Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Summer Book Challenge

Hard to believe that summer is gone. Not that I'm sad. I love fall.

This summer proved interesting for me since this was my first summer as a homeschool mom. Normally, I simply try to keep my children entertained and making sure I scheduled some "Me Time." As I made my plans for the summer, the only thing I kept hearing in my head was how children lose much of what they learned during the summer months. And when you're the teacher, that statistic matters. I didn't want to have to re-teach everything, so my summer plans included something educational. And since most of my family likes to read, (still trying to win my daughter over), I decided to do a summer book challenge. I challenged them to read ten books and challenged myself to read 20.

Now I would like people to think that I'm such a great homeschool mom that I encouraged my children to read, but I had an ulterior motive: I have too many books! Just in case you thought I was kidding, the picture to the right is one of the bookshelves in my bedroom (notice I said one. I'm ashamed to show you how many books are on the other). The two top shelves of books in the photo are all the books I bought that I haven't read (the top shelf is fiction and most of the second one is non-fiction except the row to the left. I couldn’t fit all my unfinished fiction books on the top shelf.). And that's not including the five e-books I have saved on my computer's hard drive, books I've checked out from the library and a bag o' books my sister gave me.

I love books, I'm sure that's clear. I buy new ones all the time. Unfortunately, my life doesn't always allow me to read as much as I want but I'm doing better. One of my New Year's Resolutions was to read a book a week. I've gone through some books by keeping my one-book-a-week resolution. Maybe I need to make another resolution to stop buying books (Ain't gonna happen, Captain).

My summer book challenged helped. I read 17 books. Yay, for me! I have reviewed most of the books that I read this summer, but not all of them. Here is the complete list:

  1. Beyond Corista by Robert Elmer*
  2. So Not Happening by Jenny B. Jones*
  3. Before the Season Ends by Linore Rose Burkard*
  4. The House in Grosvenor Square by Linore Rose Burkard*
  5. Love Thine Enemies by Louise M. Gouge*
  6. Return to Love by Betsy St. Amant*
  7. Menu for Romance by Kaye Dacus*
  8. Last Light by Terri Blackstock
  9. Crown of Thorns by Sigmund Brouwer
  10. the Incumbent by Alton Gansky*
  11. Chop Shop by Tim Downs*
  12. The Watchers by Mark Andrew Olsen*
  13. Welcome Home by Kimberley Woodhouse*
  14. Just Between You and Me by Jenny B. Jones*
  15. The Knight by Steven James
  16. The Prince Charming List by Kathryn Springer*
  17. The Transformation: Blue Church by Terri Kraus*

* Reviewed

Tea & Read: The Transformation

Title: The Transformation: Blue Church
Author: Terri Kraus
Rating: Two Cups of Tea
The Transformation is the third book in the Project Restoration Series. It is the story of Oliver Barnett, a contractor hired to renovate an historic church into a nightclub/restaurant. The building is owned by Samantha Cohen. An uncomfortable situation for Oliver since Samantha is a Jew, not the ideal woman that his mother had in mind and Oliver's attraction to her is something that could make working for her difficult.

There is something about the Kraus writes her books that amaze me. My normal book preference is quick moving plots and snappy dialog. But Kraus' books take a more leisurely pace. Yes, it takes me a little longer to finish them, but I am thoroughly satisfied when I am done.

And the topics and themes of the book are pretty strong. I think Kraus handled the subject of interfaith relationships beautifully. Also, she tackles some other difficult situations and shows how the grace of God works in these situations.

My only problem is I was left guessing about some of the subplots at the end. A few situations were left unresolved. It's not that big of a deal, but especially if there is going to be a part two to this novel. (Insert subtle hint to the author).

All in all, it was a great book and I so appreciate when a good book stretches my reading style and preference.

Clearance Charms: The Prince Charming List

Title: The Prince Charming List
Author: Kathryn Springer

This clearance charm came from CBD. I'd seen this book in Borders but only read the cover. It was a great little buy and proves that buying from the clearance rack can net you some great books.

Heather Lowell is looking for love and has a list to prove it. She has compiled a list of qualities she would like to find in a husband. Within days of moving to Prichett, Wisconsin, she is faced with two eligible candidates that seem to meet her requirements

This book amused me because I know people who have compiled a list of qualities they want in a man, particularly when they were a teenager. I find those lists funny because, if I had a list, I don't think my husband would have made the list. He is so totally different than what I thought I would want, but he was exactly what God knew I needed.

I like the way this book handles this practice and how it challenges the reader to look at potential candidates through God's eyes. You might find that the most unlikely candidate is God’s perfect choice.

Tea & Read: Just Between You and Me

Title: Just Between You and Me
Author: Jenny B. Jones
Rating: Spend the Day Sleepy

I was introduced to Jenny B. Jones' books earlier this year when I read So Not Happening, which is considered YA but I thoroughly enjoyed it (see previous post). Just Between You and Me is written for adult women, a Women of Faith book from Thomas Nelson and I was very eager to dive into reading it.

It is the story of Maggie Montgomery, a cinematographer who seems unflappable, except when it comes to her family. She has to return to her hometown of Ivy, Texas to face some bad memories and challenging family situations. She finds herself having to care for her ten year old niece and having to deal with an annoying town vet named Conner.

I love Jones' style of weaving humor into her books. Her characters are always so interesting and engaging. Also, I love the way Jones handled something that most people have experienced: crazy family members! Jones explores the family dynamic in a very real way. She also shows that no matter how dysfunctional a family, love covers a multitude of sins.

Jones has eared herself a slot on my repeat-buy author list. I'm looking forward to reading more of her books.

Tea & Read: Welcome Home

Title: Welcome Home!
Author: Kimberley Woodhouse
Rating: Spend the Day Sleepy
I am primarily a pleasure/escapist reader. I love a story that takes me out of my life and transport me to another. Most of my book selections are based on how far it will take my from my own world, but occasionally, I read a book that causes me to look at my life in a different light. Welcome Home is one of those books. I haven't been gut-checked this hard since I read The Hole in the Gospel by Richard Sterns (see previous post).
The tagline to this book is "Our Family's Journey to Extreme Joy." Extreme is a perfect word to describe this journey. The Woodhouse family's story in this book drives home the point that bad things happen to godly people, but God is able to sustain them through them all.
I think that is greatest message I gained from this book. As I read this book, I thought to myself, I don't know if I could have handled all that. And Woodhouse makes it clear that she didn't think she could either. But the book is full of examples of God's ability to take care of His children.
The second greatest message of the book, for me, was that I need to stop whining about the challenges in my life. No, I don't have as many challenges as the Woodhouse family did, but I serve the same God. If God brought them through (and continues to do so), then He is able to handle my problems.
If you find yourself whining about the problems you have in your life, then this book is for you. It is a wonderful perspective change and it will show you how the possibility of having real, practical joy in your life.