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Monday, March 16, 2015

My review of Choices by Melody Beattie

About the book:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Codependent No More, The Language of Letting Go, Finding Your Way Home, Journey to the Heart, and Stop Being Mean to Yourself, comes Choices: powerful wisdom and insight about how to make the best choices in our lives from the author who revolutionized how we look at relationships.

My review:

"Choices" by Melody Beattie is a unique non-fiction book. I've never encountered anything like it before. Normally it takes me forever to read non-fiction, but she sprinkles in stories and scenarios that are interesting to read and help her make the point in each chapter that she is trying to convey. "Choices" is filled with a lot of truth and many useful lessons about how we make choices all the time whether we realize it or not. Some parts (the stuff about reincarnation and spiritual journeys in Tibet) were kind of hokey because they contradicted the Judeo-Christian thoughts that made the most sense to me.

For the most part this book was helpful and could be life-changing for people who feel stuck in their lives. We are not just victims of negative circumstances, but can use our life experiences to grow as a person. She says that we get the most out of life when we take our eyes off ourselves and use our hard-earned lessons to help others. This is a very Christian principle. I've found it to be true in my life.

I highlighted a lot of things on my kindle that she wrote because I wanted to ponder them later. Life is a journey that we can enjoy or fall victim to in our minds. What we think about, what we dwell on, and the choices we make are ours alone. They do influence us on a daily basis. Faith is a key to unlocking all of the above.

I found this book to be inspirational and compulsively readable. I read over the reincarnation stuff but didn't find it to be helpful because it contradicts and confuses the other message. Melody is a fantastic writer and has a lot of useful insights. I would recommend this book as a tool for people to help them change their perspective. It contains a lot of nuggets of truth that are worth digging up. I feel more empowered as a person because of this book, and that makes it a book worth reading.

  "Choices" was published in 2009 by Harper Collins, and yes, I actually bought this book for my kindle after reading the first few chapters.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Enjoyable story that I actually finished - first novel I've completed in a long time.

About the book:

Amid the lush valleys and fragrant wildflowers of Provence, Marguerite, Eléonore, Sanchia, and Beatrice have learned to charm, hunt, dance, and debate under the careful tutelage of their ambitious mother—and to abide by the countess’s motto: “Family comes first.”

With Provence under constant attack, their legacy and safety depend upon powerful alliances. Marguerite’s illustrious match with the young King Louis IX makes her Queen of France. Soon Eléonore—independent and daring—is betrothed to Henry III of England. In turn, shy, devout Sanchia and tempestuous Beatrice wed noblemen who will also make them queens.

Yet a crown is no guarantee of protection. Enemies are everywhere, from Marguerite’s duplicitous mother-in-law to vengeful lovers and land-hungry barons. Then there are the dangers that come from within, as loyalty succumbs to bitter sibling rivalry, and sister is pitted against sister for the prize each believes is rightfully hers—Provence itself.

From the treacherous courts of France and England, to the bloody tumult of the Crusades, Sherry Jones traces the extraordinary true story of four fascinating sisters whose passions, conquests, and progeny shaped the course of history.

My review:

This story was intriguing and somewhat tragic toward the end. What the four young women's mother intended for good - to have each of the sisters marry well and hopefully bring about peace between warring countries - didn't necessarily turn out that way. All were ambitious in their own way. All were also very powerless because they didn't have a choice regarding their husbands. They reigned in the shadow of their spouses and often weren't taken seriously by the men in their lives even though these women had wisdom to offer. I found Sanchia's tale to be particularly tragic. She just wanted to be a nun and was forced to marry so she spent her whole life feeling like she had betrayed Christ, whom she'd married in her heart.

The story of Marguerite was tragic as well. The White Queen, her mother-in-law, had her son under her thumb for years and Marguerite was scorned in many ways. She had eleven children and outlived most of them. All she wanted was the inheritance that she was promised when she married, yet all she got was grief when she tried to obtain it.

Beatrice was the most misunderstood of them all. In the end they realized she had a good heart and they hadn't appreciated her when she was around. They saw her as manipulative, ambitious, and selfish. The end of the story had a shocking revelation about Sanchia, her sister, and what she'd done to protect her. Eleanore, the queen of England and mother of King Edward I, had her own tragic tale as well.

Overall, I found this book enjoyable. I haven't finished a novel - especially one of this length - in quite a while. I think the fact that it hopped around and alternated the women's perspectives kept me reading because nothing had the chance to drag out much. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy historical fiction. I'm not sure how many of the details were true other than their births and deaths, but the conjecture from the author fit the story nicely regardless.

Four Sisters, All Queens by Sherry Jones, was published by Simon and Schuster (Gallery Books) and released in 2012.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

My review of Love Comes Calling by Deborah Piccurelli

About the book:

The day new Christian, Derek Spencer, shows up on Charlie Parkes’s doorstep to make up for what he’d done, is the very day he falls in love with her. But Charlie’s sister mistakes him for a home improvement contractor, and he decides to play along until he finds a way to reveal who he really is.

Charlie is attracted to Derek, but knows the attention he pays her is only flattery. How could such a great-looking guy fall for someone with a face like hers? Nevertheless, the two form a relationship that brings a joy to Charlie that’s way beyond her wildest dreams.

But what will happen when Derek’s true identity is revealed?

My review:

This is a classic romance (man meets woman, man loses woman, man ultimately wins woman's heart,) but with a strong faith element. If you enjoy inspirational romances that have forgiveness as a key element to the story, this one is for you. It's hard to post much without giving away a spoiler, so I'll summarize the heart of the story. The emphasis is on the heroine's emotional healing and the hero's part in it. There is some deception at first, but of course, being a Christian novel, the secrets must come out.

Deborah has crafted an enthralling story. It's very well-written and I enjoyed the inspiring tale about how love, compassion, and forgiveness are the glue that holds male/female relationships together.

This romance releases March 20th and it's only $2.99 on Amazon. Plus you can pre-order it on Amazon today if you click on this link.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My review of The Like Switch by Jack Schafer, PhD and Marvin Karlins, PhD

About the book:

From a former FBI Special Agent specializing in behavior analysis and recruiting spies comes a handbook filled with his proven strategies on how to instantly read people and influence how they perceive you, so you can easily turn on the like switch.

The Like Switch is packed with all the tools you need for turning strangers into friends, whether you are on a sales call, a first date, or a job interview. As a Special Agent for the FBI’s National Security Division’s Behavioral Analysis Program, Dr. Jack Schafer developed dynamic and breakthrough strategies for profiling terrorists and detecting deception. Now, Dr. Schafer has evolved his proven-on-the-battlefield tactics for the day-to-day, but no less critical battle of getting people to like you. 

In The Like Switch, he presents these techniques for how you can influence, attract, and win people over. Learn how to think and react like your favorite TV investigators from Criminal Minds or CSI as Dr. Schafer shows you how to improve your LQ (Likeability Quotient), “spot the lie” both in person and online, master nonverbal cues that influence how people perceive you, and turn up or turn down the intensity of a relationship. 

Dr. Schafer cracks the code on making great first impressions, building lasting relationships, and understanding others’ behavior to learn what they really think about you. With tips and techniques that hold the key to taking control of your communications, interactions, and relationships, The Like Switch shows you how to read others and get people to like you for a moment or a lifetime.

My review:

This book ended up being more enjoyable and interesting than I initially expected. When I first considered reading it I thought... "Hmmm...non-fiction. Well this will take me awhile." I ended up reading the entire book in a few weeks, which never happens with non-fiction books. But the subject interested me, so I tried it out. I am glad I did because it gave me some insight and made me more aware of non-verbal cues that I may be giving people when I am listening to them. I learned a lot of this body language info in counseling classes back in the 80s, but it was a nice refresher. It would be a great resource for people who have difficulty reading non-verbal cues, like someone with Asperger's Disorder.

The way the book is described it gives the impression that it's more of a how to book in order to get what you want from people, but it's really more of a, "Why won't this person talk to me?" Or, "Why do I have trouble making and/or keeping friends?" type of book. Yes, there are some parts that go into interviewing techniques, but anyone who has done an investigation or conducted hiring interviews might find these portions helpful as well. There are also many techniques shown that you can use to talk with someone about a controversial subject and still get heard.

I loved how the authors included pictures to explain some things like body language and what to look for. There are suggestions on what do do when dealing with anger and how to assess where to go in a heated conversation. There are even some sections that talk about verbal communication and non-verbal communication between couples, and about how to get your spouse to talk to you about a difficult subject so it's a win-win situation. There are references and resources at the end of the book so you can delve further into this subject matter if you want to. Overall, I found it to be a very helpful book.

You can find it for sale on Amazon HERE

Monday, December 22, 2014

My review of Between These Walls by John Herrick

About the book:

Hunter is a Christian. Hunter is the man next door.

Hunter Carlisle is gay.

At 26 years old, Hunter Carlisle has a successful sales career, a devoted girlfriend, and rock-solid faith. He also guards a secret torment: an attraction to other men. When a career plunge causes muscle tension, Hunter seeks relief through Gabe Hellman, a handsome massage therapist. What begins as friendship takes a sudden turn and forces the two friends to reconsider the boundaries of attraction. 

Along the road to self-discovery, Hunter’s secret is exposed to the community. Now Hunter must face the demons of his past and confront his long-held fears about reputation, sexual identity, and matters of soul.

A story of faith, fire and restoration, Between These Walls braves the crossroads of love and religion to question who we are and who we will become.

Publisher's full disclosure to readers: This novel of faith occurs within a true-to-life context of redemption, and contains adult language and content

My review:

John Herrick is a fantastic writer that knows how to draw you into a character's heart and mind. I always feel a connection to his characters. Given the description, I got the gist of the content. But the beauty in writing a story about internal conflict is that you can dig down deep and make the story go any way you want it to. And that's where the artistry begins.

The content gets a bit heavy at times, which means you almost have to digest it slowly to grasp the heart of the book. But I love novels that make me examine the hard things in life. There are no pat answers, and Hunter asks himself just about every question a man would consider in his situation. It's tough to wrap your mind around the concept if you haven't given it much though. I found the story to be well-thought-out and spiritually sound.

On the surface, the term "gay Christian" seems like an oxymoron. But it's really a story about dark, internal secrets and hiding our true selves from the world. It's a sin like any other sin. The heart of the story is about the struggle. About pretending to be something we're not and how it not only hurts ourselves, but others we love, when we bury things deep inside and let no one in.

What spoke to my heart the most in this story was the deep, emotional conflict Hunter had within himself. The author didn't emphasize Hunter and Gabe's sexual attraction, but focused more on their feeling drawn emotionally to something not really understood, but felt nevertheless. Feelings aren't sinful. God understands that we struggle, which is where grace comes in.

The truth is Jesus came to save us from our sins - both outward and inward. That doesn't necessarily make our struggles go away. Like with the Apostle Paul, who wrestled for the rest of his life with a "thorn in the flesh." God did not take it from him even when he begged for relief. Sometimes our struggles are a part of who we are. We don't know how they started or how they will end. It's all part of the journey we call life. The lesson is to lean on God through it all. Great story and highly recommended.

Between These Walls is available for pre-order on Amazon as an e-book and will be released in paperback format in early 2015. This is a book for my keeper shelf! Pre-order it today so you can get it right when it releases!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

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