Thursday, July 19, 2012

Be Still My Heart

Yep, that's my boy reading the bedtime story.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

I must confess I strayed from my commitment to finish all the books I was simultaneously reading and instead, picked up yet another, which I could not then put down. 
Winter Garden weaves together the past and present (love me that historical fiction!) as it lays out the lives of Meredith Whitson, her sister, Nina, and their complicated relationships (aren't they all) with their parents. Their mother, Anya: cold and distant. The girls have never been able to please her or make her happy and quit trying a long time ago, never quite healing from the scars her withheld love has imprinted on them. Their father, Evan: warm, loving, always trying to make up for his wife's painful silence.
When their father falls gravely ill, he makes a last attempt to pull his wife and daughters together using a fairy tale Anya told the girls in their childhood, set in her native Russia.  Through Anya's reluctant retelling of this tale,  the girls begin to unravel the mystery that is their mother, learning about a history they never knew was part of them and breaking the barriers they've put up around their hearts in the process.
BOTTOM LINE: Have Kleenex at hand!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist

"My prayer for you is not that you live a life that's only sweet and never bitter, but that in even the bitterest of moments, you will find the comfort of Christ, deep and enduring, powerful beyond all imagination."
Thus ends Shauna Niequist's reflective collection of essays on life, change, and grace. And throughout her book she shares her own life's tale of these elements and what she has learned about them through tragedy, pain, loss, joy, love - and how they all point to the great Comforter. I love that she ends with this sentence because life is a collection of days both bitter and sweet, not segregated from one another but interwoven, equal, often simultaneous. And through it all, the pain and the joy, we have One who can relate to it all and bring us to a place of peace. 
BOTTOM LINE: Her book is raw and honest, as well as humorous. It sounds so cheesy, but every time I picked it up I felt kind of like I was sitting with a good friend, hearing her story, gleaning advice.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Her Last Letter by Nancy C. Johnson

Another 99-center from dear Amazon and its Kindle app. I told you I have a problem.
Gwyn is struggling to recover from the death of her sister by hit-and-run accident a year previous. She grapples with both joyful memories and painful regrets regarding their relationship as she works to move on with her life which takes place in Colorado and is lived with her husband, Trevor, best friend, Caroline, and older sister, Linda.
While going through her sister's home, Gwyn comes across a cryptic letter Kelly left behind, confessing to being intimately involved with her "sister's boyfriend" and fearing for her life at the hands of this unnamed man. At the time of Kelly's death, both Gwyn and Linda were dating their now-husbands. Could one of them possibly be the cause of Kelly's death? How well does each sister really know her husband?
While the book was deliciously suspenseful throughout, I found the ending to be decidedly anti-climatic.
BOTTOM LINE: Kudos to the author for leaving me hanging until the end. But if I paid more than 99 cents for this thing I'd be pissed.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I never used to be one of those people who would read more than one book at a time. How do people DO that?! I'd wonder. As with most things in my life these days though, I find that I multi-task. To a fault. Even with books. Devouring one book at a time is no longer enough. There are just too many out there to consume! Not helping this obsession is the Kindle app on my phone. Recently I have found I have a bit of an addiction which may, in fact, require intervention. SO MANY books that go with me EVERYwhere at ONE TOUCH of a button. It's too much for an avid reader to handle responsibly (and I haven't lately). But I will say this. I don't know that I'm savoring books as I love to do when I have more than one going at a time. Too many areas of my life already feel cluttered and with my already poor memory it's probably not helpful to retention. And so I will, one at a time, finish the multiple books I'm halfway through (see sidebar), enjoying fully each one, digesting its contents, before I move on to the next one calling my name. And the beautiful thing is that for the rest of my life, without fail, there will be another book waiting for me to pick it up.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

I tend to think of myself as a non-fantasy genre individual. Yet somehow I keep getting sucked into and hooked on fantasy series: Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Hunger Games, etc. A Game of Thrones did it to me again.
Much like The Fellowship of the Ring for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, this first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series had the heavy task of serving as introduction to the world(s) grown out of Martin's detailed imagination. As such, I found that it took me a better part of the first half to get to the point where I couldn't put it down. However, I found it difficult to walk away once I was immersed in the life of charaters such as Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell, who becomes the king's right hand man in place of his (allegedly) murdered predecessor and has the task of solving the mystery of the last hand's death. And characters like King Robert Baratheon and his scheming wife, Queen Cersei; Viserys and Daenerys Targaryan, whose family was ousted from the throne and murdered by King Robert and who are now, through marriage to a barbarian king, working to take back that throne. (Ok, somehow making that list made me feel exceedingly nerdy.) And as the storyline of a kingdom full of tension and mixed loyalties unfolds, I found I had to see it through. The end of the book cleverly left me hanging, anxiously waiting to get my hands on the next in the series (thanks, HBO, for boosting the popularity and making this virtually impossible at my library).
BOTTOM LINE: You don't have to be a fantasy-genre-type person to get sucked into the Game of Thrones, which apparently, you either win or you die.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Choosing to See by MaryBeth Chapman

As a believer in Christ and the hope that He brings us, I find shame in admitting that lately I live under a cloud of fear. It's kind of a small cloud, but it's there, nevertheless. You see, everyday I hear a new story of heartbreak, pain, or sickness being experienced on this earth, and I end up thinking "Why not me?" and then I wait for the other shoe to drop. My life is so full. My heart so full. And I just find myself wondering when it will be ripped away.
Ahem. Depressed yet?
All this is to say that through the book I literally JUST finished reading, I was reminded powerfully that though, yes, there is great pain and suffering in this world, Christ has overcome it! (John 16:33 - an amazing verse of truth and comfort! See below.) In Choosing to See, Mary Beth Chapman walks us through her journey of wrestling with God to give up the illusion of control we all seem to have in our lives but specifically how that looked in hers. Most particularly, in the loss of her five-year-old daughter, Maria, in the spring of 2008. I am so grateful for the way Mary Beth allowed her and her family to be used as she so transparently laid out their grief, pain, wrestling, and moments of hope. She shares the ways in which they have seen God so powerfully work in and through them while at the same time not hiding the earthly struggle with loss and the emotions that accompany it.
BOTTOM LINE: While I cried many tears through the pages, I was left feeling an immense hope that if I CHOOSE TO SEE God at work, I have nothing to fear. I am reminded that He is my guide and my strength and completely outside of MY control and MY desires, His plan will be carried out in my life.
I have said these things to you that you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." John 16:33