Thursday, November 5, 2015

October Book Reviews

Happy Fall Y'all - or if you live on the east coast right now, happy 70 degree days! We have been enjoying a warm front, highest November temps in years!  This doesn't go along with pumpkins and scarves and boot weather - but no complaints from this southern gal.  I fear winter weather so I will be grateful for any remaining "hot" days we have left.  Plus, the cool air is returning this weekend - just in time for holiday season to start!

I have been diving into some great books so far this fall, so here are a few reviews. As you may remember, my goal was to read 6 books during October and November and I so far, I have read 4 books and have started a few others.

Book: The Sh*t No One Tells You: a Guide to Surviving your Baby's First Year by Dawn Dais
Rating: 3 stars

I thought that this would be the best parenting book to start off with - it's funny, full of jokes, introducing me to some of the stresses of motherhood without overwhelming me.  But, honestly, the book was just okay.  It made me laugh at first, but by the end, it wasn't that funny.  The joke remained the same throughout the book - kids are demanding little boogers who wear you out.  True - and this story line can give you a good laugh- but by the end, the joke was old.  Also, although she did offer encouragement throughout the book - apparently, kids are quite adorable and loving too which makes up for being up all night and having blowout diapers and stealing your memory and ability to form complete sentences - but the level of joking and complaining without too much advice had me scared!  I know some of the other "more serious" baby books - on sleep and eating schedules, etc might stress me out - but I think I feel less anxious about life changes when I go in with a plan.  The book wasn't bad - just not right for me at this moment.  I think if I were to read this when Anne Douglas is 3 months old, I will probably relate and have my own war stories.  What I did really like about the book - the company.  A lot of moms weighed in on their own experiences - and it seems that everyone feels overwhelmed during that first year or two - so when I start to stress, at least I know I am normal!

The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly
Rating: 5 stars

I loved this book.  I kept debating between 4.5 and 5 stars.  In the end, I caved on 5 even though I know it likely won't be on your top 5-10 books of all time list. But, for me, an avid Little Women fan, I adored it.  The premise is that these 3 sisters are Jo's great grandchildren - and one of the sisters finds her letters in the attic and slowly gets to know her off beat, opinionated but lovable aunt.  You can see how each of the sister favors one of the 3 living March sisters - Jo, Meg and Amy - and I fell in love with this sweet family (past and present).  As a young girl, when I first read Little Women, I so related to Jo and felt like I discovered a piece of myself in her.  (I guess that makes my other two sisters Meg and Amy which actually the descriptions fit them fairly well ) So watching how the main character in The Little Women Letters discovered her unique Aunt - and a bit of herself- made me relate to Jo all over again.

Prayer by Tim Keller
Rating: 4.5 stars

This has been our small group book this fall - and I have loved it. It's pretty intense - and doesn't read like an easy flow encouraging devo, but more like a textbook. Tim Keller shares a few of his own views - but mostly summarizes and lays out what centuries of theologians have said about Prayer. It is a practical book - laying out formats and plans to improve your prayer life.  It is a book I will need to go through again, pulling out tips on meditation and the structure of prayer, trying out different formats in my prayer life.  There is a lot to take in, and I know that I probably missed some during my first read!  Even so, I already feel that this wise teaching has improved my prayer life.

This book is not an easy read and it's definitely not a "read in one day" type of book, but it is worthwhile and will help you understand the purpose of prayer and ways to properly pray.

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker
Rating: 3 stars

I mostly liked this book. Jen is real and easy to relate to and has you laughing and saying AMEN at the same time.  Also, I feel like her religious and social views are a lot like mine - conservative in certain areas, but a bit more moderate. She realizes that some of the things we equate with Christianity in our upper middle class white world just isn't true of the Gospel.

My one gripe - was her chapter on difficult people.  She classifies difficult people into two categories - those you can cut out of your life (friends, acquaintances, etc) and those whom you are stuck with so you draw boundaries (relatives).  I am 100 percent in support of drawing boundaries and limiting contact with those who are too critical, emotionally manipulative, etc.  We have to protect ourselves so that we can properly take care of ourselves and our other relationships. However, I do not believe we are excused from loving and befriending difficult people.  In fact, I think that Christians should be those reaching out to those that are hard to love!  In fact, in later chapters, Jen talks about loving the prickly outsiders at church! So, it seems that even in her life she takes on a few "broken toys" (as my dad calls them).  When I look at my own life, I have mutual giving friendships AND friendships where I have to draw boundaries (either literally or personally) and where I won't ever get back as much as I put in.  I hope that Christ can help me show HIS love to these difficult people.  And, in all honesty, I am sure I have been the difficult friend before (or I will be in the future).  So my take on her advice - draw some boundaries and don't surround yourself with only difficult people (and definitely don't let people abuse you all the time...) but keep showing God's kindness to those who need it the most.  We are all difficult people and God chose to love us when we were unlovable - doing that to hard people in our lives will hopefully reveal the same truth to them: God loves them, despite the mess and hardness and unkind personalities!

The second part of this chapter talked about loving difficult people you can't get away from - ie, family.  And I actually agreed with most of her advice here but I cringed when she used one of her children as an example.  (note, not saying at times, all of my children are difficult and here is how I draw boundaries).  That poor sweet child - being singled out as the "difficult one" in the family.  At some point, he or she will read this book and realize that mom was talking about him.  Also, family and friends will read this book and be able to single out which child is the "hard one."  I just don't think it's fair to negatively portray your child like that to the world.  It's one thing to complain to friends and family about the terrible twos or whine about the troubled teen years, but let's be good advocates of our kids.  I want my daughter to feel safe in knowing mom isn't sharing all her mistakes and dirty secrets to the world via a blog or book or whatever. (This is a topic I am starting to think about as I enter motherhood - just like I don't air out all my dirty laundry with Dave on this blog - you know, despite his picky eating haha - I don't want to talk too poorly about my kids as they age too. That's not fair to them)

And what counts as the difficult kid? The reality is that this child of Jen's may be the difficult one today and in five years, it may be a different kid.  That's family - we are all difficult at times. But, oh how my heart hurt for this little child - it's horrible to feel like you are the "hard kid" in your family - especially when your mom made it clear earlier in the chapter that you should cut loose "difficult people" unless they are unavoidable family members.  Maybe I am super emotional (thank you pregnancy) or maybe I relate because at times I felt like I was seen as the "difficult child" (although thankfully my parents did not publish that fact in a book) but what a burden for that child to be known as and treated as "the difficult kid in the family."

That being said, the rest of the book was entertaining and enjoyable - so don't let my opinion stop you from reading it! However, let me know what you think on the "difficult people" chapter.

Here are the remaining books to choose from.  I wonder which book I will choose next!
  1. The Sh*t No One Tells You: a Guide to Surviving your Baby's First Year by Dawn Dais
  2. Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman
  3. Trim Health Mama by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison
  4. His Needs, Her Needs for Parents by Willard F. Harley, Jr.
  5. some type of baby sleep book
  6. The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly
  7. A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable
  8. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  9. China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
  10. The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
  11. Nice is Just a Place in France by the Betches
  12. Prayer by Tim Keller
  13. For the Love by Jen Hatmaker

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