Wednesday, February 14, 2018

"Judah's Wife" by Angela Hunt

The story of the Maccabees is not in the regular Bible but is included in some Catholic Bibles as part of the  Apocrypha.  While religious scholars do not consider the books canon, they are acknowledged as historical records.  Hunt takes these stories and adds drama to it thru the eyes of Judah and his wife Leah.  Each chapter is written from the perspective of either Judah or Leah.  I've always enjoyed books that do this because it helps me get to better understand characters.  While this story is set years in the past, the family situations and emotions are common for any time period.  Generational curses are expounded as Leah's abusive father makes her scared of her husband who has never laid a hand on her.  When Judah becomes a warrior and has to be gone for long periods of time, Leah has extreme inner conflicts.  How is this different from modern-day army wives whose husbands go on deployments?  When there is marital conflict, Leah hopes that having a child will change her husband.  Women all over the world will relate in some way to Leah and her personal struggles.  What I will note is that some of the brutal history in this book are not easy to swallow.  Moments of war and bloodshed and decapitation are noted.  This book is not for squeamish readers and should not be read before bed. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

"Unmedicated" by Madisyn Taylor

In an age full of anti-depressants, anti-anxieties, and other medications, Taylor is not the only one left wondering how we as a society got there.  This book starts out with Taylor's story of sickness--both physical and mental / emotional.  She tells of medications and how she decided she wanted to be drug-free once and for all.  What follows is her research of what she's found to work for her, along with practical tips for the average reader to incorporate into their daily lives.  There are four pillars of natural wellness, which include clearing one's mind, nurturing one's spirit, strengthening one's body, and developing friendships.  At first I was not sure if these "pillars" would be too hippy-dippy for me.  However, as I read more and more, I discovered that they really are not that "out there".  For instance, what some may call meditation, I would just call taking time to relax.  What some may call speaking with the universe, I would just call praying.  What some may call moving one's body in harmony with one's energy, I would just call yoga.  While Taylor briefly mentions some time she spent in Catholic school, the spiritual aspect of the book is not swayed heavily in any one particular religion.  Rather, Taylor encourages readers to find their own spirituality in healthy ways.  She encourages them to have objects that make them happy (could be a cross, a gemstone, a postcard with a quote, etc) and make spaces in their home where they can unwind (what she calls an altar, I would call a relaxing space).  Overall, I enjoyed this book.  I think a lot of what is written here is information that most people already know.  However, it is important to take the time to be reminded.  How many readers know they should take time to unwind but don't actually do so?  How many readers know they should exercise but don't actually do so?  After reading this book, I think it makes an excellent reference to go back to and remind oneself how to de-clutter, relax, and catch up with friends.  I should also note that Taylor very clearly states that she is not a medical doctor, encourages readers to work with their doctors, and that there are people who actually need medication to function.  Her purpose is not to have mentally ill people skip their meds.  Her purpose is to help people who need healing get to the root cause of their pain and fix it once and for all instead of just numbing it.  There is a difference between someone with a chemical imbalance who needs medication to function versus someone who is overweight and lonely who is on medication when what they really need to do is just exercise and make friends.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

"Serving the broccoli gods" by Mary Purdy, MS, RDN

Contrary to the title, this book is not a religious manifesto devoted to broccoli.  Rather, this book is a funny yet honest summary of the author's life.  Close to 100 pages, this quick read can be consumed in as short as a few days.  Readers learn how a budding actress from New York came to become a registered dietician nutritionist in Seattle.  They will also learn about her love story and eventual marriage.  Somewhere between memoir and short story and satire, Purdy's book offers key insights into the human condition while also not letting a page go by without soliciting a chuckle from the audience.  What I liked was the nutrition information inserted intermittently in the book.  There is enough detail, for example, to make readers know that eggplant is good for them but no so much detail as to intimidate those who have not gone to school for nutrition.  I should also note that this is more of a story and not any sort of reference book / cookbook.  For that, readers should go to Mary Purdy's website or view her online Mary's Nutrition Show.  I really appreciated Mary's spirit of determination and go-getter-ness.  Changing careers is not easy, going back to school is not easy, moving across the country is not easy, and seeing the person you love date other women is not easy (this was before Mary and her now husband were a couple).  Yet, through it all, Mary persevered and kept going after her goals.  Since there is some swearing and references to adult content (not graphic, but still there), this book is not recommended for children.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

"Hiding from Love" by Dr. John Townsend

What I reviewed was actually the workbook that accompanies the book and not the book itself.  This workbook was so good that I may consider buying the actual book.  Hiding from love starts out with a classic example of a young girl fleeing from nazi-like policemen who want to kill her family.  She runs and runs and runs and eventually hides in the woods.  When real help comes and wants to save her, she is afraid.  A good-guy policeman on her side wants to bring the young girl home, but she has come to associate all policemen with killers.  The premise throughout this workbook is that many of us readers are reliving past hurts that may no longer be applicable.  The author also goes into psychological states that have to do with hiding patterns.  Not all hiding is bad, and the author discusses healthy ways of hiding from true harm.  The intent of this workbook is for readers to look within themselves (journal prompts therein help) to see where they are shutting themselves off from true community.  There are real bad people in the world, but there are also sincere people who want to love us.  Get out there and stop hiding.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

"Hiding from Reality" by Taylor Armstrong

Incredibly honest but also brutally sad, this book is a must read for anyone looking for a relationship.  While women will be most impacted, the lessons learned can be applied to any gender.  Having witnessed abuse in the home as a young child, Taylor had self-esteem issues.  She would push away men who adored her for fear of not being good enough.  She would chase emotionally unavailable men and hope to win their approval.  She won.  Taylor won the affections of her late husband who progressively abused her worse and worse.  From cursing to yelling to beating her physically, Taylor's late husband had her in a bad cycle of abuse.  Matters became complicated as Taylor had a child and began to appear no the Real Housewives reality television show.  The sadness of this book opened my eyes to a few things.  First, every woman is deserving of love and should NEVER tell herself otherwise.  Second, people need to go thru some sort of healing, whether that be therapy, books, classes, etc, before they get into a serious relationship with another person.  Third, no matter how good one partner is, the actions of the other partner do not change if they do not want to (a woman being perfect will not stop an abusive man).  Fourth, get full pre-marital counseling before marrying anybody.  There were so many instances where Taylor thought that if she were just a better girlfriend and later wife that her late husband would be nicer to her.  That's not how abuse works.  There were also times in the book where Taylor learned of her late husband's history of mental illness and domestic abuse.  While this book deals with abuse, I say that no one--man or woman--should stay in a relationship with someone else when they are unhappy.  There doesn't have to be any yelling or cursing or screaming to be unhappy.  If you are unhappy for any reason, communicate this.  If your partner does not change after given a chance, move on.  

"Safe People" by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

This book was recommended to me and I couldn't help but rent it from the library.  After all, who doesn't want to find relationships that are good for you and avoid those that aren't?  Plus, with the philosophical doctorates both authors have, I have confidence that they know what they are talking about from a clinical psychology perspective.  This book describes character traits of safe people and unsafe people.  It talks about patterns of behavior that both types of people exhibit.  There are various bible quotations from both the Old and New Testament, and there are strong Christian undertones in this book.  When it comes to forgiving others and deciding whether or not to stay with an unsafe person, the authors recommend setting necessary boundaries, practicing confrontation, and leaving when there are no further options.  That being said, abuse is a situation that must never be tolerated and unmarried folks have no obligation to try and make a romantic relationship work.  There is also a chapter in this book on how readers can make themselves more into a safe person.  This book is very interesting and I recommend it for anyone who has struggled in interpersonal relationships.

"Proverbs" by She Reads Truth

I first got introduced to this book when I joined a ladies book club.  I have been nothing short of pleased with this book.  From the full color pages to the decorative layout to the constant flower images, this book makes me so happy.  The biblical content is also good.  While there is the occasional Christian undertone, the bulk of this book deals with the Old Testament book of Proverbs.  Chapters are divided by topic (God, friendships, wealth, etc) and day (the book is meant to be read in a month).  So many nuggets of wisdom from the biblical book of wisdom itself are here.  There is also plenty of space for readers to write their own thoughts and journal from prompts.  While this book can be read by all, the feminine nature of the pages make me say it is better suited for female readers.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

"Love Factually" by Duana C. Welch, PhD

After finding a quote from this book on the internet, I just had to know more.  As someone who is an engineer by trade, I love facts and data.  Since the topic of relationships can be tricky, why not consult the science?  And that's exactly what this book does.  With candid humor, Welch explains the science behind what makes a relationship work.  While lots of people can give advice, the author's PhD and extensive list of references in the back of the book makes me pay attention a little more.  Welch talks about women's need for protections / provision alongside men's need for youth / beauty.  This ties in to not dating "out of one's league."  An example is a woman in her 50s who only wants to date doctors.  Welch points out that a doctor makes lots of money and can easily get a younger woman.  If the woman in her 50s was open to dating more different types of men, she may find someone who truly loves her for her.  Another example is the average-looking average-salary man in his 40s who only wants a stunning 20 year old.  The 20 year old with youthful beauty can get either a young good looking man her own age or an older man who makes more money.  For the man in his 40s to find love, he should start dating women closer to his age range.  While this may seem stereotypical, the science backs it up in the book.  Welch also discusses how men want to chase women.  While women love to be chased and be given attention, if they turn that strategy around on men, it will literally chase the men away.  I love the aspect of not settling.  If a woman is not being treated well, she should walk away.  There are also examples of men who sincerely want to commit to women but who are still undesirable.  One example is the wealthy man who wants to marry the beautiful woman...but keep the house separate, the bills separate, and exclude the woman from health insurance.  The woman ended up dumping the millionaire and marrying a plumber who, while he made less money, was more willing to share what he had.  Then Welch discusses the issue of commitment and BTNs (better than nothings).  Men who get easy access to intimacy and playing house (i.e.- premarital relations and cohabitation) have little to no incentive to commit.  And BTNs are better left dumped.  Wasting time with someone less than what you want / deserve degrades self confidence over time.  Women holding out on premarital relations / cohabitation also forces the man to decide what he wants.  So many woman nowadays are being used for intimacy / cooking by men who only view them as a BTN.  There are so many more facts in the book, and I encourage readers to give this book a chance.  The way the book is structured, it makes for a great reference once it's completed.  I anticipate going back to this book in the future.  Never settle and use science to find love!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

"Boundaries in Dating" by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend

I had read the regular "Boundaries" book by these authors and loved it.  When I saw there was a dating version of the book, I jumped at the opportunity to read it.  The PhD authors have yet to disappoint me.  This book not only has solid advice but also professional counseling to back it up (the authors are not those who just talk without any research).  A few common themes pop up in this book.  Of course, people should save sex for marriage.  Religious beliefs aside, abstinence before marriage makes sense.  As the authors explain, those who will not wait for intimacy have trouble delaying gratification and are not serious about their partner (if they were serious, they'd get married).  The authors also talk about not losing oneself in the sense of cutting off friends, family, and hobbies.  When there is an infraction in the relationship, the authors suggest setting appropriate consequences to improve behavior and ending the relationship when absolutely necessary.  For example, if a date is consistently date, tell them they won't see you for X days because being punctual is important to you.  If they learn and improve, great.  If this goes on and on and on, there is a character issue and lack of respect.  What I also enjoyed is the fact that the authors mentioned some people have their own mental and character issues.  No matter how perfect any man or woman may be, if their partner is messed up, behavior and character will never change.  This book is phenomenal and I would recommend it to those who are dating.  There are Christian undertones in this book, but they aren't overdone.  Also, due to the authors' PhD / relationship counseling background, their points are not based on the Bible and nothing else.  They also back up their points with stories from clients (names changed of course) and clinical research on relationship psychology. 

"Praying the Scriptures for your Young Adult Children" by Jodie Berndt

As a young adult myself, I wanted to see what sort of prayers a guardian-figure or parent would pray for me.  From relationships--friendship and romantic--to jobs to safety to addiction and more, this book covers so many topics facing the youth of today.  What I also enjoyed were the personal stories giving examples of troubles young adults are facing.  Berndt tells many tales of her own children as well as the children of her friends (names changed of course).  When it comes to the actual prayers, the approach is lovely.  Bible verses are adapted to short prayers with "fill in the blanks" when one can write names of young adult children.  Each scriptural prayer has a reference so anyone can look up the entire biblical context if they so desire.  This book has Christian undertones as there are New Testament quotations, as well as various references to Jesus.  That aside, the desires of safety and success and happiness for one's young adult children I would say reach those of all faiths.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

"How to STOP Negative Thoughts" by Barbara Ireland

I received this book after attending a live seminar with the author.  After being blown away at the class material, I devoured the book.  Even though this book is not very lengthy, there is a ton of excellent advice and tips packed into the chapters.  The whole concept of this book is to stop negative thinking, particularly what the author calls Mind Loops.  Mind Loops are where someone repeatedly thinks of the same negative thought over and over.  It could be rehashing a traumatizing event, playing an abusive self-talk tape, or someone else.  Regardless of what the negative mind loop thoughts are, one thing is for certain—they are unpleasant and harmful to one’s health.  The author suggests that readers detect, detour, and detach.  Realize you are having a negative mind loop, change your thoughts to something else, and MOVE ON.  This is an oversimplified summary; interested parties should read the book to learn more in-depth.  I personally have had my own negative mind loops and negative self-talk.  With the author’s tips, I have been able to stop myself, redirect my own thoughts, and be more kind to myself.  Life is a journey, and correcting mind loops is a lifestyle choice just like any other lifestyle choice.  If one wants to be healthy, they must diet and exercise every day.  If one wants to have positive thoughts, they need to combat negative mind loops every day.  You are great.  Don’t let anyone else—your mind included—tell you otherwise!

"Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women" by Zondervan

This black and blue hardcover book has a devotional for every day of the year.  Each day has a Bible quote—either from the New or Old Testament—followed by commentary and then space to journal.  When the author comments on the Bible verses, there is effort to try and apply it to common day issues.  The journal prompts also have this goal in mind.  Aimed at young women, topics range from friendship to body image to confidence to dating.  There are even larger topics covered such as refugees, recycling, and charity.  This book is a great gift for a young woman who may use it to read and journal before bedtime or perhaps in the morning before work / school.  Due to the Christian undertones, I would say the devotionals would sit best with those of a Christian audience.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

"Sacred Slow" by Alicia Britt Chole

When I first saw the words on the cover, "a holy departure from fast faith", I was intrigued to say the least.  Honestly, I expected some advice about meditating and putting down smartphones.  However, what I learned was so much more.  The book is divided into twelve chunks with mini-chapters.  Each bit goes over a lesson and then has activities / homework.  Readers learn about the importance of resting from the biblical Sabbath year.  They also learn how the Israelites were reprimanded for not resting.  Then Chole goes into detail on the impacts on people for not resting in the twenty-first century, as well as tips for how to slow down.  Faith is not a fast-food commodity that can be bought or gobbled down in 5 minutes.  Rather, it must be cultivated.  Chole talks in great detail about the silence of God and how people need to stop measuring their spirituality in terms of what they did.  People need to measure their spirituality in terms of how they are in relationship with God.  There are even practical sections on comparing negative thoughts and on viewing oneself as the beautiful child of God that we are.  With brutal honesty, the author also prompts the reader to journal about how one views God, both positively and negatively.  There are copious references to Jesus and the New Testament, so there are Christian undertones.  There is a great discussion guide in the back and even tips for how to lead retreats, which makes this book excellent not only for personal study but also for leading groups.

Friday, October 27, 2017

"True Identity" by John C. Majors

While aimed at teenagers and young adults, this book offers solid life advice for people of all ages.  There are sections on family, friends, relationship, spiritual growth, and even career paths.  The author focuses on giving the reader the independence to make their own life choices wisely.  Yes, there are plenty of suggestions for the best way to live, but that is ultimately the reader's choice.  Plenty of examples are given along the way.  This book leans Christian but readers are not forced to believe in any one doctrine.  The author merely shares his perspective on his faith.  On other areas of life, there are common sense approaches.  When it comes to dating and relationships, the book highlights real good reasons for saving intimacy for marriage.  When it comes to alcohol, the book talks about the difference between a casual social drink and becoming an alcoholic.  When it comes to balancing spirituality with money, the book talks about the differences between missions and vocations.  There are even non-judgmental sections that cover emerging issues like homosexuality and transgender persons.

Monday, October 23, 2017

"The Awakening of HK Derryberry" by Jim Bradford with Andy Hardin

It is not often that a book makes me rethink my outlook on life or urges me to foster more compassion in my fellow man.  However, this is one of those books!  Mr. Bradford is an elderly gentleman who befriends a blind handicapped boy one day.  The man spots the boy in a chicken restaurant--alone, in a corner, and seemingly bored.  With plenty of time on his hands and a gentle tugging of the heart, the man begins a friendship that morphs into more of a father-son relationship.  Through Mr. Bradford, HK Derryberry becomes famous, rides airplanes, rides boats, visits football players, speaks with CEOs, and more.  What amazes me most from this book is the remarkable charisma HK has, as well as his unquenchable joy in life.  Despite his physical disabilities, his financially difficult upbringing, and his lack of a father / mother in his life, he perseveres.  My review words can not do this book justice.  Read it for yourself.  You will be glad you did.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

"In the Middle of the Mess" by Sheila Walsh

While the cover features a broken teacup and the title boasts words like "mess" and "broken life", I was not expected for how intense this book would be.  Readers learn firsthand about the author's father who committed suicide after he escaped from a mental hospital.  They also learn about the author's mother and how her death affected those around her; the mother's sad case of Alzheimer's is detailed.  Readers also learn about the author's nervous breakdown, thoughts of suicide, and mental institution visits.  Yes, there are triumphant areas of this book where the author speaks about God and quotes Bible verses.  This book has Christian undertones as there are many references to Jesus.  There is definitely hope in this story, and I'm sure many readers will respect how far Walsh has come in her own personal journey of healing.  However, given how depressing the majority of this book is, I definitely want to warn readers.  This is not a book to make you smile.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"Brave Beauty" by Lynn Cowell

Written like a devotional journal, this book is full of 100 prompts for young girls.  The mini-chapters are no more than a few pages and include journal prompts, short quizzes, and guided prayers.  This book has strong Christian undertones as it has many "dear Jesus" prayers.  Many of the anecdotal stories seem to come from middle school or relate to pre-teens.  While readers of any age can enjoy this book, it is geared towards females as opposed to males.  Sections of the book have to do with beauty, confidence, being loved, and being confident.  This book is empowering for young girls.  They will learn from the Bible and even from the author's own life.  Stories unfold to show how one can be brave and beautiful.   

Friday, October 13, 2017

"The Master's Mind" by Lance Hahn

The general premise behind this book is how to overcome anxiety and negativity with strength and positivity.  The author is a preacher and not a psychologist, so the techniques explained are very set in religion as opposed to psychiatry.  While I personally felt the book was a bit too religious and not psychological enough, I can see how certain audiences would really appreciate this read.  Devout Christians would enjoy this book as there are copious references to Jesus.  Hahn discusses how Jesus overcame negative thoughts and focused on his purpose in life.  Key ideas that stuck with me were how many people choose to believe lies about themselves and worry for hours about events which will likely never occur.  More trust in a higher power and emphasis on prayer / meditation is a good idea for relieving anxiety.  Family problems and addictions were also briefly discussed.  I should note that this book is not anti-medicine since the author himself states how he has been on psychiatric drugs since the late 1990s.  My favorite aspect of this book was how Hahn challenged the notion that religious people have no anxieties.  Religious people, like all other people, need to reshape their thoughts so they add to life, not detract from it.

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Buechner Books

“The Remarkable Ordinary: How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life” by Frederick Buechner

This book is small but packs a powerful punch.  With just under 10 chapters and a spine width of less than an inch, the book can easily fit into a backpack or purse.  Each essay / lecture included shines light on living in the NOW.  There is not so much a story in the sense of fiction but rather separate chapters all different yet all pointing the reader in the same direction.  While a religious man, Buechner does not shy away from his doubts, insecurities, and faith crises.  He even talks about his complicated family life, including his father’s suicide.  There is not any sort of preaching in these pages, even when Buechner speaks of his Christian religion.  Rather, the letters tell the story of a man at the end of his life.  He paints the story of his life in bits and pieces, looking back at all that was and all that could be.  Very philosophical and introspective, this book is difficult to write a review for.  However, I will say that while this book is insightful and moving, it is also serious.  I recommend it for meditation and not a simple beach read.  The essays will not make you sad, but they will not make you happy.  You will come to ask yourself what you’ve been ignoring and how you can better pay attention to the hourglass of time that is constantly slipping out from under your feet.

“A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory" by Frederick Buechner

To be honest, I did not enjoy this book as much as the other one.  While it is impeccably written and poignantly powerful, it was simply too depressing for me.  Much of the book dealt with the author's troubled childhood.  Many more pages spoke about death and losing friends / loved ones.  There is much insight on the afterlife, how to cope with grief, and how to handle one's past.  All of these things are practical and good to visit now and again.  However, for someone not in a state of grief, it is very hard to keep turning the pages.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

"Ordering your private world" by Gordon MacDonald

"I seem to have misplaced my time, can you help me find it?" is a phrase in this book that really got my attention.  Written from a Christian perspective, this book is sprinkled with stories of success and failure in the arena of time management.  The author is very candid as he shares a sad story of a mid-life crisis and breakdown in his own life.  No one wants to wake up and realize that years of their life has been squandered.  Quotes from some famous and not so famous people are interspersed throughout to give inspiration.  Some are from holy figures such as saints and some are from ordinary people.  The discipline of prayer is discussed heavily as the author notes how few people stop to think about the quality of their spirituality.  This ties into what the book describes as the inner world versus the outer world.  The outer world is clear for the public to see--clothing, accolades, relationships, etc.  However, the inner world is obscured from the public view--depression, emotions, prayer, spirituality, etc.  The cry of this book is to slow down and manage one's time properly.  Every moment spent is a moment lost.  There are incredible feats that people can achieve if they stop and think about what they want.  It is very difficult to write a review for this book since it is not exactly linear.  The chapters are unique but follow the same common theme.  I encourage readers to discover for themselves what they enjoy about ordering their own private world.  Due to disjointed nature of this book, it is very easy to pick up after days of neglect.  I went on vacation and picked up right where I left off without missing a beat!  Also, there is an insightful readers guide in the back of the book that will help facilitate personal growth or book club discussion.