Category Archives: Reading & Reviews

Reading Review: I Need a Bunker, Again

The Maze Runner series by James Dashner

Why do I read books about the end of the world? I know it’s going to make me paranoid. I know I’m going to want to dig up our back yard and plant a bunker. I know I’m going to want to hoard canned tuna and water so that when “the big one” happens we won’t die. But I love them!

In this series, the end of the world as we know it was caused by solar flares which scorched the earth’s surface killing much of the population and making much of the land unlivable. It also caused the release of a deadly virus that slowly eats away at your brain until you turn into a zombie-like crazy person who wants to eat other people.

A handful of teenagers may hold the key to developing a cure for the deadly virus known as the Flare. But to succeed they must endure countless horrific challenges and tests. However, they are not willing subjects in this search for a cure but they are forced to participate by their captors. They face monsters and liquid metal that melts your head off and blistering sun and Flare-infected crazy people and the deaths of friends – all for the good of the many. What value are the lives of the few if they can save the human race as a whole.

This is a three book series. The first two books, in my opinion, were fantastic. The third book was a bit less “keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat”. But it was still a great book and I like the way it completed the series. I would love to see an epilogue in the future about how life on earth turned out after the end of this series, but I think James Dashner is just going to leave that up to our own imaginations.

Incidentally, a prequel to the Maze Runner series, The Kill Order, was released yesterday. I don’t think it’s necessary to understanding the original series, but I’m looking forward to reading it all the same.

Question: Do you read books that make you paranoid? What are you reading this summer?

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Reading Review: Feel the Burn…of Conviction

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker

In 7, Jen Hatmaker shares her personal experiment of eliminating excess in seven different areas of life. She and her family, set aside one month for each category and greatly reduced the excess in each area. For food month, they ate only seven things all month. That’s it…seven foods…for a month. And chocolate was not one of the foods. Yikes!

For clothing month they wore only seven pieces of clothing for the entire month. Sometimes I wear seven articles of clothing in two days. I take for granted my plethora of free t-shirts that I rotate through from day to day.

In more somber months, the Hatmakers focused on where they spent their money and where they spent their time and on the abundance of possessions they own in comparison to the great needs of those around them. We are commanded to care for those less fortunate than us – the widows, the orphans, the poor. Commanded. It’s not just a nice idea.

I was challenged to look at my own excess. Sure we tithe and sponsor a couple kids but there is still so much that we do for ourselves and our own comfort rather than seeking to meet the needs of those around us. I want to waste less and be more responsible for the world around me. I want to stop consuming. I want Mikayla to grow up outside the consumer mind set.

I don’t really know where to begin. Other than to take baby steps. Recycle. Plant a garden. Buy clothing second-hand or from fair trade organizations. Weigh purchases to determine if it’s truly a need or if that money could be better used to help someone else. Intentionally look for needs of those around me rather than remaining blind and deaf to their cries for help.

This was a fantastic book. I loved Jen’s humor and honesty throughout the whole process. And, while I don’t plan to fight excess as drastically as she did (no chocolate? hello) I’m truly challenged to take a look at the excess in my life.

What are you reading right now?

Get “Wrecked”

It’s not unusual for me to post a book review. Today, I want to do something a little different. I want to tell you about a book I haven’t yet had a chance to read. Wrecked by Jeff Goins releases today and I don’t want you to miss it.

“When a broken world slams into your comfortable life.” Wrecked is about what happens inside us when we start to really see the world around us. When we see the hurt and the pain and finally decide that we can do something about it. Deciding to pursue a life of love and compassion, a life lived for others rather than consumer-driven lives of normalcy.

Like I said, I haven’t yet had a chance to read the whole book. I’ve skimmed through the first couple chapters and am really looking forward to actually reading the entire thing. I want to see this broken world full of broken people and actually live a life of purpose and meaning.

So why am I telling you about this book today rather than waiting until I’ve finished reading it? Jeff Goins is giving away 6 free gifts to anyone who purchases the book this week (from August 1-4). The gifts are:

  • Electronic versions of the book (a $31.47 collection)
  • Advance download of the unabridged audiobook (a $29.99 value)
  • The 10-week “action guide” for group or individual study (an exclusive guide valued at $12.99)
  • Complimentary copy of Goins’ latest eBook, You Are a Writer in all formats (a $14.97 value)
  • Free download of the hour-long audio program, The Writer’s Studio, plus a companion worksheet (a $19.98 value)
  • 50% off Goins’ upcoming online writing course, Tribe Writers (a value of $49.50)

If you too are tired of the consumer life-style and think there’s a grander purpose for our days on this earth, check out Wrecked. And buy it this week so you can get some cool free stuff.

For more information about Wrecked and how to receive the 6 free gifts, visit wreckedthebook.com. You can also visit Jeff Goins blog to learn about the author. And, don’t forget to buy the book.

Reading Review: Owning Our Injuries

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

I pretty much loved this book. It is what it says it is – a book about boundaries. Not the physical kind, necessarily, but the emotional, mental kind. The boundaries we build around our true person that help to define who we are to the rest of the world. The boundaries that protect us from emotional harm, from stress and burn out, from feelings of guilt and obligation.

I will say, right up front, that the down side of this book was that it got a bit…long…at times. Though it is quite educational, it isn’t exactly a put-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller. And, there are a LOT of lists. To accomplish _________, here are 10 steps. Or, to do this, there are 7 steps. Or, to gain this, there are 12 steps. There are a TON of steps for every little thing that your supposed to do in order to have healthy boundaries. I don’t see how they expect any one to actually remember all the steps, definitely not follow every single one. And some of them are the same steps just repeated for different purposes, but a lot of them are different. Who can remember 427 different steps? Not me.

But I did get the gist of the book. And I think it’s a book most every one should read. I was actually surprised to see where there are areas I have unhealthy boundaries. Areas where I permit harm to myself on the basis of sparing someone else’s feelings. What I see now is that I’m not only causing feelings of resentment and anger to grow in my own heart, I’m also not doing the other person any favors by allowing their poor behavior to continue. True love would kindly not permit poor behavior and would not harbor resentment but would address the issue and prohibit it from continuing. (Easier said than done. I know.)

The other thing I learned is that we are responsible for our own pain. When someone else has poor or unkind habits, when our boundaries are not respected by another, we tend to be hurt or wounded or angry or bitter. We blame the other person. After all, they are the ones who caused the pain. True. But they aren’t the ones feeling the pain. Since it is our pain to feel, we are responsible for doing something to correct the problem rather than playing the victim. As long as we play the victim and harbor the pain, the problem will continue. When we address the issue and enforce our boundaries we are taking responsibility for our feelings of pain and protecting ourselves from future injuries.

We are responsible as stewards for the lives we have been given. We are stewards of our time and our bodies and our emotions. In order to manage them well, we need good boundaries. Healthy boundaries.

Question: What are you reading right now?

Reading Review: Scared Silly

Vanish by Tom Pawlik

Five complete strangers wake up in Chicago to find the rest of the city empty. Everyone they know and love has completely vanished. It doesn’t take long before they notice they’re being followed and watched by what appear to be aliens. Nightfall brings more terror when the aliens begin attacking them and picking them off one by one.

Once I finished the book, I enjoyed it. It was really well written and definitely kept my attention. The problem was that it was terrifying. Before the end – before you find out what is actually happening – it is really, really scary. Even after you know what’s happening its difficult to get the graphic images of the aliens out of your head. Or, at least, for me.

And, just to add a bit of excitement, a few hours after I finished reading this our power went out. And stayed out for about 18 hours. 18 hours of terror. I can handle scary as long as Mike isn’t out of town and I can leave/turn lights on as needed. With no lights…I was seeing aliens everywhere.

This is coming from a complete and total chicken. I’m not known for my bravery or lack of paranoia. So, not everyone will find Vanish as disturbing as I did. It really was an enjoyable book…if you aren’t afraid of shadows.

What are you reading this month?

Reading Review: School Stinks

Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin

Seth Godin has written a ton of books and manifestos and eBooks and blog posts and probably a bunch of other stuff too. I’ve heard his name all over the place but this was his first writing that I’d read.

Apparently, Godin feels quite strongly that our nations public school system as a whole is broken. But…there’s really not a good way to fix it. Basically, Godin says that our education system was built and designed as a way to churn out factory workers. When public school was started, we wanted to teach kids what they needed to know to be better factory employees – mostly to follow instructions, stand in line, sit still and do as told. The “three r’s” were central to all learning because they were necessary skills for the majority of employees at the time.

And now? We don’t really need everyone to be a factory worker. We need artists and musicians and entrepreneurs. We need leaders, not a bunch of people obeying rules and following directions. The problem is that you can’t change an entity as old and vast as our public school system without lots and lots and lots of effort from lots and lots and lots of people over lots and lots and lots of years. Anyone who picked up the torch now would likely not live to see the end of the battle, so to speak. And those most passionate about the education system – parents of children currently or soon to be in school – would not see benefits of any changes until long after their children graduate.

So, it’s not an easy cause. But whether you agree with him or not, Godin presents some very interesting information. And, while he doesn’t really give an easy solution, anyone with any interest in our nation’s school system (teachers, parents, future parents, employers, future employers, conscientious citizens) should give this book a read.

And, hey, it’s a free download.

What are you reading this summer?

Reading Review: Celebrating Life

Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist

Let me start by saying…I love Shauna Niequist. I don’t know how she manages to sneak into my head and heart and write words that I think and feel but she does…and beautifully.

Cold Tangerines is a celebration of life. Celebrating friends and food and house church and old homes and babies and disappointment and struggle and hurt feelings and wounds inflicted by those you trust and love and faith and … life.

Much like a collection of journal entries, Shauna opens her heart and shares her life in a way that is incredibly relatable. Sweet and inspiring. Just make sure you have tissues on hand.

Personally, I think every woman should read Shauna’s books. This one and Bittersweet – which I read two years ago and still think about often.

Have you ever read a book and thought the author was speaking your thoughts?

Reading Review: Unexpected Paths

Two Rivers by T. Greenwood

Even in Vermont, the racism of the deep south alters the life of one man in several unexpected ways. From the murder of his mother to a murder he commits to a surprise house guest that forever changes his life.

Two Rivers was an enjoyable read. It did quite a bit of skipping around in time, but once you figure that out its easy to keep up. Not necessarily for young readers as some of the scenes and themes are quite graphic and violent. Still, it tells a great story of the healing power of forgiveness – both of yourself and from others – and of the small world we live in where a complete stranger can be more connected to your life than anyone else.

Forgiveness. Love. Second chances. A good read.

What are you reading right now?

Reading Review: Let Kids Be Kids

Under Pressure by Carl Honore

From overprotectiveness to buying to many gifts, from pushing too hard in sports and academics to a general lack of discipline – Carl Honore basically evaluates all the ways we parents can mess up our kids. According to his research it seems that now more than ever parents are finding new and improved ways to sabotage childhood.

In the end, Honore writes, “there are some basic principles the hold true across class and culture: children need to feel safe and loved; they need our time and attention, with no conditions attached; they need boundaries and limits; they need space to take risks and make mistakes; they need to spend time outdoors; they need to be ranked and measured less; they need healthy food; they need to aspire to something bigger than owning the next brand-name gizmo; they need room to be themselves.”

Reading that hefty list without the background information provided in the rest of the book may seem a bit vague or even impossible. The general idea I took away from this book is that kids need to just be kids. Sure they have to study some and clean their rooms – but they also need free time to run and play and laugh and climb sketchy looking trees. Kids need to be their own person without parents forcing them into some version of what we think the perfect child should be.

Honore writes of his own learning experience, “My aim is to encourage my children to stretch their wings but to let them choose the flight path. Instead of squeezing them into my master plan, I’m enjoying finding out who they are as they grow up.”

Under Pressure was a great reminder that childhood is important just as it is – without every minute being controlled or scheduled by adults. I will say it was a bit sleep inducing at times – what with all the statistics and facts and research. (Keep in mind, I usually read books from the teen fiction section.) But the message was well worth the read. I would especially recommend this book to any parents feeling stressed out by family chaos or to parents feeling the peer pressure of their community to conform to a specific style of parenting.

What have you been reading lately?

Good Reads

I don’t have a book to review this week so instead I wanted to share a few blog posts or articles that I have enjoyed recently. Some are funny, some are inspirational, some are about Harry Potter. Enjoy…

Harry Potter, Jesus and Me by Andrew Peterson

Shop Last by Sam Davidson

To The Mother with Only One Child by Simcha Fisher

If Not Us, Then Who by Kellee Keys

Weekly Six – 3.23.12 by Tyler Stanton

Does the World Need Your Dream by Jon Acuff

The Map and the Plan by Jon Acuff

Turning Imagination into Action. A Guest Post by Bob Goff from Donald Miller

Last Words for My Daughter by Jim Woods

11 Reasons Why Rachel Should Have Picked Joey by Laura McClellan at TV Asylum

Question: What post or article or book has caught your attention lately?