/11/2011

6. Jane Eyre - Completed 3/27/2011

7. Striking the Match -- Completed 4/24/2011

8. The Miracle of Mercy Land -- Completed 4/27/2011


9. The Gift -- Completed July 2011


10. The Help -- Completed 8/14/2011


11. A Distant Melody -- Completed 9/18/2011

All Clear

Yeah! I finally finished this book!

Okay...honestly...I can say after reading both Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis, that I did enjoy this story. The were both behemoth books, but they do provide rich detail and dialog that one can't help but feel transported back to WWII London during the Blitz. But, I am awfully exhausted after reading these books and ready to step back into 2011!

If you love WWII historical fiction, suspense and a bit of fantasy (i.e. time travel) you will really enjoy this story. Most reviews I've read also echo what I'm about to say. Both books could have used a strong editing session to trim 100 to 200 pages out of each of them. Obviously some of the detail is needed to weave the story completely together, but there were some sections where you felt like you were reading about despairing characters for 60 to 80 pages.

I also felt that both books were lacking in the romantic storyline. Connections and relationships were formed, but Willis never really took time to explore these fully. I think they would have made the characters feel more "real" and human.

Willis is a meticulous researcher and both of these books are a masterpiece in and of themselves in how she pulled the story together. There was a point three nights ago when I held my head and said "it hurt" because I was thinking so hard about how some of the events/plots were piecing together at the end.

I am looking forward to reading some of her other books, but glad I can move on to some other books that have piled up on my night stand.

To recap:

Worth reading? Yes

Recommend to a Friend? Maybe

Worth Buying My Own Copy? Maybe...especially if you take awhile to read books. I kind of wish I had a copy of "Blackout" to reference as I was reading.

Stars: 4 out of 5

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Memory Between Us

"A Memory Between Us" by Sarah Sundin is part of a trilogy (although I believe each book can stand on its own) of books about three brothers serving during WWII. Each book focuses on one of the three brothers and their quest for love and wrestling with God. I think I inadvertently read book two of the series, but felt I got a good grasp of the context of book one.

The book is about a WWII bomber pilot, Major Jack Novak, and a nurse, Lieutenant Ruth Doherty, he meets in the hospital as he is recovering from flak injuries. The rest of the story is fairly predictable, but not a complete bore to read. I read it pretty quick and it moved along at a fast pace. This is a good book to digest on the beach or on a plane.

To her credit, I believe Sundin did a marvelous job with historical details that painted a very vivid picture of hospital life and bomber runs over Germany. I think her nod to the story of Ruth and Boaz was also well done.

I find it hard to discover WWII historical/romance fiction books so I really appreciate authors that try to tackle this era. I think the story could have been 50 to 70 pages shorter, but enjoyed reading it nonetheless. It was a fast, non-stressful read which is something I sort of needed after reading several non-fiction books on social justice issues.

To recap:

Worth Reading? Sure

Recommend to a Friend? Maybe

Worth Buying My Own Copy? No

Stars: 3 out of 5

Friday, December 17, 2010

Under the Overpass

I’ve kind of been on a non-fiction book kick as of late and more specifically books focused on the social justice aspect of the Christian walk. (However, in contrast… I am now reading a completely predictable and sappy WWII Christian romance novel that is lame but I for some reason can’t abandon reading it…)

Under the Overpass” is the first book in this genre that pulled back the curtain and allowed me to really comprehend the reality of homelessness in America. Instead of encouraging me to do this or that because the Bible says so or because I have been so blessed, the author, Mike Yankoski, took me on a journey to not just “tell me”, but to “show me.”

During college, Yankoski became convicted to experience life on the streets of America. He teamed up with a friend, Sam, and the two of them spent five months living homeless in six different US cities during 2003. The pair each left with a backpack, sleeping bag and guitar and survived by panhandling while playing music and taking advantage of generosity of soup kitchens and hospitality of local churches.

There were four things that stood out to me in this book:

- From the very beginning of the book, I was inspired by the sheer obedience Yankoski displayed in taking on the challenge of living homeless. It’s a crazy idea, but even gutsier to follow through and willingly put himself on the streets. I’m sorry…I don’t think I could do it!

- There’s a section where Yankoski describes homeless men and women who have obvious and severe mental illness issues. We’ve all seen people like he described…living in their own personal “hells” day after day. It makes one wonder how many of them are perhaps living under the power of demons like the man Jesus encountered in Mark 5:1-20.

- I was actually really impressed and surprised that Yankoski and his companion made an effort to attend a local church every Sunday. Yankowski describes many of these experiences and the varying reactions he received from “Christians.” Sadly, I can see that I would react similarly (apprehensive and stand offish) in some of the same instances if I were being completely honest with myself.

Lastly, I kept cringing every time Yankoski described the usual way “nice, normal” people averted their eyes and walked in a different direction to avoid coming close to the author and his traveling companion Sam. I do this all the time…I feel so paralyzed when I get in these situations. You want to help, but society has sold us a lie that we shouldn’t give homeless people money because all they will do is buy drugs or alcohol to support their habit. I thought Yankoski did a wonderful job shedding some light on ways I can navigate this better in the future.

Bottom line, I really enjoyed this narrative about living on the streets. It certainly could have been grittier (all vulgarities and crude language was removed out of respect for the readers and standards of the publisher), yet I felt it deconstructed enough of the wall I have around me to begin seeing men and women living in homelessness. I know I’ll have to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide my steps in terms of how I respond to what I see, but I feel this book has armed me with new a understanding and courage to take my own journey in this area.

You can read the first chapter of the book here.

The publisher has also created a pretty comprehensive action plan for “next steps” after reading the book.

NOTE: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review as part of their Blogging for Books program.

To recap:

Worth Reading? Yes

Recommend to a Friend? Yes…to those who have an interest in this topic

Worth Buying My Own Copy? Not necessarily unless you like to lend books out a lot.

Stars: 4 out of 5

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Radical

I’ve only been a Christ-follower for 6 years so I realize in the grand scheme of things my perspective on “what things shape my walk with Christ” can be na├»ve and presumptuous at times. Yet, I truly believe that as I look back on my life “Radical” by Dr. David Platt will be one of the defining books that shaped my walk with Christ. Much like “Choosing to Cheat” by Andy Stanley has shaped the way I approach work/life balance that is honoring to God (and a book I usually read over again once a year if not twice a year), Radical is going to be another “shot in the arm” book I read whenever I feel my faith journey has hit a plateau.

And if that is not enough of an enticement to run out and read this book, here’s another. I rarely buy books…I don’t care for clutter…therefore I am a huge fan of the local library. The first time I read this book it was the local library copy. Immediately upon completion of the book I went to my local Christian book store and purchased my own copy and reread the whole thing again – this time highlighting all the things I didn’t want to forget or wanted to reference quickly down the road. 1) I purchased my own copy and 2) I read the book twice in 2 weeks. Not very common occurrences for this book reader!

During 2010 Platt has lead his church on a journey aptly called “The Radical Experiment” in which he challenged the members of his church to:

  1. Pray for the entire world
  2. Read through the entire Word
  3. Sacrifice their money for a specific purpose
  4. Spend time in another context
  5. Commit their life to a multiplying community

Radical: Taking back your life from the American Dream serves as a thesis for proving out why American Christians need to begin making radical changes in their lives in order that we fulfill the Great Commission. Platt states that “somewhere along the way we had missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable.” He further says “…the cost of discipleship is great. But I wonder if the cost of nondiscipleship is even greater.”

What resonated with me most about this book is pondering the gravidity of not obeying God’s will for my life. That the cost of nondiscipleship is a grave and serious trend in American churches that is propelled by a body of believers paralyzed by the comforts and luxuries that the American Dream offers. The majority of American Christ-followers see discipleship making as a role only church leaders or long-term missionaries can fill when in reality all Christ-followers are commanded (not suggested) to go to all nations and make disciples. Platt summarizes this point poignantly when he says “…we have unnecessarily (and unbiblically) drawn a line of distinction, assigning the obligations of Christianity to a few while keeping the privileges of Christianity for us all.”

I am looking forward to letting the lessons learned in the book permeate through me over the next several weeks, months and years. I truly want to take on the Radical Experiment for a year and be intentional about praying for the world and getting into the Word daily. For the first time in several years I actually considered what other context God may be calling me to in 2011 to spend a week of my time. The past several years I’ve been very lukewarm about joining an E3 Partners mission trip (Adam has been on two the past year and half – 2009: Ecuador; 2010: Russia.) This past Monday I signed up for an E3 Partners short-term mission trip to Kursk, Russia in August. I am so nervous about this, but excited for what God will do through and in me during that week.

If you are feeling stalled in your walk or apathetic about the way church is done in the US, I highly encourage you to read this book. You will be encouraged and able to pick yourself up, dust off your discouragements and start biblically living God’s will for your life.

To recap:

Worth Reading? YES! YES! YES!

Recommend to a Friend? Yes...I'm apologize now to all my friends who will get sick of me talking about this book

Worth Buying My Own Copy? ABSOLUTELY!!! I wish I could buy 10 and give them away.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Book It Program


The 80s returned today...

I was definitely living vicariously through my 4-year-old daughter Ingrid today. She came home with her first Pizza Hut Book It! voucher.

Do you remember trying to earn these as a kid? I LOVED this program.

(I think I loved it more for the button and little star stickers I got each month, but that's just me...I was a nerd. But, not nerdy enough to KEEP the button...check out the Book It Alumni page! Now there are some passionate/loyal people! However, the alumni T-shirt does look kind of cool and tempting!)

We had to read to Ingrid 200 minutes in October - she's not quite able to read on her own so we have to help. She read about 240 minutes...in November she has to read at least 250.

But, she was a very excited little girl tonight. She couldn't wait for dad to get home from work so that they could go to Pizza Hut and pick up her very own personal pan cheese pizza.

And, yup...mom was quite jealous! But so, so proud of my budding reader!