Posts Tagged ‘books’

Thankful 30: Words

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

four fall leaves on an aged wood background with Thankful 30 header

Good morning, Colorado Springs! I know it has been a minute since I blogged, but I love that you are here anyway, checking out whatever it is I’m writing for you. I love that November feels like a reset to me, almost like a New Year, because of the Internet tradition of sharing gratitude all month long. So, here I am, beginning my very own Thankful 30 posts for 2016.

Today, I am thankful for Words.

When all else fails me, I can fall back on words.

Because actions speak louder than words, sometimes words aren’t good enough. This leads some to believe that words are never good enough.

Song lyrics.





All of these things and more speak to us. They touch a part of our souls that actions cannot. They open our hearts to receive comfort, help, reprimand, respect, love, and dignity. They train our minds to respond to hatred with love. To grief with comfort and empathy. To anger with gentleness. To despair with hope. To poverty with generosity.

Words teach us. They shape our minds and our hearts deeply, whatever the source.

Without words, there would not be action, because words have the power to move.

The power of life and death is in the tongue, and out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” ~Patrick Rothfuss

What are you thankful for today?



Book Review: The Gratitude Diaries

Monday, February 15th, 2016

The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your LifeThe Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life by Janice Kaplan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Simply put, I enjoyed this book.

I am not much of a self-help reader, but this year, I decided to set aside my pride and try a few that appeal to me. Many of them I don’t even finish, because they all seem to be written by spoiled brats who don’t know how good they really have it. Their life is full of multiple homes, travel, money, fame, and more, but their lives are somehow so miserable, that they despair at missing out on some enlightenment.

I can’t relate to that.

This book is also written by a spoiled woman, except that she realizes that she’s spoiled, and decides to spend a year learning to be grateful. Rather than trying to change the circumstances of her life, she seeks to learn how to express and feel gratitude for what’s right in front of her.

This is an approach I can get behind!

She didn’t need a fully funded trip around the world eating, praying and loving. She didn’t need other people to stroke her ego, guide her onto new spiritual plains, or tell her comforting lies over really great food. She realized that it is her responsibility to find her own joy and happiness within the life she has been given.

She also realizes that gratitude allows you the wisdom to see circumstances that might need to change, and the courage to make those changes herself.

Breath of fresh air.

The best part? She doesn’t claim to hold the keys to happiness. She just shares her research and personal journey. And I believe her year of gratitude was genuine, and it’s going to stick, and she’s really going to be better for it.

I appreciated her approach, her conversational writing style, and her humility.

She comes across kind of big-sistery at times, even though she’s the little sister in her family. But even that made me appreciate her more, because I related so strongly.

I’m glad I read it, and I think I can apply what I learned from it.

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Book Review: “Johnny Tremain” by Esther Forbes

Monday, December 28th, 2015

Johnny TremainJohnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is truly a classic. The only reason the kids gave it fewer stars is that it was slower than they would have liked it. The ending is moving, though. And the kids found this quote to be profound, igniting a lengthy discussion beyond their years.

There shall be no more tyranny. A handful of men cannot seize power over thousands. A man shall choose who it is shall rule over him. . . . We give all we have, lives, property, safety, skills . . . we fight, we die, for a simple thing. Only that a man can stand up.” ~James Otis

This quote moved me, personally. I want to memorize it.

I asked the kids to tell me their favorite part, and this is what they said:

Durin’s favorite part of the story was the end of the story, but he doesn’t want to spoil it for you by giving specifics. You’ll just have to read it. He also likes the part where a baby calls her daddy “Yankee-doo!” as he extricates himself from a feather bed, where he’d been hiding from the Redcoats.

Lydia’s favorite part of the story was when Rab’s neighbor lady was telling about her lost pig, crying about it. It was hilarious.

Audrey’s favorite part is the book’s telling of the Boston Tea Party. Particularly the description of a bully getting his pants cut off, and being tossed overboard because he was stealing tea.

Dain’s favorite part is the same as Audrey’s. Frankly, he seems to love the parts of any story that serve the purpose of comic relief.

Overall, I’m so glad we got to discover this book together. #homeschoolingwin

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Book Review: “Bones of the Hills” (Conquerer #3) by Conn Iggulden

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Bones of the Hills (Conqueror, #3)Bones of the Hills by Conn Iggulden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once again, Iggulden hits it out of the park. These books are such a sweeping, vivid illustration of the Mongolian Empire and its powerful leader, Temujin, whom we know as Genghis Khan.

The writing is stellar. It is a bold, strong style with excellent pacing and broad strokes. The pacing is excellent, the story line easy to follow, in spite of multiple plot lines going on at the same time.

Iggulden doesn’t shy away from the hard topics of warfare, and all that went with it at the time. He doesn’t glorify Genghis, neither does he vilify him. He tells the story objectively, but powerfully. I found myself shaking my head and wondering what it was all FOR. The map of Genghis’ empire is blood-soaked. No more so than other empires, I would imagine, but this close-up look at it just emphasizes the futility and horror of war. It’s awful. There is nothing good about war.

There is, however, something good about people. About survival. Family. Children. Even in the midst of ugly war, there is honor, respect, loyalty, courage, strength, and power displayed in the men who wage it. All things that are good in and of themselves. What a shame that they were wasted on wanton killing, for no reason other than a desire to conquer. It all felt so empty at the end. And I felt worn out after following the Khan’s story.

Then, there are the historical notes at the end, laying the groundwork for all Iggulden did. The man was pretty darn accurate to what information is actually available to us. Amazing work.

These books deserve a place on my shelf.

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30 Days of Thanksgiving, Day 4: Midwifery Books

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

I am so thankful for the abundance of excellent midwifery texts that I can use for a self-paced academic study as I walk out my apprenticeship. Without such material, my education as a midwife would be sadly lacking. I value a balance between the experiential nature of my apprenticeship and academic knowledge, because this balance lays a solid foundation for me to establish a safe, healthy practice as a CPM someday.

That said, here is my short review of the very first midwifery text I have finished reading, cover to cover. Next up? Anne Frye’s Holistic Midwifery Vol. 1. All 73-bajillion pages of it.

Heart and Hands: A Midwife's Guide to Pregnancy and BirthHeart and Hands: A Midwife’s Guide to Pregnancy and Birth by Elizabeth Davis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Being my first ever midwifery text, I am glad for Elizabeth Davis’ writing style. It flowed so well, affirmed so much I have already learned during my apprenticeship, and expanded my knowledge on even the most basic of topics. I think it’s the perfect first book for anyone contemplating whether midwifery could be their calling.

I think it had a good, logical flow, with excellent supplementary charts throughout, as well as a few basic “case study” style stories to illustrate concepts outlined more academically.

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What are you thankful for today?

Grace & Peace,

Book Review: “Falls the Shadow,” by Sharon Kay Penman

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

Falls the Shadow  (Welsh Princes, #2)Falls the Shadow by Sharon Kay Penman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is historical fiction at its best, in my opinion. I have always loved the story of history, but have never felt much like I experienced history unless I were reading historical fiction. This is as good as it gets. Obviously research-heavy, and accurate in particulars as well the feel of the time.

No one acts outside the medieval paradigm. There are no apologies for the rampant anti-Semitism, but it is not excused either. It is portrayed without frills. It made me cringe to think of a people who really believed the way they did then.

Gone are the fanciful tapestries woven about this period in history, and what is left are plain tales of real people, living real lives, in real situations, in a culture beyond our ability to truly understand. It is so far removed from where we are now, all that is left is the very gritty humanity we all share. For I did see familiarity there. Personality, relationship, love, parenthood, responsibility, government, and religion all have a reachable clarity.

Anyway. It’s primarily the story of Simon de Montfort and his attempts to push King Henry III into reform. It made me laugh in places. Cringe in others. I even cried at one point.

I’m glad I found this hidden gem at a garage sale. It’s earned its right to occupy space on my bookshelf.

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Book Review: Chocolat by Joanne Harris

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

Chocolat (Chocolat, #1)Chocolat by Joanne Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the very first word of the very first line, I was captivated. This book is art. It is poetry disguised as prose. It is beautiful.

And I loved it.

Its cadence was rhythmic and flowing–whatever that means. I have a hard time writing about it, because I can only think of it in adjectives. Lilting. Moody. Exotic. Flavorful. Rich. Decadent. Red. Alive. Romantic. Complex. Melancholy. Joyful. Gritty. Sweet.

That said, I can’t say I agree that the only thing worth living for is one’s happiness, but the disparity between stiff, legalistic, possessive religion and living, connected, messy and worthwhile relationship is clear and correct. No, not correct. Right.

It’s all about love. Without love, we are nothing. We are despairing, jealous, selfish, and we are single-minded in our quest to demand that all others be as we are.

When we know and understand Love, to its core, we come alive. We are patient, kind, rejoicing in the truth and in the delighting in the pleasure of others. We see, we hear, we feel, and we connect.

Chocolat illustrates it vividly.

I could read this over and over again.

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Book Review: “In His Steps” by Charles M. Sheldon

Monday, August 10th, 2015

In His StepsIn His Steps by Charles M. Sheldon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What can I say? It’s a Christian classic, a well-written piece of literature, and I enjoyed it. Though it is idealistic in many ways, it asks a legitimate question: What would Jesus do, if he were me, in my circumstances, in my time?

I found myself gently challenged and exhorted to be a little more Christ-like.

I liked it.

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Book Review: Genghis: Lords of the Bow by Conn Iggulden

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

Genghis: Lords of the Bow (Conqueror, #2)Genghis: Lords of the Bow by Conn Iggulden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read the first book in this series almost a year ago and loved it. You can see my review of it HERE.

Once again, I found Iggulden’s stark prose a refreshing approach to the intensity of the Mongolian Empire. This book has more battles in it, but not at the expense of developing individual characters. Once again, I appreciated the historical notes at the end of the book explaining Iggulden’s process in fictionalizing history. It was really interesting to me to see Genghis’ brothers developing and coming into their own, and knowing them better. To see these men as real people who existed in a real place, at a real time, and experienced real events.

This series is a stellar example of what historical fiction ought to be, in my opinion. This series brings history to life and makes it so much more than anonymous dates set in a foreign location.

The landscape, battles, family dynamics, and Chin cities are painted with a vivid brush. Once again, Iggulden doesn’t back away from the ugly reality of war, but he manages to maintain the mentality of the Mongols: that battle is a glory. The ferocious joy that comes from their precise archery ability, the vicious intelligence of their strategy, and Genghis’ mental agility that enabled him to adapt to any situation are portrayed in a matter-of-fact way. Pulling no punches, but not knocking you upside the head with a 2×4 either.

The 2nd book has cemented my decision to just buy the series, so I can have it ready when my children reach the age at which I think it would be appropriate for them to delve into it. What a marvelous addition to any history curriculum or textbook!

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Book Review: Fablehaven (Book 1 in the Series)

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Fablehaven (Fablehaven, #1)Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a fun children’s book! The main characters are engaging, and pretty adorable. Kendra and Seth are both believable, real, and unique. I enjoyed the simple story line because it stayed interesting. I found myself relating to Kendra as the “big sister,” and her frustration at Seth’s constant breaking of rules and causing some pretty disastrous, fairy tale level consequences. Seth evoked an emotional reaction in me, in that I wanted to smack that kid around a little. Whenever a book can make me feel something–anything–I know it’s a good story.


I have a weakness for them, and the abundance of fairies, a Fairy Queen, a battle against evil, child heroes, magic, a forest, a giant magical cow, and a myriad of magical creatures all make for an exciting story.

This is a book my children are enjoying together, and I see this series establishing itself as a favorite they will look back on with fondness when they’re grown, and probably share with their own children someday.

The reading level of the book is probably around 5th grade or so, but that doesn’t take away from its appeal. Good pacing, fun dialogue, and impossible situations all make for a great fairy tale that I really think whole families can enjoy.

And that’s all there is to it. Looking forward to #2!

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