Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mailbox Monday 8/30

It's time for another Mailbox Monday, which was created by Marcia at the Printed Page, and this month is hosted by Shanyn at Chick Loves Lit.

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

It's been quite awhile since I participated in Mailbox Monday, but it's so much fun that I figured I'd give it a go again.

This is what arrived has arrived in my mailbox over the last couple of weeks, at least the ones I haven't finished or read yet!

The Mermaid's Pendant, by Leann Neal Reilly
Jackson Jones, Book 1: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish, by Jenn Kelly
Song of the Silent Harp, by BJ Hoff
Heart of the Lonely Exile, by BJ Hoff
Please Stop Laughing at Me, by Jodee Blanco
Petra, City in Stone, by T.L. Higley
Jesus in His Own Words, by Robert Mounce
Me, Myself and Paris, by Ruth Yunker
Choosing to SEE, by Mary Beth Chapman
A Disagreement in Idaho, by Holt E. Glenn
What new books did you receive last week?
For more Mailbox Monday posts, check out Chick Loves Lit.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Renters Win, Homeowners Lose...Review by the Doctor

About the book:
Tom Graneau, a financial management coach, pinpoints owning a home as the black hole for the American dollar. This timely masterpiece exposes the biggest shakedown in consumer spending—home ownership.

Driven by the American dream of grandeur and prosperity, buyers purchase their homes as “smart investments” when in actuality, the best they can hope to get is zero percent return. More commonly, owners lose an enormous amount of money on the deal, driving themselves even deeper into debt as they pour their hard-earned income in mortgage payments and maintenance costs.

Renters Win, Home Owners Lose, Author Tom Graneau prudently shows readers how to avoid getting trapped in the biggest scam in the country, endorsed by national and local governments and the housing and mortgage industries. Tables, graphs, and various statistics are prominently laced throughout the book to expound the obvious, tangible advantages that renters have over anyone preparing to buy a home.

For those already owning a home—fear not. Graneau concludes by outlining winning strategies and solutions to make their experience a little more agreeable.

Renters Win, Home Owners Lose is a perfect eye-opener for renters, first-time home buyers, and those who plan to upgrade to a second or third home!

I’ve heard this concept before.  Don’t own your home, pay rent and use the differential to invest.  The people who suggest this always seem to have some great financial details to back up their concept, and look down on the rest of us with a sort of benign amusement.
However, the author does make some interesting arguments, and some of his advice for people who do decide to buy a home is good reading.
I would say that if you are planning on buying a home in the near future and, lets face it, with property process and interest rates right now who wouldn’t, then this book is definitely worth a read just to make you more aware of some of the pitfalls.  But, given the opportunities in real estate right now, this book isn’t enough to discourage me from buying a home.

Thanks to Jaime at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Tom Graneau here.  You can read additional reviews here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can find other reviews and tour stops here.

Read 8/10

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Running Around (and Such)...Review

About the book:
Can Lizzie find happiness in her Amish community or will she have to settle for something less than her dreams?

Lizzie Glick longs to fit into her quiet Amish community. Her sisters, Emma and Mandy, are ready to get married and settle into the traditional rhythm of having children and keeping house. But Lizzie isn't sure that's what she wants for her future. It isn't that Lizzie doesn't want to stay Amish. It's just that there's so much to figure out!

Stephen, her quiet, gentle friend, hints that he might be interested in a relationship deeper than friendship, but Lizzie is also drawn to the charming Amos who seems to have eyes for everyone but her.

She has certainly attracted the attention of the egg-truck driver. A thrill runs through her every time the worldly man comes to pick up an order, each time extending his stay a little longer. How long will she keep this a secret from Emma -- and Mam and Datt?

What will become of Lizzie? She has too hot a temper. She hates housework and dislikes babies. She loves driving fast horses but is petrified of going away from home for a week to work as a maud (maid). Is she too spirited, too innocent, and almost too uninhibited for a young Amish woman?

The Amish family portrayed here isn't perfect.  They have their issues, which is refreshing.  However, Lizzie was a completely unlikeable, whiny, annoying teenage girl.  She hates everything and she doesn't like to work.  She eats too much and complains that she's fat.  Perhaps that's typical of teenage girls.  At any rate, she just annoyed me and I didn't care about her at all.  Honestly, I ended up skimming a lot of it and I can pretty much guarantee that I didn't miss much.

Running Around (and Such) is the first in a series and it will be interesting to see if Lizzie matures at all. I don't know that I would seek out the rest of the series myself.  The book wasn't marketed as a juvenile fiction, but clearly it is meant for pre-teen to teen girls.  The writing is simple and the characters undeveloped. Young readers who are interested in the Amish lifestyle would probably enjoy it. 

Thanks to Julie Harabedian at FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 8/10

* *
2/5 Stars

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Kitchen Shrink...Review by the Doctor

About the book:
Dora Calott Wang is a Yale-trained psychiatrist who began her career as a doctor with great enthusiasm. But after less than a decade of her practicing medicine, that enthusiasm was shattered by the seismic shifts that shook the entire medical profession.

Once a cherished, even sacred, vocation, medicine has become a business driven by profit. What made medicine turn its back on its central tenets? In The Kitchen Shrink, Wang explores what happened, through the prism of her own research and experience. In these pages we watch as she struggles to maintain her professional standards as health care's priorities shift away from the compassionate care of patients and, instead, toward improving the bottom line, and along the way we meet some of her patients, whose stories reveal an oft-ignored human side of our besieged system. As the medical landscape shifts beneath Wang, she confronts depression and exhaustion, and fights to find a balance between work and home, as it become ever clearer that she cannot untangle the uncertain futures of her patients from her own.

Part memoir and part rallying cry, The Kitchen Shrink is an unflinchingly honest, passionate, and humane inside look at the realities of free-market medicine in today's America.

As someone who grew up in a country with socialized medicine and who now is a health care provider, I’m always intrigued by people who seem to hold the view that socialized medicine is a good idea.  When you look at the waiting lists, the government red tape and the fact that private health care is growing, anyone who professes to want government intervention into health care holds a view somewhat opposed to mine.
Dr. Wang recalls some of her experiences over the years as she works with people and companies in her own attempt to provide help and care for the mentally ill.  Her stories are heartbreaking, and she documents the changes over the years as her time with patients grows smaller and smaller, and the number of medications grows longer and longer. 
After reading this book, I won’t say that I am for socialized medicine, but she did at least make me think that there are some areas of health care that are not best served by the private sector.  Maybe a return to a non-profit model for certain health care sectors is not necessarily the worst way of helping them.
Overall, an interesting book.  Not a fun read, but definitely makes you think.

Thanks to Caitlin with FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Dora Calott Wang here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 8/10

Friday, August 20, 2010

Amish Proverbs...Review

About the book:
Spend enough time with the Amish, as author Suzanne Woods Fisher has, and you’ll hear them repeat a catchy turn of phrase or short words of wisdom, like “Good character like good soup is usually homemade,” or “Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.” Suspended in these phrases are age-old lessons about how to live wisely and please God. Reiterated day after day, the proverbs are learned by heart and help guide the lives of the Amish, reminding them of what’s truly important.

Fisher has spent a great deal of time with the Amish and has collected more than 200 proverbs that uncover the rich heritage, folklore, faith, values, history, and essence of the Plain People, which she shares in her new book Amish Proverbs.

These proverbs cover all aspects of life, from finances to faith to family, as well as overcoming life’s frustrations. Serving as teaching tools and maxims for practical living, they're not just for the Amish. Proverbs help point us all toward wisdom, toward good judgment, toward God’s teachings. They're for anyone who seeks God's wisdom and truth for everyday circumstances.

Mixing proverbs with short vignettes, this is a truly lovely book.  It's small and easily read in one sitting, but I think it's a perfect book to put on a table or shelf where you can just pick it up and peruse it for a few minutes.  Some are serious and others funny.  Some are simple, but all are profound in some way. 

I loved this one:  "One thing you can learn from by watching the clock is that it passes time by keeping its hands busy."   And this one, "You are only poor when you want more than you have."

I think every family has its own kind of proverbs and growing up mine was no different.

One year for Christmas, my brother had our family's proverbs done in calligraphy and framed for my mom.  She hung them on the wall of our entry hall and I looked at these every single day.

Three things to remember about the world today:
"Jesus Christ is the son of God and Savior of the world."
"Life isn't fair."
"You are responsible for your actions and decisions."

And the a second one

Before you leave this house remember:
"Who you are and what you stand for"
"The church is true"
"Mom loves you."

Now that I'm a mom, I find myself saying the same things to my children.  I firmly believe in accountability and taking responsibility for the consequences of your own actions, and I know it stems from my own upbringing. This is something we try to instill to our boys.  I think I will have our own proverbs framed for our home!

This is a gorgeous little book and would make a wonderful gift.

Thanks to Donna Hausler of Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Suzanne Woods Fisher here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  Check back tomorrow for a giveaway!

Read 8/10

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Good Girls Don't Have to Dress Bad...Review

About the book:
In Good Girls Don't Have to Dress Bad, Shari Braendel teaches you how to appreciate the body God gave you and how to always look your best-from conquering the battle of finding the right swimsuit, to choosing how many bangles you should wear or how big your purse should be, to wearing the right style jeans that will best flatter your thighs or hips, to finding the best places to shop to suit your unique personal style.

Many of us are watching reality TV shows to get a clue on how to dress right and look good. We hungrily purchase fashion magazines any time the cover article has something to do with how we can hide our despised body parts. We make mad dashes to the local department store to pick up the new anti-wrinkle cream Oprah promised will take ten years away from our face.

We care about how we look. Why is that? Because we're women, and women love to look and feel good. God made us that way. And this is not a bad thing. In fact, it's a wonderful thing. God loves beauty. He doesn't want us to reflect his image being sloppy, disheveled women of God who don't pay any attention to what we look like.

Good Girls Don't Have to Dress Bad will show you how to look and feel your best, no matter what day it is or what the occasion. And it will also stop you from screaming at the top of your lungs, "I have nothing to wear."

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but I loved it.  So many style and fashion books are intimidating and are full of skinny, sexy models who are leaps, bounds and airbrushes away from me and my life. Here, finally, is a book for real, every day women.  Shari Braendel explains body type and helps you determine which type you are. And there are photographs of real women who have that body type.  Then, she explains why certain styles  work better with certain types, and there are photos of these real women wearing those styles.  It's awesome.

With categories for every aspect of style including: Meet Your True Colors, The Art of Undergarments, How to Divide and Conquer Swimwear, Hair and Makeup, and others, this is a book for every woman.

I think my favorite thing about the book is that all of the models are real.  They're people you would know.  Even in the section on swimsuits, these models are real, flawed, beautiful women, some of whom are plus-sized.  It's so refreshing.  You can look at any one of these photos and see yourself.

This is a book you could read in one setting, but I think it's more of a great resource guide.

Thanks to The Blog Tour Spot and Zondervan for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Shari Braendel here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can check out other stops on the blog tour here.

Read 8/10

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Thursday, August 12, 2010


About the book:
When New York City shopkeeper Steve Dancy moved west to experience the frontier, he wound up embroiled in a deadly feud ... a feud he was forced to settle with guns. Now all he wants to do is follow up on a few business interests, write about his adventures, and continue his exploration of the West.

But in the autumn of 1879, Joseph McAllen asks Dancy for help. Ute renegades have abducted a young girl near Mesa Verde, Colorado, and the Pinkerton captain wants him to join the rescue party. Surprisingly, the trail doesn't lead into the San Juan Mountains, but to Leadville -- a rich mining town teeming with the worst elements of a raw frontier. Bitter feuds, vendettas, and greed turn the affair into a bloody conflict that spans the state.

Dancy has proven that he can handle himself in dangerous situations. But will this shopkeeper survive the perils of an untamed mountain wilderness?

A sequel to The Shopkeeper.  I don't read many westerns, but I enjoyed The Shopkeeper and the character of Steve Dancy.  Leadville doesn't disappoint either.  Steve and his mining buddy Jeff Sharp connect up with their old Pinkerton friend Joseph McAllen to track down the Indians who have abducted his daughter.  Steve's old nemesis, Mrs. Bolton returns and is as evil as always.

The story is exciting and fast-paced.  Gun fights and robberies, cowboys and Indians, horses and mining, friendship and loss.  The heroes are terrific and the bad guys aren't.  The adventure is entertaining.

My only complaint is the same one I had with The Shopkeeper and it's the pervasive use of the "F" word.  I would have given Leadville 4 stars if not for that.  The book stands alone well, but reading The Shopkeeper first sets a great tone and gives you back history of Steve Dancy. 

Thanks to Author Marketing Experts and the author for the opportunity to review this book.

You can learn more about James D. Best here and his Steve Dancy character here. You can purchase the book here.

Read 8/10

* * *
3/5 Stars

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ransomed Dreams...Review

About the book:
With the flash of a bullet, Sheridan Montgomery’s world ceased to exist.

Her husband, Eliot—the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela—may have physically survived the assassination attempt, but he would never be the same again. And Sheridan had accepted that neither would their marriage.

But when a man that Sheridan had hoped to never see again brings new information about her past, it spins her life down a side road—a path that makes her question everything she thought she knew about herself, her husband, and their life together.

Does a promise last forever when everything has changed? With honesty and grace, best-selling author Sally John tells a moving story about the unexpected detours our lives can take and the hope that it’s never too late to find our way back.

I hate it when reviews don't come easily.  This is the first book I've read by Sally John and I don't think it will be my last.  When their lives are devastated by an assassin's bullet, Eliot and Sheridan retreat to a remote town in Mexico to recover.  Sheridan is terrified of the real world and angry at her situation and husband.  Eliot is tortured with chronic pain and can't bear his wife's touch.  Together they struggle to simply survive.

When Sheridan's estranged family reappears in her life with secrets and additional heartache, she is forced to face her fears.

This isn't a fast-paced story, but it is a moving one.  Sally John perfectly captures the emotions and heartache of shattered hopes and dreams as well as the longing and desire for security and devotion.  Sheridan and Eliot's story is a compelling story of love and forgiveness.  An honest, thought-provoking book and one I can easily recommend.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Tyndale House Publishers for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Sally John here. You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 8/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Diplomat's Wife...Review

About the book:
How have I been lucky enough to come here, to be alive, when so many others are not? I should have died.... But I am here.

1945. Surviving the brutality of a Nazi prison camp, Marta Nederman is lucky to have escaped with her life. Recovering from the horror, she meets Paul, an American soldier who gives her hope of a happier future. But their plans to meet in London are dashed when Paul's plane crashes.

Devastated and pregnant, Marta marries Simon, a caring British diplomat, and glimpses the joy that home and family can bring. But her happiness is threatened when she learns of a Communist spy in British intelligence, and that the one person who can expose the traitor is connected to her past.

A pleasant surprise.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but this was an enthralling read.  I couldn't put it down and read it in a couple of hours.  The writing is straight-forward and beautifully simplistic.  I'm not a big fan of first-person narrative, but it worked here, although the present tense was a bit awkward.  Marta and Paul aren't fully developed characters, but still garnered my interest and sympathy.  I cared about what happened to them, and anxiously turned each page.

I found the historical aspect fascinating, especially from the European viewpoint as the eastern bloc fell to communism.  This is a sequel to The Kommandant's Girl, which I haven't read yet.  However, it stands alone well.  Easily recommended.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 8/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements...Review by the Doctor

About the book:
The Periodic Table is one of man's crowning scientific achievements. But it's also a treasure trove of stories of passion, adventure, betrayal, and obsession. The infectious tales and astounding details in The Disappearing Spoon  follow carbon, neon, silicon, and gold as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, war, the arts, poison, and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them. 

We learn that Marie Curie used to provoke jealousy in colleagues' wives when she'd invite them into closets to see her glow-in-the-dark experiments. And that Lewis and Clark swallowed mercury capsules across the country and their campsites are still detectable by the poison in the ground. Why did Gandhi hate iodine? Why did the Japanese kill Godzilla with missiles made of cadmium? And why did tellurium lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history?

From the Big Bang to the end of time, it's all in The Disappearing Spoon.

I really like this book. If only I'd had teachers at school who could make a little bit of chemistry and a little bit of physics enjoyable and understandable. Sam Kean does all all of the above, and blends in histories of the people and events behind the periodic table. Don't be alarmed, this is not a textbook, but I wish he had written a few. If you've ever been awed, amazed, frustrated, or befuddled by the elements and where the come form, then read this book, and prepare to laugh. This was one of those books where you want to grab someone and go "hey - read this, it's amazing".

A great read, by a great author.

Thanks to Hatchette Book Group for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Sam Kean here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 7/10

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Day the Falls Stood Still...Review

About the book:
Steeped in the intriguing history of Niagara Falls, this epic love story is as rich, spellbinding, and majestic as the falls themselves.

1915. The dawn of the hydroelectric power era in Niagara Falls. Seventeen-year-old Bess Heath has led a sheltered existence as the youngest daughter of the director of the Niagara Power Company. After graduation day at her boarding school, she is impatient to return to her picturesque family home near Niagara Falls. But when she arrives, nothing is as she had left it. Her father has lost his job at the power company, her mother is reduced to taking in sewing from the society ladies she once entertained, and Isabel, her vivacious older sister, is a shadow of her former self. She has shut herself in her bedroom, barely eating--and harboring a secret.

The night of her return, Bess meets Tom Cole by chance on a trolley platform. She finds herself inexplicably drawn to him--against her family's strong objections. He is not from their world. Rough-hewn and fearless, he lives off what the river provides and has an uncanny ability to predict the whims of the falls. His daring river rescues render him a local hero and cast him as a threat to the power companies that seek to harness the power of the falls for themselves. As their lives become more fully entwined, Bess is forced to make a painful choice between what she wants and what is best for her family and her future.

Set against the tumultuous backdrop of Niagara Falls, at a time when daredevils shot the river rapids in barrels and great industrial fortunes were made and lost as quickly as lives disappeared, The Day the Falls Stood Still is an intoxicating debut novel.

Having visited Niagara Falls and loved it, I can honestly say that, historically, this is a lovely book.  The descriptions are rich, the story compelling and the photos enthralling.   It has all the makings of a wonderful, timeless story.  The controversy over the power plants and the environmental concerns is timeless.  People falling in love, marrying and trying to provide for their families is timeless.  Job loss and war and death of loved ones is timeless.

I liked Bess and Tom.  I liked how Bess found the strength within herself to do what she needed to do when it came to not only following her heart, but to providing for her family.  I loved the weaving of history and Tom's ability to predict what the river would do.  I didn't like the underlying sadness, but there are those who will reply that sadness and disappointment are an integral part of life.  I don't disagree. 

This is one of those stories that I can see being read in an English class or Book Club:  something that is meant to be thought-provoking and discussed, but ultimately not one that you remember for the enjoyment of reading it.

Thanks to Hyperion Books for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Cathy Marie Buchanan here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 7/10

* * 
2/5 Stars