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4 Books I Read This Past Week (+ the classic movie we watched)

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Welcome to my weekly book update post where I share what books I read this past week + my honest thoughts and star ratings of them.

In 2020, I decided not to put together a list of all the books I plan to read like I did the past few years. In the spirit of keeping my goals smaller and in bite-sized chunks, I decided to just pick the next few books I’m planning to read instead of trying to sort of plan out the whole year!

And then I’m planning to do a book update post every week or every other week here with reviews and thoughts on the books I finished. It’s very possible that some weeks I won’t finish any books, so I’m giving myself permission to skip a week here and there if I don’t have anything to report! 🙂

Full disclosure, I did pick out a bunch of books I really would love to read this year and put them on three of the shelves in our library. And I plan to mostly pick the books I’m reading next from those shelves.

I also picked out about 25 books on parenting that I plan to read while I’m writing my book. (My manuscript is due in July 2020 and I am hopeful that I’ll be able to read one parenting book per week. I’ve been reading 1-2 chapters every morning on the treadmill while I’m walking and, at that rate, it’s pretty easy to get through a book per week. We’ll see if I can keep it up!)

If you want to see what I’m currently reading or what I’ve read so far this year, you can check out my GoodReads account.

A Word on My Star Ratings

The star ratings I give the books I read are based on a 5-star rating system. I rarely will ever give a book a 1-star rating (maybe never?), because my philosophy is that if a book is only worthy of one star, I’m more than likely going to quit reading it. 🙂 In the same vein, you’ll also notice that I’ll rarely give a 5-star rating as I reserve those for only my very, very favorite books.

Here are the books I finished last week:

1. An Invisible Thread

This book was recommended to me twice in the same week by people I respect, so I figured I should get a copy and read it! An Invisible Thread is the story of a seeming chance meeting between an 11-year-old pan handler and a busy executive and how it changed both of their lives.

This book is written from the perspective of the busy executive, Laura Schroff, and her thoughts on how this young boy impacted her life in ways she couldn’t have dreamed. I thought it did a good job of fleshing out some of the very real problems and struggles with children born into poverty.

I think so many of us live very sheltered and safe lives that it’s hard to imagine what it would be like to grow up and never know where you’ll be living, to have to figure out how to fend for yourself from a young age, to always be hungry, and how hard it would be to break the cycles of poverty and drug addiction when that’s all you know.

On the flip side, I cringed at some of the decisions Laura made and how hurt this young boy — often with her being completely oblivious. It made me examine my own life and thought processes over things and decisions, especially in light of fostering.

One of the parts of the book that I didn’t expect was that it wasn’t wrapped up in a neat bow and it didn’t have a perfect Hallmark movie ending. But I appreciated that it was real and gritty and the author was honest about her struggles.

That said, I felt like the author shared a lot more about her background and life than maybe was necessary and sometimes it felt more like her memoir than the story that is promised in the subtitle. In some ways, it felt like she was trying to fill a word count for her manuscript. And yet, some of her story was very interesting and insightful.

Verdict: 3 stars

2. The Rock, The Road, and the Rabbi

I had seen this book advertised or mentioned so many different places, but I had no idea what it was about. I was looking for some new books to listen to on my Libby audiobook app and it was available to borrow from the library, so I started listening to it.

Honestly, it seemed a little dry in the beginning and the introduction was kind of long and drawn out. But I’m glad I kept listening, because I learned so much and it opened so many passages in Scripture in a new light.

Kathie Lee Gifford shares her journey of traveling to Israel and learning under a Messianic Rabbi. He helped her write many parts of the book and, as someone who has read the Bible from cover to cover many times in my life, I couldn’t believe how much I learned.

I think that it helped that I visited Israel a few years ago and had gone to many of the places mentioned in the book so I could picture them in my mind as I was listening. And it made me anxious to go back again!!

If you haven’t been to Israel, I think you’ll still find this book insightful, it just might not come alive as much if you can’t picture the sites and places in your mind. (However, this book might make you really want to visit there!)

Verdict: 4 stars

3. Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family

I can’t tell you how many times people have recommended this book to me! Since I’m working on a book on the topic of parenting right now, I figured I should really read it.

It was interesting to me how much of the book mirrored some of the lessons and journey God has had me on as a parent in the last 3 years. Much of it was refresher type of encouragement, but it was so good to read.

I appreciated the author’s strong emphasis on the Gospel as that is often missing in parenting books. It’s so easy to focus on prescriptive parenting tactics instead of getting to the heart — pointing our kids to Jesus.

In addition, I loved the underlying message that we won’t doing this parenting thing perfectly and that’s the point. If we were perfect parents, we wouldn’t need Jesus!

While I didn’t agree with every tiny little thing in the book and I truly was irritated by the layout of the book, I am very glad I read this and think it’s a worthwhile read for every Christian parent!

(A note on the layout: I think it needed more spacing and better breaking up of paragraphs, maybe some callout quotes, and possibly a different font? Yes, I’m weird in that book layouts can really make or break my reading experience. I’ve even been known to not read a book just because I felt like the layout was so poorly done!)

Verdict: 4 stars

4. A Single Shard

We’ve had this book on our shelf for a few years and I finally picked it up to read aloud to the kids. It’s the fictional account of a master potter, a homeless boy, big dreams, dashed hopes (literally), and how perseverance pays off.

Truth be told, I really enjoyed the story and found it pretty engaging (even though I had mostly guessed what the ending was going to be!),  but the kids didn’t enjoy it. They said it was hard to follow and not super engaging.

I think some of the was likely due to the fact that we’ve gotten way out of the habit of reading aloud (should I confess that it’s been almost two years — I think! — since we’ve read a book other than a devotional or the Bible out loud together??) and it’s going to take some time to get back into it. I also think that they’ve changed so much in the few years since we stopped reading aloud, that it’s going to take some trial and error to figure out what kinds of books will engage them now that they are older.

Regardless of it not being a big hit, I’m going to celebrate that we read it, finished it, and learned some things about potters and ancient pottery and 12th century Korea. That’s a win, right?? 🙂

Verdict: 3 stars

Classic Movie We Watched This Week

The kids decided — all on their own — that they want to start watching one old classic movie per week together as a family in 2020. They are helping me choose the list of movies and I’ll be reporting here what we watch each week and their thoughts on it.

I plan to do a big classic movie round-up post at the end of the year with their verdict on the best and favorites of the ones we watched. (If you have suggestions of must-watch classic movies, leave them in the comments!)

This week, we watched the 1960’s version of Swiss Family Robinson. I hadn’t seen it in a long time, so I wasn’t sure if it would stand up to my childhood recollection of it being a great movie. And I had no idea what the kids would think since it definitely doesn’t have all the modern technology of big budget films now.

Well, we all really enjoyed it! The kids laughed a lot through it and we all decided it’s definitely one of the classic movies worth watching!

Note: Silas (10) was a little scared in a few parts and covered his eyes with the blanket. I told him that the ending was sort of like Home Alone, only pirate style, and that helped him enjoy it more to know that was coming. He ended up really liking it overall and said it helped that I gave him a little taste of what was coming. (It’s funny, because I do not like to know how a movie is going to end up. He, on the other hand, prefers to know that everything is going to be okay and then he can enjoy it a lot more.)

What did you read this past week? Any books you think I really need to add to my long to-read list??

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  • Karen Copp says:

    Just finished Called For Life by Dr. Kent and Amber Brantly. It is about the Ebola crisis a few years ago in West Africa. Picked it up for $1.oo at a Christian bookstore. I highly recommend. Quick and easy read exposing the vulnerability of Dr. Brantly who contracted Ebola while serving in Liberia, and his complete trust in God for His ultimate will.

    I read Parenting last year and I felt the same about the overall layout of the book- I told my husband it was very congested 🙂

  • Clare C. says:

    I went through my Netflix/DVD dot com history and found a few more movie recommendations :
    Sergeant York, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Moby Dick, The Magnificent Seven, Young Mr. Lincoln, The Young in Heart, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Pride of the Yankees. These are some that my 2 boys especially liked. My girls also like old Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly movies along with Jane Austen movie adaptations and the musicals in my previous comment. We watch quite a lot of old movies! 😊

  • Jeannie says:

    I read The Testament by Margaret Atwood. It was a good read. It kept me engaged , so I gave it 4 stars on my Goodreads account.

    Have a good one!

  • Lori says:

    You may have already read these, but I just finished Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. It a historical fiction book about the Tennessee Children’s Home in Memphis when the owners used to kidnap children from the poor and sell them to the wealthy. I could not put it down. And then I’m in the middle of Educated by Tara Westover and it is so so good.

  • Lisa says:

    I LOVE old Disney movies. My favorites include North Avenue Irregulars, Snowball Express, both Apple Dumpling Gang movies, Happiest Millionaire, and all 4 Herbies.

  • Teresa says:

    If you haven’t recently, you should read and watch Pollyanna. It’s such a misunderstood book! It has such a wonderful message about looking for the good in life even when faced with terrible tragedies.

  • Amy B says:

    My kids (and me) loved the Tuesdays at the Castle series by Jessica George. I’m generally a fiction reader– I love the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan.
    Anything by Brandon Sanderson are great (startwith the Mistborn trilogy)! I think he’s one of the best writers I’ve ever read, but just fantasy/sci do.

  • Ester says:

    Wow, four books in a week! Literally read every pages of the books? I would love to know how you achieved it!

    • I had already started reading Parenting, so I just finished it. I try to read 1-2 chapters every morning of a book while I’m on the treadmill and I try to listen to at least one hour of an audiobook throughout the day as I’m doing different tasks (getting ready, cleaning, driving, etc.). And then we try to read at least one chapter of a book as a family at night. I typically read a little here and there throughout the week as I have time, too.

  • Brenda says:

    Pollyanna is one of my favorites. Also Summer magic(also with Hayley Mills) is another favorite. I just got the Moon spinners for Christmas but I haven’t watched it yet.

  • Chris says:

    Gertruda’s Oath is one of the best books I’ve ever read !

  • MindaC says:

    I just finished Nancy Thayer’s “A Very Nantucket Christmas: Two Holiday Novels”. Her books are kind of beach reads and these were set during the Christmas season in Nantucket. I’ve never been to Nantucket but I like reading Thayer’s books about it as well as Elin Hiderbrand’s. The second of the two novels “An Island Christmas” was definitely best. It was something lighthearted to start the new year. I picked up “Such a Fun Age” yesterday at the library.

  • Anna Rose says:

    I read The Yearling which was awesome! I never read it in school. Reading it from the perspective of being a parent made such an impact. I want to be more like the dad, Penny.

    For anyone interested in watching the new movie that came out, Just Mercy. I recommend reading the book it was based on (I read it last year). My husband is black and I talked to him a lot about the book and I felt like I understood where he is coming from a little better.

  • Julie says:

    Over the summer, my Bible study read “The Rock, The Road, and The Rabbi” and we’re currently reading “Parenting”. I agree with you – there are things I question or take issue with in the book but overall it’s changed how I view parenting as my kiddos are getting older (7, 9, & 12).

  • Dana says:

    I’ve always loved the Disney movie Iron Will. It’s about a 17 year old who does a grueling dogsled race in the early 19oos. It was made in the 1990s though, so it may not qualify as an “old” movie. 😀

    For actual old movies, I would recommend Miracle of the White Stallions, Follow Me, Boys!, Blackbeard’s Ghost, and No Deposit, No Return.

  • Allison says:

    I just finished reading Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli – I think this would be an awesome family read aloud for older kids. Although the characters are in high school, there’s nothing I noticed that would be inappropriate for middle school/junior high, and while the topic is different it reminded me of the vibe of Wonder by RJ Palacios (but for a little older kids).

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