Monday, April 28, 2014

Review: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Author:  Greg McKeown

Genre:  Non-fiction (2014)

Descriptive Words:  Learn to set boundaries; discern what is essential; eliminate the trivial; say no, gracefully; live with intent

"If you don't prioritize your life, someone else will."

Rating:  4 1/2 out of 5

Thoughts :  I'm quite selective when it comes to book review requests, accepting only those with topics I'm highly interested in (patting self on back), so another rave review is hardly surprising.

Although I thought this book, listed under Business & Economics, would be aimed more towards those in the corporate world as opposed to me, a homemaker, such was not the case. The author provided a fabulous balance between specific business situations and general everyday situations, so everyone (even homemakers) could benefit from the tips and advice.  Most importantly, not only does the author tell what to do, he tells how.

 My favorite chapter was DARE:  The Power of a Graceful 'No.'  These sentences spoke to me:  "Have you ever felt a tension between what you felt was right and what someone was pressuring you to do?  Have you ever felt the conflict between your internal conviction and an external action?  Have you ever said yes when you meant no simply to avoid conflict or friction? Have you ever felt too scared or timid to turn down an invitation or request from a boss, colleague, friend, neighbor, or family member for fear of disappointing them? If you have, you're not alone."  This chapter alone was reason enough to read the book.

Other favorite chapters:

  • Progress (the power of small wins) 
  • Subtract (removing obstacles) 
  • Limit (setting boundaries) 
  • Flow (the importance of routines)
I reserve 5-star ratings for books I finish in a day or two; i.e. those I can't put down, for which I've yet to find a Personal Success/Self-Help book that qualifies. Other than that, though, I give it 4  1/2 stars and plan to read it again. Highly recommend.  

I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The 39 Books I've Read So Far This Year

For the past few years I've kept track of the number of books I've read. In 2010 I read 145 books; in 2011, 58; and in 2012, 42The decrease is directly correlated to volunteering at Stray Rescue, which I started late in 2010. It's all good, though. I love the pups! 

Titles, ratings and blurbs of the books I've read so far this year:

1.  Let It Go: A True Story of Tragedy and Forgiveness ~ Chris Williams / Memoir  3.5 / 5 :  In 2007, a father of four loses his wife, unborn baby, 11-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter when they were killed by a 17-year-old drunk driver. Story of healing and forgiveness.

2.  Dancing Dogs ~ Jon Katz 4/5 :  Sixteen short stories about dogs and the humans who love them.

3.  Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail~ Cheryl Strayed / Memoir  4/5 : A 22-year-old woman dealing with her mother’s death, crumbling marriage and dysfunctional family impulsively decides to hike 1,100 miles the Pacific Crest Trail…alone.

4.  Bloom ~ Kelle Hampton / Memoir  4/5 :  Kelle Hampton, ecstatic about the impending birth of her second child, appears to have the perfect life: a loving husband beautiful 2-year-old daughter and a thriving photography career. But when her newborn daughter is placed in her arms in the delivery room, Kelle knows something is wrong. The celebration among her family and friends turns subdued as it’s soon confirmed that the baby has Down syndrome. A story of realization of being given an extraordinary and special gift.

5.  The Orphan Trains ~ Kristin Johnson 5/5  : From 1855 to 1930, 250,000 children from New York, orphaned due to poverty and families’ inability to care for them, were placed on trains to foster homes in other U.S. cities in hopes of a better life. Charles Loring Brace, a young minister, was behind the Orphan Train Movement and what was the beginning of the foster care system we know today. Well written and researched, this educational book includes many newspaper clips and pictures.

6.  100 Ways to Simplify Your Life ~ Joyce Meyer 4/5  : Practical and easy ideas for balancing work, family, friends by exercising faith rather than doubt and confidence rather than people-pleasing. We’re reminded that the bible is full of examples of God's provision and His instruction to focus on one day at a time. We don't have to do, fix, or manage everything.
• Live to glorify God 

• Let go of what lies behind 

• Choose your battles 

• Don't be afraid of what people think 

• Trust God to change other people 

• Live with margin 

• Don't be so hard on yourself 

• Stop doing things you don't do well 

• Remember that God is for you.

7.  The Devil in Pew Number Seven ~ Rebecca Nichols Alonso  / Memoir 4/5 :  In 1969, Rebecca’s father moved the family to Sellerstown, North Carolina where he would serve as a pastor. He is welcomed into the small community by everyone except one church member. This controlling individual, determined to do things his way, slowly unleashes a plan of terror against the pastor and his family which culminates in an armed confrontation in the pastor’s kitchen.

8. The Nine Phases of Marriage ~ Susan Shapiro Barash / Non-fiction 4/5 : This book did not get good reviews in Goodreads, but I liked it.  Shapiro states that every marriage goes through nine phases and that it is only by understanding the course our marriages run that we can truly begin to craft the perfect relationship.  The nine phases are:

Phase One: Passion and Longing
Phase Two: Conforming: The Perfect Wife
Phase Three: Real Life: Child Centricity
Phase Four: Tension: One Bed: Two Dreams
Phase Five: Distance: Two Beds: Two Rooms
Phase Six: Fracturing: Midlife Divorce
Phase Seven: Second Chances: Remarriage and Renegotiating
Phase Eight: Balance: Concessions
Phase Nine: Successful Coupling

9.  Peaceful Kingdom: Random Acts of Kindness by Animals ~ Stephanie Laland / Non-fiction 4/5  :  True stories of devotion and bravery from the animal world. Included are both well-publicized cases, such as the gorilla who tenderly carried an injured child to safety, and the more obscure--the German shepherd who visited the grave of his deceased owner every day at the same hour. Even ants are caught in heroic acts: they're observed pulling a thorn from an injured comrade. The animals in this book are viewed as compassionate, thinking creatures that experience real emotions--hardly news to animal lovers. Peaceful Kingdom also reflects human acts of kindness to animals. Edward Lear, the famous author of "The Owl and the Pussycat," built his new house as an exact replica of his old one to keep from traumatizing his beloved cat.

10.  Night Over Water ~ Ken Follett / Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller  4/5  :  September 1939. England is at war with Nazi Germany. In Southampton, the world’s most luxurious airliner—the legendary Pan Am clipper—takes off for its final flight to neutral America. Aboard are the cream of society and the dregs of humanity, all fleeing the war for reasons of their own…shadowed by a danger they do not know exists…and heading straight into a storm of violence, intrigue, and betrayal.

11.  Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay ~ Paul Vitagliano / Memoir  4/5 :  One hundred different personal stories - funny, sweet, and some heartbreaking - of people growing up LBGTQ. Collected from around the world, dating from the 1940s to today and accompanied by childhood photographs, these memories speak to the hardships of an unaccepting world and the triumph of pride, self-love and self-acceptance. 

12.  All Creatures Great and Small ~ James Herriott / Memoir, animals, classics  4/5 : A Yorkshire veterinarian’s fascinating and sometimes humorous tales of compassion and caring for animals – and sometimes their people - in the English countryside.

13.  Eric ~ Doris Lund / Biography, Memoir  4/5  :  The story of 17-year-old Eric, athletic and full of life when he is diagnosed with leukemia, and his refusal to give up.

14.  The Still Point of the Turning World ~ Emily Rapp / Memoir  4/5  :  Rapp’s 9-month-old son is diagnosed with Tay-Sachs disease, a rare and always-fatal degenerative disorder. He was not expected to live beyond the age of three and would be permanently stalled at a developmental level of six months.  Rapp and her husband had to learn to live with their child in the moment; to find happiness in the midst of sorrow; to parent without a future. They also learned what wisdom there was to be gained from parenting a terminally ill child.

15.  Ollie Tibbles: The Boy Who Became a Train ~ Debi Tibbles / Memoir  5/5  :  Debi, a stay-at-home mom of three, had a happy life until the morning the school secretary called to tell her that 5-year-old Ollie had a headache.  Subsequent headaches eventually led to the discovery of a highly malignant, fast-cancer of his brain and spine.  This is the story of love, tragic loss, and hope—and the true miracle of a young boy's wish come true.

16.  Her: A Memoir ~ Christa Parravani / Memoir  5/5 :  Gifted identical twins Christa and Cara, raised up from poverty by a determined single mother, are able to earn their way to a prestigious college and eventual careers as artists (photographer and writer).  Cara, haunted by childhood experiences with father figures and a rape as a young adult, spirals into a life of depression, drugs and a shocking early death. A few years after Cara was gone, Christa read that when an identical twin dies, regardless of the cause, 50 percent of the time the surviving twin dies within two years; and this shocking statistic rang true to her. "Flip a coin," she thought," those were my chances of survival." First, Christa fought to stop her sister's downward spiral; suddenly, she was struggling to keep herself alive.

Beautifully written, mesmerizingly rich and true, Christ’s account of being left, one half of a whole, and of her desperate, ultimately triumphant struggle for survival is informative, heart-wrenching and unforgettably beautiful.

17.  Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us ~ Michael Moss / Non-fiction  Health 5/5 

18.  Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal ~ Mary Roach / Non-fiction, Science, Humor 3.5 / 5  I loved her book Stiff, about dead bodies.  Although I didn’t like this one quite as much, here she writes all about the digestive tract.

19.  To Show and To Tell: The Craft of the Literary Non-Fiction ~ Phillip Lopate / Non-fiction, writing, language 4/5  :  Combining more than forty years of lessons from his storied career as a writer and professor, Lopate brings this nuts-and-bolts guide to writing literary nonfiction.

20.  How Can I Know? ~ Robert Jeffress / Non-fiction, religion 4/5  :
Dr. Robert Jeffress answers challenging questions facing Christians today. Drawing upon the best research available, he provides logical and concise responses that anyone can understand and easily share with others.

21.  Wave ~ Sonali Devaniyagala / Memoir  5/5 :  On the morning of December 26, 2004, on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, Sonali Deraniyagala lost her parents, her husband, and her two young sons in the tsunami she miraculously survived. In this memoir she describes those first horrifying moments and her long journey since. She writes of her struggles through the first months following the tragedy, slowly allowing her memory to take her back through the rich and joyous life she’s mourning, from her family’s home in London, to the birth of her children, to the year she met her English husband at Cambridge, to her childhood in Colombo; all the while learning the difficult balance between the almost unbearable reminders of her loss and the need to keep her family, somehow, still alive within her.

22.  Eats, Shoots and Leaves ~ Lynne Truss / Non-fiction, writing 4/5 : This is a book for people who love punctuation and get upset when it is mishandled. From the invention of the question mark in the time of Charlemagne to George Orwell shunning the semicolon, this lively history makes a powerful case for the preservation of a system of printing conventions that is much too subtle to be mucked about with.

23.  Trusting Calvin: How a Dog Helped Heal a Holocaust Survivor's Heart ~ Sharon Peters / Biography, Dogs  3/5 :  Max Edelman was 17 when the Nazis took him to the first of five work camps, where his only hope of survival was to keep quiet and raise an emotional shield. After witnessing a German Shepherd kill a fellow prisoner, he developed a lifelong fear of dogs. Beaten into blindness by two bored guards, Max survived, buried the past, and moved on. But when he retired, he needed help. After a month of training, he received Calvin, a devoted chocolate Labrador retriever. Calvin guided Max safely through life, but he sensed Max’s distance and reserve. Calvin grew listless and lost weight. Trainers intervened—but to no avail. A few days before Calvin’s inevitable reassignment, Max went for a walk. A car cut into the crosswalk, and Calvin leapt forward, saving Max’s life. Max’s emotional shield dissolved. Calvin sensed the change and immediately improved, guiding Max to greater openness, trust, and engagement with the world.

24.  Confessions of a Sociopath ~ M.E. Thomas / Memoir – Read 100 pages and couldn’t finish. Poor reviews on Goodreads, as well. The story of the author's life as a diagnosed sociopath.

25.  I'll See You Again ~ Jackie Hance / Memoir  4.5 /5  :  Jackie Hance is the mother of three young daughters ages, 5, 7 and 8 killed in a minivan driven by their aunt, Jackie’s sister-in-law while returning from a camping weekend.  It’s a story of forgiveness, hope, and rebirth as Jackie and her husband Warren struggle to rediscover the possibility of joy by welcoming their fourth daughter, Kasey Rose Hance.

26.   Love Always, Petra: A Story of Courage and the Discovery of Life's Hidden Gifts ~ Petra Nemcova / Memoir  4.5 /5  :  Model Petra Nemcova's charmed life was changed forever when the 2004 tsunami swept her boyfriend away, and left her with a broken pelvis and clinging to a tree for nearly eight hours.

27.  Sweet Caroline: Last Child of Camelot ~ Christopher Andersen  / Biography  4/5  :  An often moving, always captivating look at the life of one little girl who was handed more than her share of heartache -- and has not only survived but flourished

28.  Kisses from Katie ~ Katie Davis / Memoir, Religion, Faith 5/5 :  Unbelievably inspiring story of an 18-year-old girl with a passion to make a difference. Katie Davis left over Christmas break her senior year for a short mission trip to Uganda and her life was turned completely inside out. She found herself so moved, so broken by the people and the children of Uganda that she knew her calling was to return and care for them. She gave up college and moved there, despite knowing only one person and not one word of the language. Her story is like Mother Teresa’s in that she has given up everything—at such a young age—to care for the less fortunate of this world. Katie, a charismatic and articulate young woman, now 21, has gone on to adopt 14 children during her time in Uganda, and she completely trusts God for daily provision for her and her family, which includes children with special needs. 

29.  Newborn Puppies ~ Traer Scott / Picture book 5/5

30.  Underwater Dogs ~ Seth Casteel / Picture book 5/5

31.  The Dog Lived and So Will I ~ Theresa Rhyne / Memoir, Animals 5/5  :  Shortly after she adopted Seamus, a totally incorrigible beagle, vets told Teresa that he had a malignant tumor and less than a year to live. The diagnosis devastated her, but she decided to fight it, learning everything she could about the best treatment for Seamus. Teresa couldn't possibly have known then that she was preparing herself for life's next hurdle -- a cancer diagnosis of her own. She forged ahead with survival, battling a deadly disease, fighting for doctors she needed, and baring her heart for a seemingly star-crossed relationship. An uplifting and heartwarming story about how dogs steal our hearts, show us how to live, and teach us how to love.

32.  I was Just Wondering ~ Philip Yancey / Non-fiction, religion, spiritual, Christianity 3/5  : Yancey gathers forty-four of his most insightful and stimulating columns written for Christianity Today. Exploring a diverse range of topics that touch on the fields of history, science, religion, ethics, and more, Yancey offers readers short, penetrating observations on the universe, the earth, the church, and the Christian life. Originally published in 1989, this revised and updated edition of I Was Just Wondering offers a level-headed, honest journey into questions that are just as important and challenging to readers today.

33.  It's Just a Dog ~ Russ Ryan / Fiction, animals, dogs, humor 5/5  :  Charlie Keefe is not just your typical dog lover –– he's a world famous dog painter, a.k.a. "The Picasso of Pooch Portraits". Unfortunately, Charlie's muse, Pete, his beloved Jack Russell terrier, has just died. And he's totally devastated by the loss of his furry best friend. So, after months of grieving over his dearly departed soulmate and wondering if he ever made it to the Rainbow Bridge, Charlie reluctantly agrees to foster a new puppy –– a cute Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Brownie from the local shelter. Soon after, Charlie is surprised to find himself falling head over heels with this new puppy girl –– his 'Rebound Dog', as he calls her –– as well as being romantically attracted to Janelle Jordan, the head hound at the dog rescue.

But then complications arise when the ghost of his old dog, Pete, mysteriously reappears one night and comes back to haunt him and the new puppy –– setting off a bizarre chain of events that throw Charlie's life, career, and entire belief system into chaos!

34.  Stations of the Heart ~ Richard Lischer / Memoir  3.5 / 5 :  A book about life and death and the terrible blessing of saying good-bye. Adam is a young man with a promising law career whose wife is pregnant with their first child when he is told that his cancer has returned. Despite the crushing magnitude of his diagnosis and the cruel course of the illness, Adam’s growing weakness evokes in him an unexpected strength, and in the final season of his life he becomes his family’s (and his father’s) spiritual leader.

35.  The Racketeer ~ John Grisham / Fiction, mystery, thriller, suspense 4/5  :   Given the importance of what they do, and the controversies that often surround them, and the violent people they sometimes confront, it is remarkable that in the history of this country only four active federal judges have been murdered.  Judge Raymond Fawcett has just become number five. 

Who is the Racketeer? And what does he have to do with the judge’s untimely demise? His name, for the moment, is Malcolm Bannister. Job status? Former attorney. Current residence? The Federal Prison Camp near Frostburg, Maryland.

On paper, Malcolm’s situation isn’t looking too good these days, but he’s got an ace up his sleeve. He knows who killed Judge Fawcett, and he knows why. The judge’s body was found in his remote lakeside cabin. There was no forced entry, no struggle, just two dead bodies: Judge Fawcett and his young secretary. And one large, state-of-the-art, extremely secure safe, opened and emptied.

What was in the safe? The FBI would love to know. And Malcolm Bannister would love to tell them. But everything has a price—especially information as explosive as the sequence of events that led to Judge Fawcett’s death. And the Racketeer wasn’t born yesterday . . .

36.  Train Your Dog Positively ~ Victoria Stillwell  / Non-fiction, Dogs 4/5 : Victoria Stilwell, positive reinforcement dog trainer and star of the hit Animal Planet TV show, It's Me or the Dog, explains how to use her force-free, scientifically-backed training methods to solve common canine behavior problems.

37.  Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson ~ Jeff Guinn / Biography 5/5  :  Guinn interviewed Manson’s sister and cousin, neither of whom had ever previously cooperated with an author. Childhood friends, cellmates, and even some members of the Manson Family have provided new information about Manson’s life. Guinn has made discoveries about the night of the Tate murders, answering unresolved questions, such as why one person on the property where the murders occurred was spared. Guinn shows us how Manson created and refined his message to fit the times, persuading confused young women (and a few men) that he had the solutions to their problems. At the same time he used them to pursue his long-standing musical ambitions, relocating to Los Angeles in search of a recording contract. His frustrated ambitions, combined with his bizarre race-war obsession, would have lethal consequences as he convinced his followers to commit heinous murders on successive nights. 

38.  The Virgin Diet: Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 Pounds, Just 7 Days ~ JJ Virgin / Non-fiction, Health  5/5 :  JJ Virgin cites food intolerance as the #1 reason that people can’t lose weight and claims that avoiding gluten, whey, peanuts, dairy, eggs, corn, sugar and artificial sweeteners can make you lose weight and feel better.  (I tried this and it really worked.)

38.  The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew - Three Women Search for Understanding ~ Ranya Idliby, Priscilla Warner, Suzanne Oliver / Memoir, Religion  4/5  :  Three mothers of different religions come together to discuss their concerns, stereotypes, and misunderstandings about one another’s religions, including issues of anti-Semitism, prejudice against Muslims, and preconceptions of Christians at a time when fundamentalists dominate the public face of Christianity.

39.  The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance ~ David Epstein / Non-fiction, sports, science   4.5 / 5  :  Sports Illustrated senior writer David Epstein tackles the great nature vs. nurture debate and traces how far science has come in solving this great riddle. He investigates the so-called 10,000-hour rule to uncover whether rigorous and consistent practice from a young age is the only route to athletic excellence. He dispels many of our perceptions about why top athletes excel. He shows why some skills that we assume are innate, like the bullet-fast reactions of a baseball or cricket batter, are not, and why other characteristics that we assume are entirely voluntary, like an athlete’s will to train, might in fact have important genetic components. Epstein explores controversial questions such as: Are black athletes genetically predetermined to dominate both sprinting and distance running, and are their abilities influenced by Africa’s geography? Are there genetic reasons to separate male and female athletes in competition? Should we test the genes of young children to determine if they are destined for stardom? Can genetic testing determine who is at risk of injury, brain damage, or even death on the field?

Up next:  Heaven ~ Randy Alcorn / Non-fiction / What will heaven be like? Randy Alcorn presents a thoroughly biblical answer, based on years of careful study, presented in an engaging, reader-friendly style. His conclusions will surprise readers and stretch their thinking about this important subject. "Heaven" will inspire readers to long for heaven while they're living on earth.

I'm at 39 right now and my goal for the year is 50.  I’d better get reading! Do you have any recommendations?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance

My dad and his brother played professional baseball for the Dodgers. When they were younger, they and their parents were champion archers; my dad won the national archery title at age 12 before focusing on baseball and basketball.

My brother played college basketball and baseball. Another brother was a volleyball player. My sister and I are both naturally coordinated and athletic.

My 19-year-old son, who is 6’11” plays college basketball, and my 13-year-old niece, who is projected to be 5’10” (soccer, basketball, volleyball) and 11-year-old nephew, who is projected to be 6’5” (basketball, baseball, volleyball) are talented athletes.

So, with all this athleticism in our family, I’ve always been curious…is it nature or nurture? (SPOILER:  It’s both.) When I saw the title of this book, I had to read it. So glad I did. Simply fascinating.

My favorite chapter, because of my son’s height, was The Vitruvian NBA Player, and I found these stats interesting: 
  • “There are likely fewer than twenty thousand men between the ages of twenty and forty who are at least 6’8”.

  • Based on the Census Bureau, and the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics, there is such a premium on extra height in the NBA that the probability of an American man between the ages of twenty and forty being a current NBA player rises nearly a full order of magnitude with every two-inch increase in height starting at six feet. For a man between six feet and 6’2”, the chance of his currently being in the NBA is five in a million. At 6’2” to 6’4”, that increases to twenty in a million.  For a man between 6’10” and seven feet tall, it rises to thirty-two thousand in a million, or 3.2 percent. 

  • Of American men ages twenty to forty who stand seven feet tall, a startling 17 percent of them are in the NBA right now. Find six honest seven-footers, and one will be in the NBA.”

 Eric, honey, make your momma some money, would ya?!

I would have given this book 5 stars, but there were a couple of chapters that didn’t hold my interest quite as much as the others.  Still, the book was so well written and the research unbelievably thorough. I recommend this to anyone who likes sports science.

RATING:  4.5 / 5 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Review: Animal Wise by Virginia Morell

Animal Wise by Virginia Morell

Non-Fiction (2013)

How and what animals think is a topic I thought I'd be interested in.   Initially comparing it to my favorite book about animal emotions, When Elephants Weep by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, I struggled with the scientific aspect of Animal Wise. Despite it's subtitle, "The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures," in the book Morell states that although cognition and emotion operate on the same pathway of the brain, less is known about emotion because researchers have not discovered how to study it. And it is because of this proclaimed inability to study animal emotions that critics of Masson's book regard him as guilty of anthropomorphizing.  I myself am guilty of such, which is probably why I enjoyed his book as much as I did.  That said, Animal Wise is a well researched, well-documented book based on actual animal experiments.

Several animals are highlighted in the book:  Dolphins, Ants, Chimpanzees, Rats, Fish, Birds, and Parrots specifically, Elephants, Dogs and Wolves. My favorite chapters were on ants - it's incredible how much they "communicate" and work together - and rats, which I despise, but found interesting that they love to be tickled! And I love everything about elephants, another chapter favorite. Morell may have stated why the animals highlighted were chosen; if so, I don't remember.

Putting aside my initial disappointment that this book was less about animal emotions and more about cognition, I was finally able to enjoy it. It's wonderful to learn how deeply invested scientists and biologists are in understanding the animal world. As this book proves, animals know a lot more than we think they do.

I recommend this book if you have a serious love for animals. It will strengthen your love and broaden your knowledge.

Rating:  4/5

Thank you to Crown Publishing for this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not otherwise compensated.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mini Reviews: Let It Go, Believe, Dancing Dogs


About:  Rutgers' football player Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed from the neck down during a football game.

Thoughts:  At first I thought the writing was amateurish, but then I remembered he was a college student and is now only 22 years old. So the writing is real, and LeGrand is forthcoming about his emotions and struggles as a quadriplegic. It may be TMI, but he even talked about his bathroom habits. I wanted to feel sorry for him and what happened, but after reading his story I felt only admiration. I really enjoyed this. 

Rating:  4/5 ~ Recommend if you're interested in a story about sports as well as inspiration and courage after tragedy.


About:  The author's family's car is hit by a 17-year-old drunk driver. Two of his children are killed, as is his wife, who is 5 months pregnant. Another child is critically injured.  The story focuses on his forgiveness of the driver. Interestingly, and ironically, the author was 16 when he accidentally hit a 5-year-old boy who had run into the street. He died a few days later.  The boy's mother wrote a comforting letter of forgiveness to him, which I'm sure helped pave the way of forgiveness towards the 17-year-old who hit his family.

Thoughts:  It was okay. A little too religious for my taste. Normally I like faith-based books, but I don't understand Mormonism, so I was probably turned off by that (just being honest), but mostly because it went overboard in the religious department.

Example:  "My appreciation and gratitude grew for dedicated disciples of Jesus Christ who were always willing to make time to bless my family.  It was a gentle reminder that these were all evidences and expressions of love from the Savior, who is the fount of charity, mercy, kindness, and long-suffering, and that it didn't really matter which vessel that power flowed through.  What mattered was the source of that power - the Savior himself - and our willingness to let his light shine through us, illuminating the lives of others." It wasn't ALL overly religious like that, but too much for my taste.

Rating:  3.5/5  ~ Can't say I'd recommend to anyone. 


About:  Short fictional stories about dogs.

Thoughts:  I'm not a fan of short stories since I don't like not having enough time to get to know the characters, but these were about dogs - which I love - so it didn't matter. Almost every story was about a dog who was rescued (yay!), and although I've read complaints that all the stories are sad, that didn't bother me. They were all heartwarming and sweet. Jon Katz is an incredible writer.

Rating:  4/5 ~ Recommend if you love dogs.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Another Book Everyone Liked But Me...

Oh why do I torture myself?

Once again I gave in and tried a book that "everyone" was reading. I knew it wasn't my style, but I thought I'd give it a whirl. It's a #1 Bestseller...I've got to like it, right?

I read 300 pages before finally giving up.

Fifty Shades of Grey was sexy, steamy...and so silly! The entire plot was that of a man seducing a young girl who becomes his sex slave. At least that's the gist I got after 300 pages. Maybe there was more to the story, but I wasn't going to read another 200 pages to find out.

Adding this to the list of books that everyone liked but me:

Fifty Shades of Grey
Eat Pray Love
Poisonwood Bible
Three Cups of Tea
Time Traveler's Wife
Harry Potter

A few "bandwagon" books I did like were The Help, Kite Runner, Unbroken, The Shack, The Book Thief, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Oh well. You don't know until you try.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Review: Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases, and Finding Redemption

Author:  Shon Hopwood (with Dennis Burke)

Genre:  Memoir (2012)

About:  Shon Hopwood was a good kid from a loving family. He played high school basketball, had friends and attended church.  After serving in the Navy and bored at home with no job prospects or money, Shon enlisted the help of his friend to rob a bank. The thrill of the first robbery led to more. Four more, as a matter of fact. At age 23 he was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison. While there, Shon worked in the prison law library and learned of his knack for learning the laws (not just breaking them!). He soon received respect - and requests for legal help - from his fellow inmates.  

Thoughts:  I enjoyed this.  My only annoyance was in Shon's discounting the seriousness of the robberies he committed.  He may as well have been recounting a trip to Disneyland.  Otherwise, his story is  positive and uplifting, and I can't help but think that his life circumstances - of robbing banks, serving time, working in the prison law library, becoming interested in law, having the right people placed in his path to continue law after prison, AND falling in love with a woman who stuck by his side through it all  - were orchestrated by God. Although he does mention a religious aspect to turning his life around, it's not a main focus of the book. One more thing...the pictures. I always love pictures to help me relate to the story and there were lots! 

Rating:  4/5 

*Thank you to Crown Publishing/Random House for this book in exchange for my honest review.


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