Regrouping and Renewing

minsgame-badge-2016-300x300The Minimalist Game came to a close for me a little early. Travelling out of town for my grandmother, Carolyn‘s funeral broke my streak. And that’s ok. It was a really healing weekend (traveled the Outer Road), and I’m ok with as far as I got! My study got cleared out and that’s the truly important thing.

This month is already more than half over, and I’m just barely ready to admit it’s February. My ambitious goals to start another cleaning project fell a bit short. Not to worry, I’ve found another new project to keep me busy…

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Bullet Journal
ing! I’ve been starting to simplify things. I’m trying to reduce my online time – at least the wasted time. It’s so easy to drown in online tasking systems. I’ve put a few different ones through their paces. I still like the ones I’ve used, but I needed to find a way to sift through all the noise and keep track of the very top priorities. The rest will get done, but when I just need to stop and “regroup”, my bullet journal is really doing the trick. Watch this video to see a quick overview.

I’ve also listened to two audiobooks that have strongly influenced me. I highly recommend them both.

Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life, by Byron Katie – What I learned: The relentless pursuit of my own truth, passionate love of reality, and a letting go of my “story” are the steps toward peace and happiness that I was missing. I will re-listen to this one periodically. It’s not complex. All the info you need is actually available on her website, TheWork.com, but the audiobook is a lovely way to be taken through it, step by step.

Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, by Gary Taubes What I learned: Surprisingly, I learned that I really should trust my own experience when it comes to losing weight. When I was pregnant with J5, I got gestational diabetes and had to go on a strict low-carb diet. The day I came home from the hospital after giving birth, I weighed less than I did the day I found out I was pregnant. I know others who have had similar success, yet somehow it wasn’t until I listened to this book that I heard what I needed to be ready to make a change. So far so good.


So, that’s what’s been going on with me lately. One day at a time. If anyone has questions about anything — speak up below!

Book Review – Full Disclosure

fulldisclosure Hi! Welcome to my review for the book, Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson

Amazon Categories:
#66 in Books > Christian Books & Bibles > Literature & Fiction > Mystery
#93 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Religious & Inspirational > Mystery

No disclaimer needed as I purchased this book outright. I have always enjoyed reading Dee Henderson’s novels, and when I saw this one come out, I didn’t want to bother with arrangements. Just wanted to dive in and read!


My Review
Snackable? Not really. It’s a novel. Breaking up reading into parts was not very fun. I think what I enjoy most about these novels are the ability to escape for a while into their world. It kind of ruins the effect to keep jumping back and forth.


“Lundie” ending? Of course. Christian Fiction never ends bad. Sometimes ends stupid, but never really “bad”. This one was fine.


Best thing? Contrary to some of the reviews I read (which is a bad idea when you’re trying to write your own reviews), I really liked the twist of having Ann be the author of the novels. I have read and enjoyed most, if not all, of Dee’s O’Malley series. I wish I had read them more recently, as I would have enjoyed the revelation of all the little tie-ins.

I also saw criticism of the way the relationship developed between Ann and Paul. I think that’s one of the cooler things about the way Dee Henderson writes. She managed to change it up and allow for differences in personality types and differences in the way love happens. Ann happened to be a rather extreme introvert. Paul saw and understood this about her, and adapted. That to me was a demonstration of perception and respect. So it wasn’t the typical type of pursuit – he gathered intel on her before jumping in. Nicely done.


Worst thing? I think for me, he “cleanliness” of the characters’ relationship with God was unrealistic. Mainstream Christian readers would probably enjoy it. Nice and safe. Rated G. Well, possibly PG for some of the violence. Ultimately, I think the author missed an opportunity to add another layer of depth to her characters by giving them a more complex path to faith.


Special Features
from the Publisher
Book Website





For a decode of my review categories, you can check out an explanation I wrote quite some time on my Books page.

Book Review – 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker

The basic summary of this book is that Jen (with the support of family and friends) decided to spend 7 months (with a few small breaks) fasting in 7 categories:

  1. Food – Select 7 foods to eat
  2. Clothes – Select 7 items of clothing to wear
  3. Possessions – Give 7 items away every day
  4. Media – Fast from 7 media/technology sources
  5. Waste – Select 7 habits for a greener life
  6. Spending – Select 7 places to spend money
  7. Stress – Practice the Seven Sacred Pauses and practice Sabbath

This book is written in journal format, with real-time reactions and storytelling as she goes through each category. One of the things I love most about reading from Jen is because she’s funny. She seems honest and genuine, with just the right blend of humor and humility. I got to walk through this journey with her, and I am coming away from it changed.

Click HERE to read what my review categories (below) are all about.

My Review
Snackable? Well, yes and no. The format is really good. Like I said, it’s in a journal format (e.g., Day 1, Day 2, etc.) though she didn’t write every day, it is easy to pick the book up and just read one day’s worth in a sitting. However, different days had different impacts. Some sections were so funny, I could just read and read. Others were pretty meaty, and thought provoking, where I read a day or two and had to put it down for a bit to ruminate.
“Lundie” ending? I guess you could say that? It’s not fiction, so it doesn’t require it. However, I LOVED her conclusion chapter. It made it all the more meaningful to me. She didn’t write this book to teach others what to do. She writes,

“Honestly, we’re not sure what’s next for the Hatmakers….However, even if I had a clear directive, I’m not sure I’d share it here. Whatever God has done or is doing in our family is certainly not a template, and I don’t want it to be….You have an entirely different set of factors. I have no idea what this might look like in your life, nor do I want that job. Your story is God’s to write, not mine.”

Best thing? She was so real, I feel like one of her girlfriends.
Worst thing? Well, I don’t know that it’s really a “worst”. There is so much stuff in this book that I want to do something about that it can get a little overwhelming! But then Jen had the exact same problems that I have when I want to take action, especially in the realm of purchasing food – multiple personalities: Frugal? Organic? or Local? She writes,

“So [Local] is horrified by [Frugal]’s priority to buy cheap, and [Frugal] outright mocks [Organic] and [Local] for spending more….The competing voices confuse me, and I’m not sure which personality should dominate. This leaves me in a mess half the time, and I manage to feel guilty one way or another, no matter which purchasing priority wins the day. I’ve either spent too much, but cheap processed junk, or I’ve subsidized the sweatshop industry. Evidently simplifying can be complicated. GAH!”

Special Features from the Publisher

Book Review – That Certain Spark, by Cathy Marie Hake


That Certain Spark
by Cathy Marie Hake

In the Christian Historical Fiction category, this book receives a 3 out of 5 stars. It wasn’t bad, just didn’t wow me.

Honestly, it has been several months since I read this book, so it’s not particularly fresh in my mind. Standard Christian Romance storyline. Stoic man, outspoken/independent woman, in a time when women were not supposed to have their own lives. Clash then romance. Nice little book.

My Review
Snackable? Though the chapters weren’t exceptionally long, it was not enjoyable to only read a few papges here and there.
“Lundie” ending? Yes. I would say it’s rare for a book in the Christian Fiction category to NOT have a happy “tied in a bow” ending.
Best thing? It was a nice bit of brain candy.
Worst thing? It’s your standard historical Christian Fiction Romance.

Book Review – The Mailbox, by Marybeth Whalen

The Mailbox: A Novel, by Marybeth Whalen

(Just so ya know up front, this book was provided to me, for review, by The B&B Media Group. Also, I worked with Marybeth during my stint as an admin and writer for FaithLifts.)

In the Christian Fiction category, this book receives a 4 out of 5 stars.

My Review
Snackable? It’s a small meal type book. Chapters are not huge, but it’s best to stay with a chapter until the end. It does a Past/Present flip flop with each chapter, so it is good to stay with the chapter breaks as best as you can.
“Lundie” ending? Yes. 🙂
Best thing? It surprised me a little in the end. I love having both a surprise and a Lundie ending in the same book!! LOL.
Worst thing? I struggled at the beginning of the book to get the flow of it. At first I thought it was just a bunch of different non sequitur stories. It took a couple chapters to realize it was one set of characters in different time frames. After I got that figured out, it was great!
Special Features from the Publisher Book Preview on YouTube
About the Author

Book Review – Nightmare, by Robin Parrish

Nightmare
by Robin Parrish

(Just so ya know up front, this book was provided to me, for review, by the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance.)

In the Christian Fiction category, this book receives a 4 out of 5 stars. Click here for more details on what my scores and ratings mean.

My Review
Snackable? Not really, although the chapters are not terribly long, and they do have good solid breaks between chapters (past/present). Suspense-wise, it’s not easy to just read a little and put it down.
“Lundie” ending? Yes. 🙂
Best thing? It was genuinely scary. It addressed the paranormal in a way that was respectful, in my opinion of the Christian world view. I especially like what the author had to say in the “From the Author” section:

I believe that there are all manner of supernatural things happening in the spiritual realm at all times. And I believe that the spirit realm exists parallel to the mortal world we live in, and the two overlap in ways we can’t and won’t fully understand until our time here is over.

Worst thing? First, as much as I wanted to read this book, there were a couple of nights that I was reading in bed when I decided it was a bad idea. Again, to quote the author,

“While I’m fascinated by the work of paranormal investigators, it cannot be overstressed that touching the paranormal is inherently dangerous.”

Mr. Parrish’s writing had me right there in the thick of it, and frankly, some parts had me a little spooked and were best saved until morning.
 
Second, the flow of the last few chapters had me struggling. I suppose when anyone tries to write about the (fictional) truth behind the mysterious and paranormal, it can be difficult to accept. It certainly wasn’t enough to stop me from re-reading this book somewhere in the future.

Special Features from the Publisher Read the first chapter.

Book Review: Indivisible, by Kristen Heitzmann

Indivisible: A Novel
by Kristen Heitzmann

Just so ya know up front, this book was provided to me, for review, by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

As this is the first review since my hiatus from all things bloggy, my scoring is getting recrafted. I think I’m going to start giving a 1-5 scale for the book overall based on its genre.

5 stars = “Go buy it right now!!! I’m getting it for my Kindle too!”
4 stars = “Add it to your wish list ASAP. I’m keeping mine.”
3 stars = “Yeah, I enjoyed it. I’ll pass it on.”
2 stars = “Glad I didn’t pay for it! Or if I did, you can have mine if you still want to read it.”
1 star = “Don’t bother. I won’t even burden you with my copy.”

In the Christian Romance Fiction category, this book receives a 3 out of 5 stars.

My Review
Snackable? Middle of the road. You do need have to have a few minutes to sit down to hang on to the clues along the way.
“Lundie” ending? Had a predictably happy ending.
Best thing? The theme of recovery (from addiction, abuse, etc.) was prevalent in all story lines.
Worst thing? It was hard for me to read such dark concepts (torture of animals) in what I was expecting to be an otherwise “Christian” novel. I actually do enjoy forensic science (esp. Patricia Cornwell – Kay Scarpetta series), and am not easily grossed out, but somehow the shock factor of the suffering of the animals made me ill in this genre. It felt like the “yuck” factor was turned up a notch to make the book a little more “edgy” and I’m not sure the usual readers for this type of book will appreciate it. I didn’t.
Special Features from the Publisher Download Chapter 1
Audio Interview with Author – MP3

Book Review – The Shack – Rating: 8 out of 10

[This has been sitting in my drafts since June, ’09. Don’t know how that happened…!]

The Shack Book Cover

The Shack, by W. Paul Young

How I came to read this book:

I had heard a lot about it from various sources in the Christian community. Saw a book that was written to counter it, and another to explain it. Figured if it was that controversial, it would be an interesting read. When my mom offered me her copy to read, I took her up on it. Since then I have purchased 3, one to keep and two to share when I feel so led.

Score Summary

  • Content: 10
  • Writing Style: 6
  • Re-readability: 10
  • Busy Mommy Scale: 6

Content

This book was amazing. It was difficult to read, emotionally, and had many different layers of meaning. It was full of ideas that stretched my conservative Christian understanding of God in a way that expanded my view rather than conflicted with it. It spoke to me personally in a very profound way.

Writing Style

Sometimes I found the setting descriptions hard to get rhythmically. I found myself skimming here and there (usually in sections I felt were unnecessary) trying to get to the meat…to the point. (Part of this urge to read on was internal – caused by me needing closure regarding his daughter).

Re-readability

There was so much that impacted me emotionally and spiritually that I feel it warrants a re-read or two to see how it holds up. Some books are powerful due to timing (right book/right time) and others are always (or never) that way. Not sure about this one yet. I was reading it when I had my first miscarriage so the timing was a God-thing.

Busy Mommy Scale

Due to the difficult time I had with the writing style, it was not conducive to a short bursts of reading. I often had to back up a page or two to get back into it.

Book Review – Edge of Recall – Rating: 9 out of 10

Edge of Recall CoverEdge of Recall, by Kristen Heitzmann

How I came to read this book:

CFBA

I apologize for the brevity of this report. I am in the middle of many things, and am actually lucky to be posting this at all!

Score Summary

  • Content: 10
  • Writing Style: 10
  • Re-readability: 8
  • Busy Mommy Scale: 8

Content

Kristen Heitzmann is one of my very favorite authors. This book was up to her usual standards. I HIGHLY recommend it!

Writing Style

Like I said, I love her style of writing. She sucks me in. Due to time constraints I had to put aside a bunch of things to read this in time to post today. I read it in the span of an evening and a morning. Fortunately, it had enough suspense in it to really have me churning through it!

Re-readability

I’ll keep it. I will eventually re-read. The nature of the suspense makes it a little less of a “reread” once you know the ending, but is good enough to do so anyway.

Busy Mommy Scale

Not in the perfect “little pieces” style that would make a perfect Busy Mommy book, but so good it’s worth the time to set aside.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Of her three main interests, art, music and writing, she chose to study English at the University of Colorado and thrived on Creative Writing and Literature classes. She married her husband Jim, and turned her energy to building a family. They have four children whom they have home schooled for all or most of their education. Kristen is a music minister with the ecumenical covenant community People of Praise.

Once she realized the stories in her head were truly a calling from the Lord, she made writing not just a passion, but a ministry. She has written seven historical fiction novels as part of the The Rocky Mountain Legacy series, the Diamond of the Rockies series, and the Christy Award winner Secrets. Most recently, she has written several contemporary fiction novels, including Echoes, Freefall and Unforgotten.

Kristen and her husband, Jim, and their family live in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she serves as worship leader in their church.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Tessa Young, an up-and-coming landscape architect who specializes in the design and creation of labyrinths, has immersed herself in the mythological, spiritual, and healing aspects of the elaborate structures. She also is searching for God and hoping to make sense of the nightmares that have plagued her since childhood.

When Smith Chandler, an estranged colleague–with whom she’d half fallen in love a dozen times before catching herself every time–calls to propose a project he claims is the opportunity of a lifetime, she reluctantly agrees to check it out. Smith is reconstructing a pre-Revolutionary War abbey for wealthy clients. Among its remarkable features is an overgrown labyrinth.

Unable to resist, Tessa accepts his offer to work with him. Soon she is immersed in the project of a lifetime. But one evening, after weeks of work in the labyrinth, Tessa and Smith are attacked. While protecting Tessa, Smith is stabbed, and the nightmare begins…again.

If You would like to read the first chapter, go HERE

Book Review – Love Starts With Elle – Rating: 9 out of 10

Love Starts With Elle CoverLove Starts With Elle, by Rachel Hauck

How I came to read this book:

Another wonderful CFBA book. This one barely made it. I didn’t receive it until a couple days ago and read it in just two days! (No, it’s not a particularly short book, I just hate posting announcements rather than reviews on books!)

Score Summary

  • Content: 9
  • Writing Style: 10
  • Re-readability: 8
  • Busy Mommy Scale: 9

Content

Even though I wasn’t able to linger over the story line as much as I would have preferred, I really did enjoy this book a lot. I would like to read more by this author and plan to scope out what else she has written. It’s a nice basic Christian romance. Not too much craziness to confuse, but enough energy and plot to keep me reading.

Writing Style

Very enjoyable. Good use of language to paint pictures without making me struggle to understand.

Re-readability

It’s a keeper – and good to loan out. It’s a good summer reading kind of book.

Busy Mommy Scale

Well, I actually managed to read this book in about two days so it rates pretty well with me!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rachel Hauck is a forty-something, a child of the ’60’s, ’70’s, ’80’s, ’90’s and ’00’s, who roller skated through the ’70’s into the ’80’s with Farrah Fawcet hair and a three-speed orange Camero. She graduated from Ohio State University (Go Buckeyes!) with a degree in Journalism.

After graduation, she hired on at Harris Publishing as a software trainer, destermined to see the world. But, she’s traveled to Ireland, Spain, Venezuela, Mexico, Australia, Canada and the U.S. from California to Maine.

Rachel met Tony, her husband, in ’87, at church, of all places. They married in ’92.
They don’t have any children of their own, just lots of kids-in-the-Lord and they love them all. However, they do have two very spoiled dogs, and a very demanding cat.

With a little help from my friends, my first book was published in ‘ 04, Lambert’s Pride, a romance novel. My current release is Sweet Caroline from Thomas Nelson. Romantic Times Book Club gave both books their highest rank of 4.5 stars, with Love Starts With Elle being honored as Top Pick!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Elle’s living the dream-but is it her dream or his?

Elle loves life in Beaufort, South Carolina-lazy summer days on the sand bar, coastal bonfires, and dinners with friends sharing a lifetime of memories. And she’s found her niche as the owner of a successful art gallery too. Life is good.

Then the dynamic pastor of her small town church sweeps her off her feet. She’s never known a man like Jeremiah-one who breathes in confidence and exhales all doubt. When he proposes in the setting sunlight, Elle hands him her heart on a silver platter.

But Jeremiah’s just accepted a large pastorate in a different state. If she’s serious about their relationship, Elle will take “the call,” too, leaving behind the people and place she loves so dearly. Elle’s friendship with her new tenant, widower Heath McCord, and his young daughter make things even more complicated.

Is love transferrable across the miles? And can you take it with you when you go?

If you would like to read the first chapter, go HERE