Week in Books

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney.

Loved this. Loved the details behind the research, and loved the practical applications and hints at how to put willpower to work for me, and when I shouldn’t rely on it. One of my favorite parts is how it discusses weight and food with willpower, and how that is kind of the exception to some of the other rules relating to willpower. It helped me understand why I actually have really good self-control in many other areas of my life, but struggle the most when it comes to what and how much I eat. And it gave me some ideas on how to handle it going forward!

French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters by Karen Le Billon.

While I enjoyed this as a memoir and interesting look at food culture and parenting in France, I’m not entirely sure how applicable it is to life here. Our food culture is just so different, and many of the French “rules” are much harder to follow here. But, it did give me encouragement to continue serving vegetables to my 3 year old who always says he doesn’t like them. Maybe one of these times he’ll have tasted it enough to like it. It also made me want to get back in the habit of a family tea time in lieu of a more random afternoon snack.

The Grief Recovery Handbook: The Action Program for Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Losses including Health, Career, and Faith by John W. James and Russell Friedman.

I thought this was a very helpful look at grief, and how you can get stuck in a way, because most of us never really learn how to deal with grief. I liked how it included more than just dealing with grief due to death too.

Thanks to Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy for including this on her “Books I’m Afraid to Recommend” list. It is one that would be hard to suggest, but it’s a good one.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my blog!

Week in Books {Austin, Pantley, Hatmaker}

While We’re Far Apart by Lynn Austin

Historical fiction of the non-mystery variety isn’t typically my favorite, but on a whim I read the novel set in WWII-era New York. I loved it. I found the intersecting lives between the characters intriguing, and while I guessed the “surprises” in the book, it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the work. A very fun read. I always know that I really like a book when I’m sad at the ending because I’ll miss the characters.

I probably shouldn’t have been that surprised that I enjoyed it, because I also really liked Austin’s Chronicles of the Kings trilogy, especially the first book, Gods and Kings

The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution: Gentle Ways to Encourage Your Child to Eat—and Eat Healthy by Elizabeth Pantley

I thought this was a very encouraging approach to dealing with picky eaters. I just finished it, so I haven’t had time to really try and implement any of her suggestions so I don’t know how effective it will be, but if nothing else it helped remind me that I am not alone in dealing with a picky eater!

Many of the included recipes sounded like items I might make for my kids to try, and I think hummus may be the first one I’ll attempt. I wish I’d gotten to the recipes before I made my weekly shopping excursion, because the most tempting ones include some items I don’t have already.

A Modern Girl’s Guide to Bible Study by Jen Hatmaker

I think this one ties in very nicely with Unstuck, which I criticized for not having a lot of practical suggestions for how to engage with Scripture. Hatmaker’s book, though a completely different tone than , provides those practical suggestions and even includes examples from her own experiences. Loved it!

I’m really tempted to buy her other Bible study books, especially Tune In: Hearing God’s Voice Through the Static. They’re not at my library, so I can’t preview them like I usually like to do before purchasing a book, so I’m having a debate with myself if I should buy them sight-unseen. If you’ve read any of her other Bible study books, can you let me know what you think about them?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my blog!

Week(s) in Books

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings–and Life

If you’ve read a lot of time management books, or even Vanderkam’s own book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (reviewed here), not much of this book will be original. That said, it was still very inspiring to think about how am I using my mornings, and what could I do to make the most of them. It’s short, but priced to take that into consideration. Part of me wishes she’d fleshed it out more with additional examples or other information, but another part is glad that she kept it streamlined and to the point. I’m glad I read it.

Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic

I find conversion stories extremely interesting, but this is my first Catholic conversion story. I didn’t fully follow his theological arguments in the next to last chapter (being interrupted every two minutes by one child or another makes it challenging when I read more complex works, and for this one I kind of gave up working through that chapter and skimmed it.) I read the story for his actual story rather than a Catholic apologetics text, so I didn’t feel too bad about not really reading that part of the book. I didn’t like how Beckwith hinted at other events that had nothing to do with his conversion, and left it at mere hints (like his tenure battle at Baylor). I don’t know his story, so it made me curious about why he’d initially been denied tenure, and why his appeal was granted. Those facts are about all he gives, so I’d almost rather he’d left it out entirely if he wasn’t going to explain (maybe he thought it was big enough news that everyone already knew?) Even just a brief outline would have been enough; I wasn’t wanting endless details but some clue about what happened.

Interrupted: An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith

Jen Hatmaker’s newest book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess is all over the blogosphere lately (at least the part of the blogosphere in which I participate), and Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy mentioned this one when it went on sale for the Kindle as a kind of back-story to the events in 7. I’ve got 7 on my to-be-read list, and figured I’d go ahead and read this one first.

I was not familiar with Hatmaker at all before, and really enjoyed her conversational writing style. I also found her story compelling, and it’s made me that much more excited to read 7.

Refresh, Reuse, Repurpose: 20 Ways to Breathe New Life into Old Clothes

An ebook by Kristen from the blog The Frugal Girl with some clever ideas for using old clothing. Several ideas are easy enough for a complete sewing novice like myself to feel comfortable attempting, and a few of the ideas made me want to smack my forehead in a why-have-I-never-thought-of-that way.

My biggest complaint is that for a couple of the ideas, she directs you to her website for complete instructions and photographs demonstrating the procedure. The description of the ebook on her website claimed that “each idea is thoroughly explained and photographed so that you can actually apply these ideas.” While they may be thoroughly explained and photographed, you sometimes have to go to her website to actually see those explanations and photographs. I was disappointed in this, because there didn’t seem like any reason NOT to include that information – it’s an ebook; length doesn’t matter like it might for a physical book. It felt like an attempt to drive traffic to her website and it irritated me. I’d prefer to have all of the information in the book like I was expecting.

That said, I still enjoyed the book, and do recommend it for some great ideas.

Baby Sign Language Basics: Early Communication for Hearing Babies and Toddlers, New & Expanded Edition PLUS DVD!

Basic information on signing with your baby, including the helpful concept of routine verses motivating signs. I didn’t look at the instructional DVD that was included, because I’m pretty familiar with how to form many of the basic signs (and how to read the pictures and text for unfamiliar signs). I’m not sure that it’s really significantly different or better than any of the other baby sign books available.

Telling God’s Story: A Parents’ Guide to Teaching the Bible

This was kind of a strange coincidence, reading this immediately after reading Together: Growing Appetites for God (reviewed here). It made me wonder how to integrate the two, or if that’s really even possible. I found myself agreeing with so much of what Enns wrote, but don’t know what to do precisely (that is probably explained more in the books that he’s publishing for each year; this work was the overview/theory behind it all). I want to look at the instructional books and see the specifics there (there are instructor’s guides and student activity books for years one and two published so far.).

Unstuck: Your Life. God’s Design. Real Change.

Title: Unstuck: Your Life. God’s Design. Real Change.
Authors: Arnie Cole & Michael Ross
Category: Nonfiction / Christian Living
Length: 204 pages
Format: Trade Paperback
Release Date: 2012
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
ISBN: 076420954X / 9780764209543
My Rating: 3 Stars

Does your relationship with God seem broken? Full of silence and distance? Do you ever want more than just an “okay” walk with Christ? After conducting extensive research, including more than 70,000 surveys, Back to the Bible leaders Arnie Cole and Michael Ross found many Christians feel the same way. But they also discovered the secrets that help believers grow and thrive spiritually. And they want to share what they discovered with you.

Filled with honest stories and real-life examples, Unstuck provides you with practical and proven ways to encounter Scripture daily, connect with God, and revitalize your faith. Stop just going through the motions and learn how to tap into God’s Word to live out the life He desires for you.

Summary Review:
Encouragement to engage with the Bible 4 or more times a week as a means for getting “unstuck” in your relationship with God.

Complete Review:
I wanted to like this book quite a bit – targeted at believers looking to get unstuck in their spiritual life, it seemed like a perfect resource.

I found it fascinating that the research behind the book found that the key component for people to have spiritual growth is engaging the Bible 4 or more times a week. Four times was crucial – 3 times a week wasn’t enough, and a weekly visit to church certainly wasn’t. People who were engaged in Scripture 3 times a week or less were not really different than people who never read the Bible at all!

What I didn’t like was how that statistic was repeated over and over and over. I got it the first time, and found the repetition unnecessary. I was disappointed that the practical section of the book was so comparatively short, and so unhelpful still. It felt like the entire book boiled down to: for significant spiritual growth, spend time engaged with the Bible.

Sounds great right? But what do I actually do so that I’m not just reading or memorizing scripture, but am immersed in and interacting with the Word.

I haven’t followed the 45-day program outlined in the book, nor have I taken advantage of the associated website, Unstuck GoTandem, and those resources might be the practical applications I was missing in the text. Once I complete that, I’ll post another update linked to this.

I was probably hoping for too much from a book, but I really was wanting something that told me what to do more; I already read my Bible most days, and I try to, in their words, engage it, but I don’t really know what that means. I was hoping the book could tell me.

Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review., and the opinions I have expressed are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

Week(s) in Books

This is about two weeks worth of books, and I was so tempted to call it a Fortnight in Books, but I’m not sure how familiar most people are with that British-ism.

The No-Cry Potty Training Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Child Say Good-Bye to Diapers by Elizabeth Pantley
My favorite of the three potty training books I read. I liked how straightforward she was and encouraging. I appreciated that she didn’t make me feel like a failure from the start for not having begun training my almost three-year old son, like one of the other books. My favorite part was the quick guide that made it easy to share the highlights with my husband.


The Everything Guide to Potty Training: A practical guide to finding the best approach for you and your child (Everything Series) by Kim Bookout and Karen Williams.
Good overview of different methods to potty train.

Potty Training Boys the Easy Way: Helping Your Son Learn Quickly–Even If He’s a Late Starter by Caroline Fertleman and Simone Cave
Didn’t like this one. Found some of the suggestions bizarre (really? have him poop in the backyard? No thanks, that is not something I want to start, lest he think it’s always an ok location.) Also was distracted by their terminology for boy parts. Just … use the correct word please, and let me use whatever terminology our family chooses.

Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques 100 Recipes A Cook’s Manifesto by Michael Ruhlman
I love this sort of cooking book, with lots of great details and background information. I loved his book Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, and expected to love this one but was disappointed by several things. I am ridiculously bothered by the fact that the book is both subtitled “20 techniques” and the description reiterates that it’s twenty techniques, but they aren’t all really techniques. Some are techniques (poach, chill). Some are ingredients (egg, sugar). Some are preparations (soup, dough). It makes for a confusing structure, and recipe location confusion. He’s also got some basic mistakes in the background info that I caught without really trying to. I’m not a trained chef, but I know that water doesn’t always boil at 212 degrees as he mentions repeatedly.

Food Blogging For Dummies by Kelly Senyei
LOVED this. Even if you’re not a food blogger, there is still great basic information on blogging. I liked this so much more than the supposedly general blogging book Blogger’s Boot Camp that I read last month.

Sprig of Thyme by Jenna Dawlish
I should be more careful about downloading the free Kindle books, because my track record with them is poor. This book doesn’t help matters. While I wanted to like the main character (and do, in some ways), it was so hard to get past the typos, grammatical errors, and historical inaccuracies.

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross
I enjoyed the discussion on how typical hurried modern life impacts children, and I appreciated the workable suggestions on how to adapt our lives to counteract those challenges. My complaints were that the book was very repetitive; it felt like they made the same point several different ways, so that each chapter could easily have been cut by a third if not half. I’d love to be able to have my husband read the book, because I think much of it would be helpful (especially the chapter on screen time for children), but he would never slog through it; the text often drags and the repetition would drive him crazy.

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
I love young adult historical fiction, and with this book as a Newbery winner I was very excited to read it. Overall I really enjoyed it; the main character is charming and likeable, and I liked the secondary characters quite a bit. The story-within-the-story was mostly handled well. I thought the Rattler subplot was unnecessary and added little to the book, and without it the book would have been a better length (it felt long and draggy at times).

Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes by Joy Wilson
I don’t read Joy’s blog, but after reading her cookbook I’m wondering why not! Her writing is delightful and encouraging, and the recipes she shares sound scrumptious. She includes a great introduction with lots of helpful information which would be useful to novice bakers. Most of the recipes include gorgeous photographs, helping you know how the finished product is supposed to look. I wish she’d included weights, so I wouldn’t have to convert from the volume measurements she provides. I haven’t tried any of the recipes, so the rating isn’t based on how successful any of them might or might not be.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Week In Books {Together: Growing Appetites for God}

This post has been moved to my new blog, The Deliberate Reader.

May Reading Review and June Reading Goals

May Reading Goals:

  1. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God Absolutely loved it. I thought he succeeded admirably in his stated goal “to give both married and unmarried people a vision for what marriage is according to the Bible.” It is not a light read by any stretch of the imagination, and each chapter required close attention to fully appreciate.

    I especially appreciated how gospel-centered the book is, and how it shows how every aspect of marriage should be rooted in the gospel: “It is the message that what husbands should do for their wives is what Jesus did to bring us into union with himself. . . This is the secret—that the gospel of Jesus and marriage explain one another. That when God invented marriage, he already had the saving work of Jesus in mind”

    I also really liked how the book addressed common contemporary responses to and thoughts about marriage such as “marriage is just a piece of paper,” “you should marry your soul mate,” or “marriage is oppressive to women.”

    Overall I thought it was an excellent book, and I recommend it highly.

  2. Mean Moms Rule: Why Doing the Hard Stuff Now Creates Good Kids Later Didn’t read: got another parenting book from the library that was going to be due soon, so this one got pushed back (the tyranny of the library).
  3. The Wine Club: A Month-by-Month Guide to Learning About Wine with Friends Finished and thought it was an excellent introduction to different types of wine. It also made me very excited to want to form a wine club, and a friend and I are thinking about doing just that.
  4. The Power of Six (Lorien Legacies) Did not finish. Didn’t even start. This one was on a “to be read” list of mine that I found, and on a whim I added it to my library reserve list. Then when I went back to refresh my memory on the first in the series, I remembered that I didn’t like the first one, so why would I spend my reading time on the second? I quickly put it back into the library returns stack.
  5. Les Misérables Read some of it, but didn’t finish it. It is so long, and my motivation to finish it took a nose dive when I realized I won’t be able to go to the bookclub meeting where it will be discussed.

Not on my original list, but I also finished:

  1. Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My LifeAn inspiring memoir, written after O’Kelly had received the diagnosis of inoperable, terminal brain cancer giving him between 3-6 months left to live.

    I admired how he faced his new reality squarely, determined to live out his remaining days in the best way possible. He wanted to die the best death possible, and that led him on a quest to fill what time he had left with as many “perfect moments” as possible.

    I liked how he got me thinking about how I would spend my time, if I only had 100 days left to live. What would I prioritize, and what would I ignore? And what should I take from that for my current life, where I’m not under a known time limit. He also acknowledged that most people can’t live like they only have 100 days left; if you’re probably going to live for decades, there are some sacrifices that you’ve got to make today that you wouldn’t if you were in your final days. Striking the right balance between living for today, as if it might be one of your last, and making choices and decisions for the future, as if you might live for decades more, is something I’ve thought a lot about before, and this only made me consider it more.

  2. In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite: 150 Recipes and Stories About the Food You Love Loved reading this – it’s more like a combined memoir and cookbook. Each chapter has an introductory story, and each recipe has the story of how it developed. Most of the savory dishes don’t tempt me, but even when it was for something I don’t want to eat, I enjoyed reading the story behind it.
  3. Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life Liked it, but didn’t love it. I enjoyed the true memoir bits the most, but there were also details about allergies in general and their history that I didn’t feel was well integrated, and instead it felt like “and now here’s an intermission with your history facts.” I love history, I love random facts, but I didn’t like how it all flowed.
  4. The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Third Edition) I’ve never wanted to homeschool following the classical method, but this book make me reconsider. Actually, this book got me excited and wishing my kids were older so we could jump right into it. It’s a huge book, yes, but Bauer is an engaging author and much of the book is very skimmable because it’s got so much reference information.
  5. Simple Secrets to a Happy Life Reviewed here
  6. Write It Down, Make It Happen Very repetitive, with mostly anecdotal examples of people who succeeded in writing it down and making it happen (or having it happen to them.) I felt like I’ve read the ideas before, presented in a better, more compelling manner.
  7. Raising Your Spirited Child Rev Ed: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic Thought it was so helpful, I’m about to buy the book so my husband can read it too (the library copy had to go back). I really wish it had been edited more tightly however; I think it could have been cut down by abut 25% without losing anything of real significance, and it would make it much easier for people who don’t like to read to get through it.
  8. Bloggers Boot Camp: Learning How to Build, Write, and Run a Successful Blog Should have added the word “News” into the title, because that’s what the book is really about, building, writing, and running a successful NEWS blog. If you’re not a news blogger, you’re not really a blogger in their opinion; you’re a diarist at best. I found their tone off-putting, and I wish the title had matched the contents. This is not a general blogger’s guide.
  9. And I also started but did not finish Hidden Children of the Holocaust: Belgian Nuns and their Daring Rescue of Young Jews from the Nazis. I hated her dry writing style, and the way it was structured. I wanted to like the book, because it fills in a gap in Holocaust literature (English language at least; I can’t speak for what might be available in other languages), but I was extremely disappointed, and would not recommend it.

June Reading Goals:

  1. The Magic of Thinking Big
  2. Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques 100 Recipes A Cook’s Manifesto
  3. Telling God’s Story: A Parents’ Guide to Teaching the Bible (Telling God’s Story)
  4. Food Blogging For Dummies

And, a notice: Because my monthly book review/goal posts are so long, I’m going to try something new in June. I’m going to have a weekly books post with smaller reviews of the books I finished the previous week. I may go back to how I’m doing it now, but I’ll see how June goes.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.