Sunday, August 31, 2014

August 2014 Bookshelf

A word about August.  I seem to get hijacked in August.  I don't understand this, it really is no different than any other month and the busy that it is filled with doesn't seem to be than any other time but a couple of years ago I only read ONE single book for all of August.  Last August I was back at a normal reading average but this August?  Three books.  That's it.  THREE.  For shame!  No wonder I feel at loose ends!  Now.  I did have a wedding week at the beginning of the month, a wedding the third week of the month, and the redheads started up school again.  Plus I was, you know, working.  Oh and I did turn 40 in August and spent some time doing a purposeful celebration.  (For more on that you can go to threesixtyfiveexperiment.blogspot.com and coffeehouseconversations.blogspot.com) So maybe 3 books read this month was actually quite a bit for all I had going on? I don't know.  What I do know is September had better be filled with reading or else my tank is going to be depleted, and that's no good for anyone...trust me.


R is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton
363 pages

What happened to Grafton's Kinsey Millhone?! She totally disappeared in this installment of the series.  Oh she's there, narrating the story as usual but she lacks her usual bravado, instincts, initiative, and personality.  The secondary character, Reba, seems to assume Kinsey's persona this time around. Plus a new development in Kinsey's love life seems to derail her a bit as well from being who Grafton has been developing her in the past 17 books.  It was disappointing.  It feels like Grafton let the character of Kinsey down.  She was bumbling as a P.I. and that is so contradictory to who she has been thus far.
The short of this disappointing read is that Kinsey is asked by Reba's father to retrieve her from the California Women's Correctional Institution where she has been for the past 2 years on charges of embezzlement.  Sounds simple right?  It never is with Kinsey.  She gets involved in Reba's activities beyond her release from prison and that's where her character takes a sharp departure from who Grafton has introduced us to in books A-Q.  I finished the book confused as to why Grafton departed from her star P.I.




Interrupted: An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith by Jen Hatmaker
ARC Kindle Edition - 176 pages

Jen Hatmaker and her publisher have updated her bestselling book, Interrupted, and offered a limited number of ARC's to her readers.  And I scored one! So excited.  I love Jen Hatmaker. I loved her book, 7, and knew that I would love this book.  In fact, Jen herself loves this book more than the wildly popular 7, she says (and she's right) that there would have been no 7 without Interrupted.
Jen and I seem to share a lot of common ground.  We share the same birthday month and the same number of years on this earth (40) and we share the year 2007. In 2007 Jen asked God for a holy passion and he answered. At the same time she was getting her answer I was getting the same kind of passion also as I traveled to Kenya in June 2007.  It changed my life FOREVER and Jen's prayer changed her life forever as well.  So I feel connected to her even though we have never met and probably never will.
Jen prayed for holy passion and God's answer was to thoroughly interrupt her cushy Christian life.  Praise God. Praise God he knew what she was actually asking for even though she most likely didn't.  Jen chronicles what happened to her and her family as God interrupted them for his Kingdom.  Scary, confusing, exhilarating, isolating, beautiful, and chaotic.  These are some of the things that Jen and her family felt and experienced in their interruption and it's what anyone else who gets interrupted by God will experience also. Oh but it is the best kind of life upheaval you can go through.
Sometimes I can pick a particular portion from a book and use that to be the foundation for a review and some thoughtful comments. Unfortunately I can't do this with Interrupted because I highlighted about 2/3 (or more?) of the book. Yes.  Yes, that good.  Yes, that much resonated with me.  Yes, that much compels me to continue to allow the interruption of God in my life.  Yes, that much prompts me to consider what have I missed by not allowing some interruption God was trying to place on me?  Comfortable Christianity has no appeal to me, it isn't supported biblically, Jesus certainly didn't model it for us. Since getting uncomfortable in my Christianity I have learned more about God and his nature than I ever had in the years prior when I was comfy and cushy in my faith.  Jen writes of a similar outcome.
Does the idea of being interrupted frighten you?  Does it mess with the little bubble you have blown around yourself?  Does it unsettle the seat you warm each Sunday morning?  If so then you should read this book.  If not, you should still read this book if nothing else for the evidence that you are not alone in your wanderings, you aren't as weird as some have tried to make you believe you are, and that there is more you can do with the interruptions God has placed in your life. Love God? Then love his interruptions in your life.





Julia's Chocolates by Cathy Lamb
390 pages

I love Cathy Lamb.  I believe I have said this before but it's worth repeating.  This book is her debut book, it's one of two I hadn't read yet.  No wonder she is such a hit, this book was an amazing debut!  Right away you get the sense of the kind of author Lamb is, howI she likes to develop a character and write compelling and thought provoking story lines.
Julia is on the run from her abusive fiance and a life of misery he wants her to live to the freedom of her Aunt's rural home in Oregon.  On the way to Oregon from Boston Julia pulls over on the side of the road and leaves her wedding dress hanging on a tree.  Good riddens.  Arriving to the comfort of her Aunt's home and love Julia sets out to begin to heal from the hell her life has been thus far.  With her quirky ways and ideas her Aunt introduces her to a group of women who all are needing to heal from something.  These women are each other's support group and they rally around one another to help one another get through what life is throwing at them.  But a past can't be run away from so Julia's Aunt makes sure Julia is ready to meet the past and resolve it for good.
I don't want to say too much because it is such a lovely story of healing, conquering, and victory.  Told through Julia's voice, I fell in love with all the characters.  Each of them had something about them that I could connect and relate to.  Cathy Lamb never disappoints and her debut certainly didn't and paved the way for all of her other great titles.  This is an author worth reading!

Monday, August 18, 2014

An Interrupted Bookshelf



(I now interrupt this regularly scheduled bookshelf with a special edition review of Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker. Thanks to Tyndale Publishers and Jen Hatmaker herself for this ARC opportunity!)

Jen Hatmaker and her publisher have updated her bestselling book, Interrupted, and offered a limited number of ARC's to her readers.  And I scored one! So excited.  I love Jen Hatmaker. I loved her book, 7, and knew that I would love this book.  In fact, Jen herself loves this book more than the wildly popular 7, she says (and she's right) that there would have been no 7 without Interrupted

Jen and I seem to share a lot of common ground.  We share the same birthday month and the same number of years on this earth (40) and we share the year 2007. In 2007 Jen asked God for a holy passion and he answered. At the same time she was getting her answer I was getting the same kind of passion also as I traveled to Kenya in June 2007.  It changed my life FOREVER and Jen's prayer changed her life forever as well.  So I feel connected to her even though we have never met and probably never will. 

Jen prayed for holy passion and God's answer was to thoroughly interrupt her cushy Christian life.  Praise God. Praise God he knew what she was actually asking for even though she most likely didn't.  Jen chronicles what happened to her and her family as God interrupted them for his Kingdom.  Scary, confusing, exhilarating, isolating, beautiful, and chaotic.  These are some of the things that Jen and her family felt and experienced in their interruption and it's what anyone else who gets interrupted by God will experience also. Oh but it is the best kind of life upheaval you can go through. 

Sometimes I can pick a particular portion from a book and use that to be the foundation for a review and some thoughtful comments. Unfortunately I can't do this with Interrupted because I highlighted about 2/3 (or more?) of the book. Yes.  Yes, that good.  Yes, that much resonated with me.  Yes, that much compels me to continue to allow the interruption of God in my life.  Yes, that much prompts me to consider what have I missed by not allowing some interruption God was trying to place on me?  Comfortable Christianity has no appeal to me, it isn't supported biblically, Jesus certainly didn't model it for us. Since getting uncomfortable in my Christianity I have learned more about God and his nature than I ever had in the years prior when I was comfy and cushy in my faith.  Jen writes of a similar outcome.

Does the idea of being interrupted frighten you?  Does it mess with the little bubble you have blown around yourself?  Does it unsettle the seat you warm each Sunday morning?  If so then you should read this book.  If not, you should still read this book if nothing else for the evidence that you are not alone in your wanderings, you aren't as weird as some have tried to make you believe you are, and that there is more you can do with the interruptions God has placed in your life. 

Love God? Then love his interruptions in your life. 

Jennifer Hatmaker, Jen, is the author of 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess and A Modern Girl's Bible Study series. With a heart for her generation, she speaks at conferences around the country. Jen resides in Austin, Texas, with her husband, Brandon, and their five children. To learn more about Jen and follow her blog, go to www.jenhatmaker.com.



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

July 2014 Bookshelf

The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim
386 pages

Drawing inspiration from her parents story and Korea's history Eugenia Kim authors a fictional account of Najin Han, the daughter of a renown calligrapher.  The story spans from 1915 to 1945.
Najin Han is the first living child of her parents and was left unnamed.  All her life she felt the weight of being given no name, and therefore according to her culture, no destiny.  As Japan invades Korea and occupies and the last of the Emperor's dies Korea is thrown into culture and generational confusion.  Najin's father clings stubbornly to the ways of Korea while the Japanese insist the Koreans become a people and culture they are not.  Meanwhile, Najin seeks her destiny having received a name of sorts from her Mother.  As Korea changes under Japan's influence and as the world goes through two world wars Najin becomes a different voice than the one her father had hoped for.  She longs for education, to walk a career path only men are allowed to, to remain single and independent.  But as years pass and she walks the balance beam between the old and new Korea Najin grows into a voice that brings honor to all.
Eugenia Kim did a beautiful thing by crafting a story loosely based on her parents and historically based on Korea's history.  However, the book was probably about 100 pages too long and it was a tedious read at points.  It moved very slow, a little too slow, and I found it hard to keep picking up.  The story didn't engage me and keep me interested as I anticipated it would.  I found myself skimming some parts.  Kim writes well, she develops characters wonderfully and is very descriptive.  But that which she does well also may be the problem.  It makes the writing very wordy and slows it down quite a bit.  There were parts of the story that could have, and should have, been edited down to make for a tighter story.  The reader still would have gotten the point, the idea, etc.  While gaining insight into Korea's history was interesting I was pretty relieved when the book finished, which is unfortunate because Kim did attempt a beautiful thing with this title.


Futureville: Discover Your Purpose for Today by Reimagining Tomorrow by Skye Jethani
Kindle Edition - 204 pages

I never would have picked up this book (probably) but someone I am in community with posted a picture of it on FB and simply and emphatically said, "Read it!" So I did.  I've never heard of Skye Jethani so he and his writing was 100% new to me. Jethani writes simply and relateable.  I appreciate that, when it gets too heady it becomes hard and laborious to read.
Skye Jethani, using the 1939 World's Fair as an example, takes the reader on a "what if" kind of journey.  Just as the World's Fair invites people to imagine a better and more advanced tomorrow, Jethani invites us to reimagine the life of faith.  He challenges some held beliefs about what is important and has purpose.  He frames his thoughts with the purpose of shalom and what shalom accomplishes.  He discusses what eternal future really looks like and how that should frame what we do today. He points out the flaws of the two major ways believers have chosen to relate to others in this world, I really appreciated his thoughts on that particular topic.  As much as the Church has tried to remain separate from the world he opens the readers eyes to the ways in which the Church has bought into the world's ways and how that has had an impact on our work, worship, our very way of living as a believer in this world.  The Church has tried to keep up with the changing times in the wrong ways and with the wrong things, Jethani argues, and the result is they have sent a message to the younger generation of believers that what they do and what they have a heart for doesn't count.  He outlines the impact that World Wars and other events have had on believers mindsets about the Kingdom of God and how to draw people to God. The Church, in fear of a devolving society, has lost sight of what their real purpose is.  Jethani proposes ways to get back to the work of God for real.  The Church, in fear of a devolving society, has not cultivated shalom but has furthered anger, fear, division.  These things are not the fault of the world, Jethani points out, but the fault of the Church because they live in fear - the very opposite of the shalom God calls them to live in.  Riding on the coattails of that fear is the desire to escape this world and its evils so believers disconnect even further from the world as they wait the escape they believe God has promised through the rapture. They speak a message of destruction and fear for those "left behind" and issue warnings about not getting on the escape boat with the others in time.  This also has bred fear, anger, and division instead of shalom and goes against God's intent for his people and the work he's asked them to do.  After delivering the bad news, Jethani goes on to deliver the good news, the course the Church is on can be corrected.  We can begin to cultivate shalom and Jesus is our example.  We can put purpose back into today so that tomorrow is more what God desires.
I really liked what Jethani had to say in his book.  It gave me a lot to think about and consider.  It challenges the Church in some of the places they need to be challenged.  My friend said read it and I, after doing just that, can see why.  It was a "worth it" read for sure.




Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Kindle Edition - 253 pages

Well I tried.  I mean I gave it like 11 chapters at least.  But nothing happens in these books except a bunch of twittering and petty quarreling.  I am bored spitless. I've decided life is too short and my book list is full to overflowing with books I know I will enjoy when I read them that I just can't waste my time trying to like a genre that I clearly don't.  It's only slightly less painful than the mere thought of having to go camping (which I hate also).  So adieu Jane Austen, adieu 19th Century Lit (unless I read another Dickens) - you served your purpose for others but not for me.  I wish you well and I hope we can still be cordial to one another.




360 Degrees Longitude: One Family's Journey Around the World by John Higham
400 pages

I just traveled the world with the Higham family.  It was wonderful!  And much cheaper for me than them.  :)  John and September Higham spent a decade saving and planning an around the world trip for their family.  They spent 52 weeks in 28 countries on 5 continents.  They homeschooled, sort of, during their travels and exposed their children to the rich history this world has to offer - the beautiful and the ugly.  This was a fascinating read of their travels.  The places they visited, the things and people they saw, and the universal lessons they learned.  They learned a lot about themselves individually and as a family.  Peppered throughout the chapters, each focused on a place and dates they were there, are excerpts of journal entries from all the family members (2 adults, 2 kids).  Higham blended facts about the place with personal stories about how they experienced it and what they learned from it.  It was all very fascinating.  I love reading about someone's journey, what they experience, learn, see so it was a given I was going to love this book unless it was written so horribly that it made a trip around the world seem dull.  Fortunately John Higham can write well enough to keep me interested in their travels.  I love that people are willing to share their experiences with those of us who will never do what they did, vicarious living!  For more info on their journey's you can find them here.




Oxford Messed Up by Andrea Kayne Kaufman
324 pages

A beautiful story of hurt, healing, redemption, and love.  Taking place at Oxford, among the intellectuals and those who seem to have it all together, Gloria and Henry are loo-mates who drive each other crazy but are also drawn to one another.
We meet Gloria, who struggles with OCD, as she is being dropped off at the airport to make the trip across the pond to Oxford.  We get an up close look at the severity of her OCD and it establishes empathy for her. While Gloria is flying over the ocean we meet Henry, a Brit whose Father is Department Chair at Jesus College and sister is a psychologist who still seeks approval of their Dad. The music of their home, their Mother, had died years previously.  Henry breaks ranks with the family and decides to move to St. Cross College from Jesus College in an attempt to escape his Father. Henry and Gloria meet in the loo which joins their two flats together.  As the days and weeks pass and they begin to get comfortable living in the same spaces, getting to know one another, their various demons try to keep their grips on Henry and Gloria.  But they are both tired of the fear that controls their lives and they begin to fight together to slay the demons in their lives.
Kaufman has written a modern day love story.  She has also written a story of healing from the demons that chase us.  Her OCD research was thorough and portrayed the disease through Gloria in a very empathetic manner.  She draws attention to the disease in a way that shares the realities of what people with severe OCD have to suffer through.  It sounds weird to say but she does it beautifully.  She tells a story of hurt and healing and the redemption that comes from it beautifully.  I really loved the story, it engaged me - I read it one sitting, it just flowed.





Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
240 pages

I'm currently focusing on Gratitude Attitudes for a year. So I thought it a good idea to get this title read during this focused season. I love Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  She speaks truth and is solid in her teaching.  But this book fell a little short for me personally.  Perhaps it did, in part, because I already know or have heard most of, if not all, of the precepts she lays out in this book.  One of the "problems" with being born into the church is you've heard it all before.  The contents of Nancy's book are no different than any other book written on gratitude by a Christian author/teacher. In this case, truly there is nothing new under the sun.  She offers biblical proof for gratitude, compelling reasons, and some practical steps.  But again, there was not one bit of new-to-me info or thought in this title.  That's not to say it isn't a worth it read for others but for me it wasn't.




Bonus Mention:
Back in May I read Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.  I loved it.  A lot. I convinced my little book club to read it for July so I re-read it this month.  And I loved it all over again.  After I read it in May I needed other people to read it so I could discuss it. Such a fascinating story!  Reading it again I caught some of the foreshadow I didn't the first time around, which made it even more intriguing to read.  It's a hefty read, but worth it.  I highly recommend it!