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Tag Archive: Book Reviews

Books Read This Week: A New Kind of Normal, Angel in the Rubble, The Cabin Faced West, Sarah Witcher’s Story

Many of you have asked me to share reviews of the books I read. I used to do this on a monthly basis, but I decided it might be simpler for me to start doing this on a weekly basis instead. So, each Friday, I’ll be sharing a little synopsis of the books I’ve read that week.

Personal Reading

A New Kind of Normal by Carol Kent — After reading When I Lay My Isaac Down, I wanted to read this follow-up book. It has some overlap from When I Law My Isaac Down, but also a lot of new material and tells more of the continuing story of her son’s imprisonment.

Carol’s testimony of trust in the Lord even in the midst of very traumatic circumstances was such an encouragement to me. After reading her story and the other stories in the book, I feel like I never have anything to complain about.

I appreciated the author’s raw honesty. She doesn’t act like she has it altogether, but shares very openly about the struggles and how God has been faithful. This book would especially be a great source of comfort to those who have had very difficult life-altering situations come into their life.

Angel in the Rubble — This was an interesting read of a woman who was the last survivor to be pulled out of the rubble 24 hours after the twin towers fell. The story is riveting and I made the mistake of starting this shortly before bedtime one night and then stayed until until 11:30 p.m. reading it (I know, I know, I really should read boring books before bed so that I fall right to sleep and stick with my goal of going to bed early!).

I would recommend the book as it’s a good read and it’s always helpful to consider if we’re living our lives in a way that we would want to live if we were to die today. However, I will mention that the last few chapters felt like they were just stuck in to make the book long enough to be a book. Or, maybe I was just tired at that point? At any rate, I ended up skimming those. I checked this out from the library so hopefully your library has it, too.

Read-Alouds

The Cabin Faced West — This is the story of Ann, a pioneer girl who is struggling to be content in her new home in the wilderness. The children and I really enjoyed this read-aloud and it provided opportunities to talk about being content and how blessed we are with our modern conveniences.

Sarah Witcher’s Story — The children were mesmerized by this story, even though we’ve already read it in the The Bear Who Heard Crying.

Currently reading: EntreLeadership, He Heard Hannah, The Rose Conspiracy, and listening to Purple Cow audiobook. You can see all of the books I’ve read in 2011 so far here. Read all of my book reviews here.

Have you read any good books recently?

(Note: The Amazon.com links in this post are affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy here.)

Q&A: How do you choose what books you read?

Nicole asked on my 10 Weekly Goals Post:

Crystal, how do you decide which books to read next? I love your book choices, and am wondering how you make your selections? Is there a webpage you visit, is it through friends’ recommendations, or do you have a book list you follow? -Nicole

Well, truth be told, there’s no scientific reason behind the books I choose to read and the order I read them. I did make a booklist at the beginning of 2011 with 24 books I planned to read this year. I planned this list from books I already owned and had been wanting to read for some time.

The two books per month I’m supposed to read from this booklist are my first reading priorities each month and I try to not allow myself to read much else until I’ve finished (or almost finished!) these. However, since I often read at least five or six books per month, I specifically only planned two books per month so that I could have room to read quite a few other books throughout the year.

Always Be On the Lookout For Good Book Recommendations

Most of the rest of the books I chose based upon suggestions from friends (I’m constantly asking my local friends, “What are you reading right now?” I get lots of great ideas this way!) and from the blogs I read (Catherine from A Spirited Mind posts many great reviews and I’ve found quite a few excellent books based upon her suggestions.) I also occasionally find books I’m interested in on Pinterest or from an email or comment from a reader. Since I love to read, I’ve learned that just keeping my eyes and ears open for good book recommendations pretty much guarantees I have an endless supply of good book ideas.

Keep a Running List

As soon as I find a book I’m interested in reading, I write it down. And, at the next available opportunity (usually that same day), I’ll check out the reviews on Amazon. While these are not always unbiased (some authors get a bunch of their friends to write glowing book reviews for them), you can get a good sense in skimming the reviews as to whether the book is worth reading.

If I’m still interested after reading the reviews and description on Amazon, I check to see if our library has the book. Most of the time, it does, so I go ahead and place a hold on it. Since I recently spent $25 to get a Gold Card membership, I can request unlimited holds–something that comes in very handy at the rate we check out books at our house.

The thing I love about checking out books from the library is that I don’t feel any sort of obligation to have to read the book. If I get it and start skimming through it and realize it’s not what I thought it was, I can just return it to the library, without any guilt. I’d rather spend my time reading high-quality books that I’m going to enjoy and benefit from, instead of feeling obligated to read a mediocre book because I paid for it.

In the cases where our library doesn’t have the book, I’ll check PaperBackSwap to see if it’s available there. If not, and it’s a book I really want, I add it to my Amazon wishlist and then wait for when we have some extra credit from Swagbucks to use toward buying the book.

As books come in from PaperbackSwap, from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, someone sends me a book (companies often send me books in hopes I’ll read and recommend them on my blog), I keep them on a bookshelf in our schoolroom that is just for books I’ve yet to read. As I finish one book, I choose another from this bookshelf to read. When library books I’ve put on hold come in, I make those higher priority since I have to return them in a timely manner (it’s not saving money to check books out from the library if you end up having to pay late fines repeatedly!).

(Pages of notes I took from Organized Simplicity)

The 3-Books-At-A-Time Rule

I try to always have three books going: one that is an easy, highly-interesting read; one that is somewhat business related (about marketing, blogging, writing, growing a business, being a leader, personal finance, etc.); and one that is encouraging and building me up spiritually. I don’t always follow this formula exactly, but that’s what I aim for when choosing what book I’ll read next.

Another thing I’ve implemented this year is to be consistent in finishing books before starting new ones. I used to be the queen of starting books, but was really, really awful about actually finishing a book. I found this to be quite unproductive, since it starts becoming overwhelming and crazy to try to process what you’re reading if you’re reading snippets of 20 different books.

So in 2011, I’ve made it a point to only have three books going at once–in addition to my current devotional book and my current “running” book (I have a spiritually-deep book by the treadmill that I read a few pages out of while I’m doing my pre-run walking warm-up. I’ve been reading really thought-provoking books during this time as I’ve found it then gives me a lot to think about and mull over while running.) Setting a specific boundary on my book-reading has helped me to actually finish many, many more books than I usually do–and I feel like I’ve gleaned a lot more by concentrating and focusing on reading fewer books at a time.

For those who are interested, you can see the books I’ve read so far in 2011 here. You can also read reviews of many of them here. (I’m behind on writing book reviews, but I am hoping to get caught up sometime in the next week!)

photo credit

4 More Favorite Children’s Read-Alouds

Last year I shared 15 of our favorite picture books. We still love those 15, but we’ve added a few new favorites in the last year:
Papa’s Pastries — Every once in a while, we come across a children’s book that we all just love. And that we read over and over and over again — until almost everyone has it memorized word-for-word. Papa’s Pastries is one such book.

Not only does this book have beautiful pictures and an engaging story that our girls have been captivated by, but it introduces children to the reality that so many people around the world are much needier than us. In our affluent and wasteful culture, it’s hard to even imagine what it would be like to not know where our next meal will come from or to be so poor that no one in your family has shoes.

Cousin Ruth’s Tooth — This book has become one of our most-often-requested read-alouds. It’s so much fun to read and all the children love laughing at the funny pictures and silly poem.

Junior Discover’s Spending (Series) — The children have really enjoyed this whole childrens’ series by Dave Ramsey. It teachers practical money management skills in a very fun and engaging manner, plus it’s sparked all sorts of great discussions in our home about wise stewardship. Even Silas (2) loves these books.

Millions of Cats — This is our newest favorite picture book. It’s a fun story about lonely couple who wants a cat and ends up with hundreds, millions, billions, and trillions of cats.

What are your favorite children’s picture books? I’d love to hear as we’re always looking for new books to read!

(Note: The links in this post are my referral links. Read our disclosure policy here.)

Books Read in June: Debt-Free U, Honey for a Child’s Heart, The Happiness Project + more

Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents — So many people think it’s almost impossible to go to college without incurring debt. Zac Bissonette debunks this myth and shows you how it’s possible to pay cash for college without having to take twenty years or make six figures (or without parents having to cash in their 401Ks to pull it off).

The book promises it might save you $100,000 and I think it very well could. Despite what some may tell you, college doesn’t have to cost two arms and two legs. I know many, many young people who have gone to college and graduate school without debt and wholeheartedly believe it’s much more possible than most people realize.

Zac does a huge service to families everywhere in this well-written, much-needed book. You might disagree with some of his conclusions or suggestions, but I promise he’ll make you think and re-examine your beliefs regarding college and debt. If you are planning to go to college at some point in the future or have children who are planning to go to college, you must read this book.

Also Read:

Honey for a Child’s Heart — I really enjoyed this book. As some of you know, I’m not a huge fan of fiction for a variety of reasons (mostly because I like real-life stuff and just can’t seem to get into fiction knowing that it’s been made up — especially when I have lots of other books I really, really want to read!). However, this book challenged some of my long held opinions on fiction and helped me think of it in a new light. I didn’t agree with all of the authors conclusions on books we should read to our children, but I was inspired to continue to make reading a big part of our lives and to encourage my children to love good books. I also loved the book lists at the back of the book and added dozens of them to our long to-read list!

The Wounded Spirit — I read this book based upon Ann Voskamp’s recommendation. While I actually didn’t love Peretti’s writing style like I thought I would (I think I’ve only read one other book by him before), this book had some excellent gems in it. I was especially challenged to realize how much my words can effect others and how important it is for me to be careful to do my best to only say words that build up and encourage my children, my husband and all those I come in contact with. By the way, if you missed it, be sure to read Ann’s poignant post on this topic.

The Treasure Principle — I loved this book. It was short, concise, thought-provoking and all around excellent. If you’re a Christian struggling with what Biblical stewardship entails, this book will definitely encourage and challenge you. This book is well worth your time.

The Happiness Project — I was planning to read Three Cups of Tea this month, but after I was made aware of a lot of controversy over the book, I decided to replace it with The Happiness Project. This book is not my usual type of reading material and I really didn’t expect to like it, but some various friends of mine recommended it, so I read it. And I’m glad I did!

While I believe that the only way to experience true, lasting fulfillment and happiness in life is to live one’s life for Christ, this book made me re-examine my life and why I do what I do each day. I definitely disagreed wholeheartedly with some of the author’s conclusions, but I was inspired to think of small changes I can implement in my life to make our home and lives run more smoothly and cheerfully. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of choosing to sing in the morning instead of complain over a long to-do list and spilled milk!

Read aloud to the children: Little Town on the Prairie, All of a Kind Family, Voyage With the Vikings, and Attack at the Arena. We thoroughly enjoyed all of these, though I’d say the Adventures in Odyssey books were definitely their favorites.

24 Books I Plan to Read in 2011

Business and Financial Books I Plan to Read and Review This Year:

January — 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think
February — Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living

March — Becoming a Person of Influence
April — Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking
May — Life on the Wire: Avoid Burnout and Succeed in Work and Life
June — Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents
July — Have a New You by Friday: How to Accept Yourself, Boost Your Confidence & Change Your Life in 5 Days
August — Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t
September — America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money
October — Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
November — Shift Your Habit: Easy Ways to Save Money, Simplify Your Life, and Save the Planet
December –Personal Investing: The Missing Manual

Other Books I Plan to Read This Year:
January — Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment
February — Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time
March — The Possibilities of Prayer
April — The Blessing of Boundaries
May — The Happiness Project
June — Honey for a Child’s Heart
July — One With Christ
August — A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning
September — Womanly Dominion: More Than A Gentle and Quiet Spirit
October — The Rose Conspiracy
November — Disciplines of a Godly Woman
December –Benjamin Rush: Signer of the Declaration of Independence

What books did you read in June? Any great recommendations for me to add to my to-read list?

(Note: The Amazon.com links in this post are affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy here.)

How to Have a Successful Road Trip With Young Children: Bring Some Good Books & Audios

You likely well know this, but we love books at our house. And no trip is complete without them! I have fond memories of my mom reading to us on long car trips and I hope to create those same memories for my children.

Picture Books

These are great for reading aloud or letting the children read/look at themselves. I tried to pick books that corresponded with some of the places we were visiting and things we were doing to make them a little more relevant.

You can find our family’s 15 favorite read-alouds here if you need ideas for good books. We get most of our books from PaperBackSwap since, sadly, our library system here is nothing like the wonderful library system we had in Topeka and Kansas City (we were spoiled there — no late fees, very clean and modern facilities and lots of new books and new releases!).

Chapter Books

I always try to bring one chapter book along to read in the car and at night as we’re snuggled up in bed before going to sleep. The children beg for me to read every night and there’s nothing that beats a good chapter book while we’re all snuggled under the covers together!

We’re finishing the Little House series right now, but I brought All-Of-A-Kind Family for something different for this trip. The children loved it and I think I know what books we’re going to read once we finish the Little House series! (Thanks to a reader who recommended this book!)

Books On Tape/Audio Dramatizations

One of the ways we pass a lot of time in the car is by listening to great audio. One of our children’s current favorites is the Jonathan Park series. We also enjoy the Focus on the Family Radio Theater and the The girls also recently listened to Charlotte’s Web during their afternoon quiet time and were enthralled with it.

Books for Mom

Don’t forget to bring some books for yourself, too. Road trips almost always provide some time to enjoy longer stretches of reading than you might usually be able to enjoy at home. I brought The Happiness Project, The Wounded Spirit, Debt-Free U and Quitter. Reviews on these books will be posted in a few weeks when I share about the books I’ve read this month.

Books Read in April and May: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, Life On the Wire + more

So, I have to confess something to you all: I kind of had a bad attitude about Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true. I’m someone who tends to go against the grain instead of just following the pack, so I figured there’s no way this book could really live up to the over-the-top rave reviews everyone kept giving me. And, because of this, I had a negative bias from the get-go.

But (you knew this was coming!) I loved the book. I read it in one setting and have been itching to bake crusty loaves of bread ever since. The book made it sound so easy, so doable and so delicious.

I’m sold — and I’ve not even made the bread yet! Provided the bread turns out as well as the rest of the world proclaims it does, this book is a blue-ribbon winner. Stay tuned for later this year when I share about my adventures in baking Artisan Bread as part of my Do-It-Yourself Experiment series.

Also read in April and May:

Life On the Wire — I picked up this book because Dave Ramsey recommended it and it looked like a great book on balancing — an area I can always improve in. I loved the first few pages of the book, but it grew somewhat tiresome to me after that. I think perhaps the book’s method of presentation just didn’t appeal to the way I process and organize my life. That said, if you feel like your work and life balance needs some serious help, this book might be very beneficial to you.

The Blessing of Boundaries — This is a book for Christian women on finding God’s purpose for your life and not trying to be superwoman. While there were some helpful thoughts, overall, I didn’t find the suggestions or ideas to be earth-shattering. And, like Life on the Wire, it seemed to drag on and I felt like I was slogging through it, at times.

31 Days to Clean — Read my review of this ebook here. (In my review, I failed to mention that this ebook is written for Christian stay-at-home moms primarily. If you work outside the home, you might not find it as helpful. I’d also love to see the book professionally edited as I did find some typographical errors, as well as structural dissonance. But overall, I loved it and think it would be a great encouragement to many stay-at-home moms who are feeling overwhelmed.)

Large Family Logistics — I wouldn’t agree with all the ideas and methodology presented in this book and, like 31 Days to Clean, it’s written for Christian, homeschooling, married stay-at-home moms. However, even though we don’t have a large family, I was very inspired by this book and the suggestions and practical tips the author outlined. I’ve been seeking to implement some of them in our home organization with great results. Now I just need to read a book on having discipline to follow through with all my good intentions! 🙂

The Grace and Truth Paradox — A friend loaned me this book and it was excellent. If you’re a Christian who struggles with how grace and truth are to be lived out in our lives, this little volume is packed with food for thought. It was my first Randy Alcorn book and now I want to read everything he’s written!

The Long Winter — The children and I were mesmerized by this book’s tales of surviving a frigidly cold winter. It’s hard to imagine what that would be like as we sit in our comfortable air-conditioned home. And I realize I probably can never complain about the weather for the rest of my life!

24 Books I Plan to Read in 2011

Business and Financial Books I Plan to Read and Review This Year:

January — 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think
February — Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living

March — Becoming a Person of Influence
April — Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking
May — Life on the Wire: Avoid Burnout and Succeed in Work and Life
June — Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents
July — Have a New You by Friday: How to Accept Yourself, Boost Your Confidence & Change Your Life in 5 Days
August — Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t
September — America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money
October — Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
November — Shift Your Habit: Easy Ways to Save Money, Simplify Your Life, and Save the Planet
December – Personal Investing: The Missing Manual

Other Books I Plan to Read This Year:
January — Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment
February — Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time
March — The Possibilities of Prayer
April — The Blessing of Boundaries
May — Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time
June — Honey for a Child’s Heart
July — One With Christ
August — A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning
September — Womanly Dominion: More Than A Gentle and Quiet Spirit
October — The Rose Conspiracy
November — Disciplines of a Godly Woman
December –Benjamin Rush: Signer of the Declaration of Independence

What books have you read recently? Any you’d highly recommend?

(Note: The Amazon.com links in this post are affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy here.)