Saturday, July 2, 2016

June Book Review

At the time this is published, we will be half-way through the year! Before May began I was already half-way through my goal of fifty books in 2016. At the beginning of the month I was at 34 for the year. I added eleven more to it this month! That means I only need to read five more books in six months...I think I can handle that (can you tell reading is a passion and way to relax for me?). Below are my reads. If you want to check out my thoughts on previous months' reads, check out the blog posts from January, February, March, April and May!

1. Walking the Talk: A Parent's Guide to Intimacy and Healthy Relationships by Sarah West

  (Full disclosure: I agreed to read this book in order to write a review and help with the relaunch of this book.) I was curious to read this one because it's a book about how to talk to your children about sex and relationships in a healthy, Christ-focused way. I have two young kids and I have constantly wondered when I need to broach this subject with them. I don't want to start too early or too late. 
  Sarah does an excellent job of walking parents through this subject. She invites the reader to think about how they were introduced to the topic of sex themselves and the messages they were given from their parents, friends or relatives. She acknowledges the awkwardness parents feel, especially if they haven't been perfectly pure in their own relationships growing up. She reminds us of how important it is for us to talk to our kids about it so that we will always have a voice in the conversation and offers suggestions of how to do it.
   The book is formatted with discussion questions at the end of each section to discuss as parents or in a small group study format. It also has an application section following the questions.
   I consider this a good resource for parents to help prepare themselves for discussing sex and healthy relationships with children at any age and as they age. I look forward to referencing it as I begin and continue to dialogue with my own children.

2. A Heat of the Moment Thing by Maggie Le Page

   I have been steadily going through the fiction on my kindle. This was one that I had purchased but didn't know much about. It quickly sucked me in. Becky Jordan is getting ready to start her dream job in London. A few days before she begins, she hits her head on the end of the pool and is rescued by a mysterious swimmer with an unmistakable voice. The day she starts her new job she learns that her swim hero is actually her new boss. After the last dating fiasco at her old job she is determined not to get involved with a co-worker, especially her boss, regardless of how enticing he may be. It's an engaging read that moves along quickly.
   Part way through the book I realized I was waiting for the relationship rift that occurs in most books involving romantic relationships. I guess being a reader as long as I've been, it shouldn't be surprising that I've gotten used to the general rhythm of books. I was a little perturbed at the predictability at first, but then realized that if the book didn't follow my expectations, I would be sorely disappointed at the ending of the book (or show or movie). So, I was glad that this book, like many others, had an ending that I was pleased with. It's a fun summer read.

3. Between Us Girls: Navigating College Life as a Christian Woman by Megan Byrd

   Yes, this is my book. I published it a little over four years ago. I don't think I have read a hard copy of it since I completed the editing process. I find it very weird to read my own work. I was afraid that I would not like it after all of this time has passed (I actually finished writing it in January of 2010, a couple of months before my first child was born). I am considering republishing it and wanted to go through it to see what might need to be changed or updated, wondering if some of my thoughts had changed in six years.
   Overall, I still felt confident in the content and message. I think I would like to add additional personal anecdotes to the various sections and may want to rearrange the chapters a little. There was only one chapter that I think could be organized better. However, I still think it is a book that is honest about college life and can provide helpful advice for Christian women getting ready for or already at college.
   (Shameless plug: I currently have the only available copies of the book and would be happy to mail one to someone you know who could use it. It would cost $10 plus $3 to ship. Comment on this blog post or email me at mybyrdlife at blogspot dot com.)

4. My Own Miraculous: A Short Story by Joshilyn Jackson

   I borrowed it from my library as an audio book. I hadn't read anything by Joshilyn Jackson so thought I'd test it out with this short story. I learned that this is a prequel of sorts to Someone Else's Love Story. I enjoyed the characters in the book so I may check that one out soon. It is about a young woman with a three-year-old. She realizes that he might be a bit unusual when he reads a banner on a wall and is able to solve a Rubik's cube in less than ten minutes but is fearful of what that might mean and tries to deny that he is anything but ordinary. It was an engaging read and I became attached to the characters quickly. It was interesting to get to listen to the author read her own work.

5. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

  I read The Giver not too long ago and recently learned that it was book one in a four book series. I read this second book in just a few days. It is about a girl, Kira, who has just lost her mother and is in danger of being removed from the village because she has a lame foot and the village does not tolerate flaws well. She is given a trial in front of the council and they allow her to stay. Her saving grace is her knowledge of weaving and threading. Her mother had worked on a special robe while she was alive and had taught Kira all she knew. She is given room in the council building and given the task of repairing and restoring the robe. She will eventually finish the robe. She learns that things she has been told are not necessarily true and begins to suspect the motives of the council leaders.
  The end of the book doesn't seem like a true finale. I'm wondering if the third and fourth books will carry more of her story. I am also now wondering if the characters in The Giver will come back in play and be part of the other two stories. I am engaged enough (and dissatisfied with how Gathering Blue ended) that I am looking forward to reading the next two in the series (Messenger and Son). I would recommend this series thus far. I cannot yet say whether the ending is satisfying. Gathering Blue seems unfinished to me.

6. Wild & Free: A Hope-Filled Anthem for the Woman Who Feels She is Both Too Much and Never Enough by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan

   This book seemed like a book for me. I do struggle like feeling not enough often. Sometimes I also feel like I'm too much for other people as well. I liked the format of the book. Every two chapters were paired together with a common theme and Jess talked about it from the "wild" side and Hayley from the "free" side.
   I liked that the book reminds us that as women in Christ, we are already wild and free, though many of us are not living this way. We are not meant to live tame, contained lives. Or God is not tame, contained or safe and we are supposed to be living like him. The book encouraged me to walk confidently in the identity and purpose I have in Christ. I tend to be more concerned with others' approval and base decisions on what I think others might think. It is stifling and keeps me from doing what I feel God is desiring me to do. God's purposes are not always understood or approved by people and I should choose to serve my amazing and loving God and trust in his ways.

7. Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty

  This book starts with witness accounts of an argument in a restaurant between triplet sisters celebrating their 34th birthdays. It then goes back to the beginning where we learn about this family and about their lives and what brings them to the scene in the restaurant. The three sisters - Cat, Lyn and Gemma - are all quite different. They have all experienced heartbreaks of various kinds that they have not necessarily shared with their sisters.
   I became engaged with each of the sisters (the book switches between their points of view) and desired for them to have happy, successful lives. I was very curious to learn what had actually happened at the restaurant and whether it led to a large rift in their relationships as sisters or they were able to patch things up. Another great book by Liane Moriarty!

8. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

   I had heard bits and pieces about this book, like talking to your possessions and asking if they spark joy. I have gone in and out of phases where I have wanted to pare down my possessions and have a more ordered house. This book seemed like it might be able to help with that process (especially since I am in the cleaning out mode at the moment).
   I enjoyed having a structure for going through categories in your house to do the decluttering and storing. I trust her advice because it is her job. I am looking forward to tackling my house with these new ideas in mind. Will I talk to my clothes? Probably not. But I do have a good guideline for determining whether to keep or toss.
   I am a very sentimental person so I am concerned that this will be my big hang up. She has done an excellent job of addressing my personality type and giving me encouragement and courage to tackle those objects in my house as well. I am currently on vacation and won't be back home again for a few weeks so I hope my enthusiasm and motivation will hold until I return. It seems like a good book for those interesting in living more simply and clutter-free. I cannot yet say whether her advice has worked for me. I'll try to do a follow up post if/when I used what I've learned in the book.

9. Messenger by Lois Lowry

  I was excited for this book to come up on my library queue as I felt the second book of The Giver quartet left things very open. This book picks up about six years after the previous book, Gathering Blue, ends. Matty, a boy who came from the same town as Kira, is living in Village, a place that accepts all of the outcasts from other towns, with Kira's father. In Village, the people care for each other and do not discriminate against people with flaws. Each person receives their true name from Leader that describes their gift and/or their true self. Matty is hoping to be named "Messenger" as he has been charged with taking messages to other towns as he is skilled at navigating Forest and does not fear it.
  Something has changed in Village and people are becoming disgruntled against newcomers. They fear that new people will cause a shortage of food, supplies, etc. A vote is taken and Matty is responsible for taking the message that Village is closing to the other towns. Seer, the man he is staying with, also wants him to bring Kira to Village from her home before it's too late.
   It is a very engaging read that continues the story and also weaves a bit of the first book in as well. I am now equally anxious to get my hands on Son, the final book in the series. I am interested to see how/if things wrap up. So far I am still very much enjoying the books and would recommend them.

10. Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

  This book is about our fear of the dark in its various forms - physical, spiritual, psychological. Barbara talks about how we have equated darkness with evil and that it is not necessarily accurate. Dark and light are not opposites but complementary. You cannot really have one without the other. God did not create darkness, it was already here. He formed and separated light from the darkness but you wouldn't really know one without the other.
   In the book she explores darkness and her experiences of darkness, sharing the importance of darkness in various aspects of our lives. She invites us to consider why we are afraid of the dark and whether we should continue to avoid it or perhaps, venture into it to see what we might learn or be missing by avoiding it.
  This book contains a lot of information and ideas that I am still processing. It has made me think about my own experiences with darkness. I found it very interesting and thought provoking.

11. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown

   This is the third book I've read by Brene Brown. She referenced some of her findings about living a Wholehearted Life in her later books because her research tends to build on itself. I really enjoyed this book. It talked about the three keys of living a wholehearted life - courage, connection and compassion. She defined each of these key qualities and also listed ten guideposts to embrace that help us to live wholeheartedly - authenticity, self-compassion, a resilient spirit, gratitude and joy, intuition and trusting faith, creativity, play and rest, calm and stillness, meaningful work, laughter, song and dance - along with the things that hinder wholehearted living that we need to release - what others think, perfectionism, numbing and powerlessness, scarcity and fear of the dark, the need for certainty, comparison, exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth, anxiety as a lifestyle, self-doubt and "supposed to", being cool and "always in control".
  I really enjoyed this book. I do want to live with more authenticity and this is an encouraging and eye-opening book that shows me what are important components to this type of life. I love that she warns that it's not easy but the vulnerability and work are worth it. I would highly recommend this book to others (especially fellow perfectionists).

What did you read this month? I'd love to hear your reviews and recommendations!

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