Category Archives: Book Reviews

Girl Schooling

When the boys are away…

the girls will play…

all sorts of girl games.

Little do they know they’re learning at the same time.

Do you see Ma sewing sewing by the fire? Do you see Laura and Mary and Carrie all tucked into their beds, listening quietly to Pa playing the fiddle? And can you find their good old bulldog Jack?

If you have young (or even not so young) girls, you’ll definitely want to check out the Little House Picture Books. I bought the complete set before my oldest daughter could even read, and I will save them to read to my grandchildren.

Oh, and by the way, the notions they used today were from their great great aunt Bun, my grandfather’s sister. So we even added in a little personal history!

Poetry In Our Home School

A few years back I picked up a few books from the “A Child’s Introduction to…” series. This month we’ve been working through A Child’s Introduction to Poetry just after Bible and Breakfast on school mornings.

Each chapter introduces a style of poetry and gives examples. Sometimes we listen to them on the included audio cd, sometimes we read them aloud. You can’t just read poetry-with your eyes-you must hear it!

Then, you must write it. This is the children’s favorite part. They keep journals with their poetry and illustrations. These photos are from our Alphabet Poetry chapter.

Last week when we were running short on time, the children begged, “Please, Mom, please please please do poetry with us today!” They wanted poetry more than “free time.” What a testimony to the learning spirit inherent in children.

At the same time we also purchased Story of the Orchestra (which will be perfect to follow up our tour and performance at the symphony last week) and A Child’s Introduction to the Night Sky, both of which we absolutely love. Sometimes impulse purchases are good.

Book Review: Derailed by Tim Irwin

This week I’ve reviewed a gritty memoir, a heartfelt retelling of a Bible story, a hard-hitting look at trials,  and a radio theater performance. Today I’m reviewing a leadership book. But hang on–it’s not just for business professionals. It digs deep down into the human heart and character and is applicable to everyone.

 

Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, is running against Barbara Boxer in the U.S. Senate race in California. I’m a little worried–not about whether or not she’ll win, but whether or not she’s learned from her hostile separation  from H-P just five years ago. I wonder if she’s learned from her past and made changes in her leadership style.

Why do I, a suburban home school mother of four on the opposite coast as Fiorina know about her leadership flaws? Because they were featured in Tim Irwin’s new book, Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership, along with the mistakes of CEO’s from four other major corporations we all know.

In the first half of the book (published by Thomas Nelson) Irwin reveals the behaviors and character traits that cause leaders to “run off the rails.” In the second half, he helps us to determine which derailment tendencies we might have and gives us guidance for “staying on the rails.”

Why do I, a suburban home school mother of four who does not run a huge corporation, need to know these things? Because I am a leader–in my home, my church, and my community. Because the same things that are important to a CEO’s integrity are important to mine; the same things that can help a CEO succeed in her job can help me succeed in mine. And the same flaws that lead to an executive’s derailment can lead to my own derailement. Character is no respector of persons or positions.

If you’re still not convinced this is a must-read, check out this informative post on Michael Hyatt’s blog . Or skip right to this free Derailed Online Assessment. If these don’t convince you to run out and buy this book, maybe the fact that it’s part of the NelsonFree program–at no additional cost you get an ebook and an audio version–will convince you.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book as a free gift from Thomas Nelson  Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Audio Book Review: Screwtape Letters Audio Drama

Nothing inspires sobriety like the letters from Screwtape, the elder demon, to his nephew Wormwood, instructing him in meddling in all things human. Nothing invites self-examination like listening in on such macabre conversation, no matter it is a work of fiction–fiction does not negate reality. The problem for me is it is too realistic for mixed company.

This home school mom spends the majority of my days and nights with her children, who would tremble at the Focus on the Family Radio Theater’s  eery presentation. As much as I enjoyed listening to the professional actors bring these evil characters to life, I had to silence them over and over as my children entered the room. I don’t have an ipod, so I couldn’t listen privately. This is one publication I’ll have to shelve for a few years–until my children get older or I manage to make a little more time to myself.

From the little bit I was able to squeeze in, and from knowing the quality of other Focus Radio Theater presentations, I can say I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed. I’m sure in a few years I’ll highly recommend this resource.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale Publishers as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: How Can A Good God Let Bad Things Happen?

I flipped open How Can A Good God Let Bad Things Happen?  (Navpress) and wondered “How could I have chosen another heavy book to review?” Why hadn’t I chosen chick lit or children’s books? I wearily plowed through the first few pages, my shoulders hunched in responsibility–until I realized who I was reading. I recognized Tabb’s name from his earlier book, Living With Less: The Upside of Downsizing.

I remember Tabb clearly because his God doesn’t resemble the one portrayed in Sunday morning service or feel-good Christian self-help books. No, Tabb’s God resembles, well, the God found in the Biblical book of Job. Tabb’s God allows children and parents to die in horrendous accidents and does not reach out His hand to save them. Yet Tabb’s God is the one found in the Bible. And He is the one, like it or not, Christians have committed to follow.

[Romans 8:28] does not say that God has some hidden purpose behind every event that happens in my life, at least not a purpose I will ever see or understand. Nor does the verse tell me I can force something good out of this. I cannot control God’s hand, and when I try to force some good purpose onto tragic events, that’s exactly what I am trying to do. (p.21)

Tabb sees the whole of God. He isn’t willing to willy-nilly throw out portions of Scripture because they don’t line up with his feelings. He tackles doubt and faith, neglect and protection, fear and relief using Scripture, the words breathed by the God who is in the midst of all of them.

If you’re ready to lay aside your preconceptions and prejudices and learn to see God as He really is–truly wild and unpredictable, yet perpetually trustworthy–get yourself a copy of How Can A Good God Let Bad Things Happen? And a pencil–because I’m sure you’ll make as many notes in the margins as I did. I give away dozens of books a year because I am determined to keep only the best; this is definitely a keeper.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: Thirsty by Amy Nappa

I wondered what I’d gotten myself into, committing to Navpress to read and review Thirsty: Meeting Jesus at Your Deepest Need by Amy Nappa. When the book came, it didn’t seem right for my season in life. I wasn’t thirsty; I wasn’t needy. I hesitantly opened the book during a morning quiet time before starting home school. When the children came to the table, I gave them an extra hour of morning play–I couldn’t put the book down!

Reading this book was like waking up from a dream where I can’t find water and realizing I’m parched. It was like running down my hall in the middle of the night and meeting the kitchen faucet with my open lips.

For the first time I saw myself as that woman at the well. The one who thirsted for real life, free life, eternally good life. I saw the Jesus who met her there with kind eyes and questions to stir her heart and soul. The Jesus who was willing to wait for the woman who didn’t even know she needed him–didn’t even know she was thirsty.

A woman with a checkered past and piles of emotional scars left over from it–scars that left her spiritually handicapped and helpless. Sin had injured her spirit like war tears apart the body…And yet, I am here to tell you that God still cherished this broken, thirsty woman. (p.32)

Nappa drops us into the scene we think we know so well and challenges our every assumption about it. And about God. She tells stories from her own life that leave us wondering, “Who is this Jesus?” He is not the benign, predictable, manipulatable friendly guy we like to look to for brotherly advice.

I think the Woman at the Well learned–and I am just beginning to discover–that God is not safe. Christ is not tame…The One who imposed the laws of nature and the normal way of life is also a master of surprise. (p. 44)

She shows us how this unpredictable, surprising Jesus is willing to meet us at our point of need, our thirsty place. I might have been worried this book wasn’t for this season in my life when I started it. But I didn’t realize how much of my life is dry season.

I certainly didn’t realize Jesus was waiting for me at this well, before I even knew I was thirsty…

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: Thin Places by Mary DeMuth

“The Celts define a thin place as a place where heaven and the physical world collide, one of those serendipitous territories where eternity and the mundane meet…where we see a holy glimpse of the eternal…” (p. 11)
 
Thin Places by Mary DeMuth

I’ve loved author Mary DeMuth since I found her book, Building the Christian Family You Never Had tucked away on a bottom shelf of a retreat center. I read it in no time and emailed to let her know how much good she did me, being honest and telling her story. She was gracious and appreciative of my response to her writing. I realized she wasn’t some faceless expert out there, she is a real person!

  I’m afraid folks won’t love me if they see my shortcomings. It’s a strange dichotomy. I fancy myself authentic, unafraid to share my warts; but if I directly disappoint someone, I want to crawl into a hole. (p.76)
She’s gone and done it again–told her story. Only now she’s told so much more it’s a wonder she doesn’t feel stark naked. I worried through the first few chapters, wondering if her story was maybe more than I could bear. But as I moved through and realized her focus was on the places a perfect God met her in this imperfect world, I relaxed. Her intent wasn’t to saddle me with the baggage of her past, but to show me how God gently pries her suitcases from her hands.
 
The recollection can either be a thin place or a shame place. I take a breath. Breathe in and then out. I breathe in God’s grace for me; I exhale the shame. I cling to Jesus and let go of my control. (p. 138)
 
I was amazed at how similar her story was to mine. Eerily amazed. One of those, we-could-be-twins-separated-by-birth stories. At points she sucked words and emotion right from my mind and heart. But reading my own story written by someone else was difficult. At times I wanted to take her into my arms and cry with her; other times I wanted to grab her and shout that there is so much more freedom waiting for her. That’s when I realized why God allowed me to read her story–to find His hope there.  To see how though it is the same Jesus who redeems and remakes us, He speaks to each of our hearts differently. He knows each of our secret languages.
 
“So yeah, I’m a raggedy mess. But God loves the socks off me anyway. I’m a cracked pot, a vessel God shines His loveliness through. Thank goodness for the cracks; otherwise how would God’s glory shine out?” (p.99)
 
If you’re looking for a story that offers humility, raw honesty, and unbridled hope, pick up Mary DeMuth’s new memoir, Thin Places, published by Zondervan. You will laugh and cry, shake your head and nod in agreement; you will see yourself and see someone you’ve never known but want to know. God will speak His truth to you clearly through Thin Places, if you let Him.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan for the purpose of review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review Week

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to introduce you to a several books on my shelf.

MONDAY

Thin Places by Mary DeMuth

TUESDAY

Thirsty by Amy Nappa

WEDNESDAY

How Can a Good God Let Bad Things Happen? by Mark Tabb

THURSDAY

Screwtape Letters (Focus on the Family Radio Theater)

FRIDAY

Derailed by Tim Irwon

SATURDAY

Voices of the Faithful 2 (International Mission Board)

Stay tuned for the skinny on each…