Category Archives: Diving Into A Sea of Books

Highly subjective book reviews

Diving Into A Sea of Books–Can’t Judge a Book by Its Murder

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As an avid reader, I get excited about the great number of books out there to read, either for entertainment, education, inspiration or with some books, all three. The quantity available in print, audio, and e-books reminds me of the vast amount of life in the oceans, so I call these book reviews “Diving Into A Sea of Books”. As with diving into an ocean looking for interesting objects, diving into books means you come across mixed results: over here, a book you don’t bother to finish, over there, a “treasure”—one you like so much you can’t wait to reread it, and over there, a book you read and think, “Meh”.

I was in the mood for a “cozy” mystery, ie., one without gore and sex, so one day I picked up Can’t Judge a Book by Its Murder by Amy Lillard. I want to say I liked it, but—it took me longer to read this than I thought it would. I got annoyed with it, so I put the book down for awhile. Yet I wanted to find out “whodunit” so I finally finished it.

Can’t Judge a Book by Its Murder takes place in a sleepy little Southern town. The main character, Arlo Stanley, owns a bookstore. She is gearing up for a book signing with Wally Harrison, a former resident, now bestselling author. When Wally is found dead outside her store, Arlo’s life becomes much more complicated. Her best friend is jailed as the main suspect by the police chief, a former boyfriend of Arlo’s, and another former boyfriend returns to town. Plus, the elderly ladies in Arlo’s book club are determined to help find the true murderer, since they are sure it’s not Chloe, Arlo’s best friend.

The book had a lot going for it, in keeping the reader guessing as to the murderer’s identity, in the  characters, and in setting. Ms. Lillard does a good job putting enough twists in the story to keep the reader wondering whether the murderer really was Arlo’s best friend, or someone else. The minor characters of various business owners filled out the story and gave the small-town setting believability. I could almost smell the food cooking in The Diner! Small towns have their own pace and atmosphere, and the author captured that well.

Things I didn’t like? The main character repeated some actions over and over, to the point where it got annoying. Some details inserted into the story didn’t seem to have a purpose; they could have been cut out without hurting anything. A few of the characters did things which didn’t make sense to me. Some of the sentences were choppy; as a reader, I don’t appreciate that. There seemed to be a lot of backstory.   The way it appeared was confusing, and I couldn’t figure out why some of it was in the story. In all fairness, though, Can’t Judge a Book by Its Murder is the first in a new series: the Main Street Book Club Mystery series, and the characters featured in the backstory may be appearing in later titles.

Would I read the book again? I don’t know. Thankfully, the state of the world doesn’t depend on whether I will or not! 🙂

©P. Booher

 

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Diving Into A Sea of Books–People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them The Keys

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As an avid reader, I get excited about the great number of books out there to read, either for entertainment, education, inspiration or with some books, all three. The quantity available in print, audio, and e-books reminds me of the vast amount of life in the oceans, so I call these book reviews “Diving Into A Sea of Books”. As with diving into an ocean looking for interesting objects, diving into books means you come across mixed results: over here, a book you don’t bother to finish, over there, a “treasure”—one you like so much you can’t wait to reread it, and over there, a book you read and think, “Meh”.

People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them The Keys, by Mike Bechtle, is a book I would have liked to have read years ago. That would have saved me considerable frustration, with myself and with others. It explains some things I’ve wondered about for a long time (like why I can’t come up with a quick reply in a conversation). 

As the title suggests, this is not a textbook (read “dry and boring”) type of book. Instead, Dr. Bechtle uses personal illustrations, humor, and stories to make his points about dealing with difficult people, whether they be family members, co-workers, bosses, or others you spend time with regularly. You know—those people who just DRIVE YOU CRAZY!

Some points which jumped out at me are:

  1. You can’t change other people; you can only change yourself. You can influence other people, but it has to be their decision to change.
  2. Change comes slowly, whether to you or the other person. “Crazy people” learned those behaviors over time, so it takes time to change.
  3. Crazy people may drive you crazy, but they are still human, still made in God’s image. The craziness  isn’t all there is about that person. 
  4. The “old-fashioned” virtues of kindness, humility, patience, and gratitude are still needed as you deal with your crazy person.
  5. Set boundaries and be prepared to sound like a broken record to defend your boundaries. You will need to defend them.
  6. A person’s basic temperament—whether introverted or extroverted—doesn’t change, so don’t try.  To try just puts a lot more stress on the relationship, and neither one of you needs that.
  7. What you can’t change, you can often adapt to. 
  8. Be proactive, not reactive. Dr. Bechtle suggests ways to give thought to situations, and then act upon what you’ve considered, instead of having a “knee-jerk” reaction. This one point alone made the book valuable for me, a person who tends to react, but wants to move away from that tendency.
  9. Thoughts lead to emotions, which lead to behaviors. A change in thought patterns means a change in emotions, which means behaviors change.
  10. There is quite a difference between expectations, and expectancy. Expectations about people often lead to bitter disappointment; expectancy means you are operating from a position of hope. You know there are no guarantees that your crazy person will change, but there’s the possibility.
  11. This book is about relationships; it’s really about the importance of faith and hope in relationships with difficult people.

People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them The Keys is one of the most helpful books I’ve ever read about personality and relationships. It’s a book I’ll read again, probably soon; this time, to take notes. 

©P. Booher

 

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Diving Into A Sea of Books–One Shenandoah Winter

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As an avid reader, I get excited about the great number of books out there to read, either for entertainment, education, inspiration or with some books, all three. The quantity available reminds me of the vast amount of life in the oceans, so I call these book reviews “Diving Into A Sea of Books”. As with diving into an ocean looking for interesting objects, diving into books means you come across mixed results: over here, a book you don’t bother to finish, over there, a “treasure”—one you like so much you can’t wait to reread it, and over there, a book you read and think, “Meh”.

In the novel One Shenandoah Winter, author Davis Bunn brings together:

Two people gripped by rage so deep they don’t know how they can free themselves from it. 

One town, tucked away among the hills and valleys of Virginia, in desperate need of a doctor.

A pastor whose baby is seriously ill.

A couple determined to marry despite their age difference.

An old man living up in the hills who knows the secret of living and dying.

 

Davis Bunn weaves in historical references, topographical descriptions, language expressions and mountain customs to draw the reader into 1961 Virginia. As I read, I felt the characters’ anger or sorrow, or joy. I bounced along in Connie’s old truck as she drove on hilly roads, some little more than ruts. I saw the poverty of some of the people, reflected in their clothes or their homes; I also saw their innate dignity, regardless of how much or how little they had. I experienced joy when people gave sacrificially to give joy to someone. 

One Shenandoah Winter illustrates the possibilities when I choose to let go of trying to control what was never mine to control anyway. “Let go and let God”

Note: Faith in a personal God is displayed in the book: the pastor preaches, a man makes up his mind to follow Christ. But none of this is done in a judgmental way. The pastor is compassionate, never condemning. Everything happens in a natural, not forced, way.

One Shenandoah Winter is a novel I found hard to put down. The words flowed, making it easy to keep reading. This is a “treasure” for me.

Title: One Shenandoah Winter

Author: Davis Bunn 

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

©P. Booher

 

 

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Diving Into A Sea of Books–Hemingway’s Cats

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As an avid reader, I get excited about the great number of books out there to read, either for entertainment, education, inspiration or with some books, all three. The quantity available in print, audio, and e-books reminds me of the vast amount of life in the oceans, so I call these book reviews “Diving Into A Sea of Books”. As with diving into an ocean looking for interesting objects, diving into books means you come across mixed results: over here, a book you don’t bother to finish, over there, a “treasure”—one you like so much you can’t wait to reread it, and way over there, a book you read and think, “Meh”.

A couple weeks ago my computer/internet gave me fits; it was too warm and humid for me to do anything outside; I was grumpy and my nerves were on edge; I wanted—no, NEEDED—an escape from my world. I picked up a novel I bought a couple weeks before: Hemingway’s Cats by Lindsey Hopper. Immediately my mind landed in Key West, Florida, where Ernest Hemingway’s house is located. Besides being the museum and house of the well-known writer, the grounds are famous for the large number of six-toed cats which freely roam the place.

Laura Lange goes to Key West to work as a tour guide at the Hemingway House. She finds a far different life than she ever knew back home. The weather is one quirky element; another is her co-workers, landlords and other residents, including chickens. The cats display their idiosyncrasies as well. 

As the novel develops, various questions pop up: will Laura fall in love with one of the guys who thinks she’s “hot”? Are the rumors swirling around about assorted characters true? How will Laura deal with her ex-boyfriend back home who keeps texting her? And the question which involves everyone, human and feline—will Key West get pounded by a hurricane?

Hemingway’s Cats is a light, entertaining read. Romance and humor abound.  The characters have their good points and bad. The characters’ motivations are realistic. The cats are as involved in the novel as the humans are.

Language and other cautions: “H**l” and “D**n” used by some characters, but not every other word.  Numerous references made to characters drinking and going to bars as a social event. No graphic bedroom scenes.

Title: Hemingway’s Cats

Author: Lindsey Hooper

Publisher: Kensington 

©P. Booher

 

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Diving Into A Sea of Books–Coffee with Jesus

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As an avid reader, I get excited about the great number of books out there to read, either for entertainment, education, inspiration or with some books, all three. The quantity available in print, audio, and e-books reminds me of the vast amount of life in the oceans, so I call these book reviews “Diving Into A Sea of Books”. As with diving into an ocean looking for interesting objects, diving into books means you come across mixed results: over her, a book you don’t bother to finish, over there, a “treasure”—one that you like so much you can’t wait to reread it, and over there, a book you read and think, “Meh”.

Coffee with Jesus by David Wilkie tells about the conversations various characters have with Jesus as they meet for coffee. The characters include Kevin, Carl, Carl’s wife Lisa, Ann, Pastor Joe, and the accuser of the brethren, Satan, who as always, tries to stir up trouble.

Coffee with Jesus is done in comic-strip format, which allows you to read one strip or several, and still leave with a message to think about and get a chuckle out of as well. The characters bring up such issues as politics, taxes, work, child-raising, differences in churches, getting along with co-workers, Jesus’ early years, Christmas, and other topics. Jesus engages with them in an easy conversational style—sometimes gently teasing them, other times speaking in a matter-of-fact style, and other times answering with His divine authority. Sometimes Jesus reminds them that He is in control, and that whatever they are questioning, it’s not for them to be concerned about, because He’s got it, and when the time comes, He’ll deal with it. 

I like to pick up Coffee with Jesus when I’m looking for that deft blend of thought and humor.

Coffee with Jesus book, published by InterVarsity Press, is a creative project of David Wilkie and Radio Free Babylon.

©P. Booher

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Diving Into A Sea of Books–Beach Devotions

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As an avid reader, I get excited about the great number of books out there to read, either for entertainment, education, inspiration or with some books, all three. The quantity available in print, audio, and e-books reminds me of the vast amount of life in the oceans, so I call these book reviews “Diving Into A Sea of Books”. As with diving into an ocean looking for interesting objects, diving into books means you come across mixed results: over here, a book you don’t bother to finish, over there, a “treasure”—one that you like so much you can’t wait to reread it, and over there, a book you read and think, “Meh”.

In Beach Devotions Laura Van Gatz uses photographs and wording to transport the reader to the beach, in this case, a lake beach. I’ve never been to a lake or ocean beach, so reading this slender book of devotions acted as a chance to vacation in a different world and see what it has to offer, albeit vicariously.

Each two-page devotion features an item or activity commonly found on or done on a beach, such as sea glass, playing volleyball, or a natural event, such as a thunderstorm. Every natural or material item or activity provides spiritual food for thought.

The author’s tone is that of a friend/guide who wants you to enjoy the beach world she knows. She is never condescending, and freely admits the times she has messed up in her relationship with God.

If you are looking for a devotional book that’s a bit different, or want to read a volume which takes you into a slower pace, try Beach Devotions.

©P. Booher

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Correction to Diving Into A Sea of Books–Rambler–A family pushes through the fog of mental illness

In my original book review of Rambler, I believe I referred to NAMI as the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. I also indicated the group is a support group for patients and their loved ones.

Please note NAMI actually stands for: National Alliance on Mental Illness. While the group is a support group, it also involves health-care providers, and researchers. Local chapters of NAMI offer educational classes and support of various kinds. I made these corrections in the original post as well.

I thought I checked the facts before posting the book review, but obviously not well enough! My apologies to NAMI and to the author of Rambler, Linda Schmitmeyer.

For more info.: You can contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness at www.nami.org. Linda’s website is: www.lindaschmitmeyer.com.

P. Booher

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Diving Into A Sea of Books–Rambler–A family pushes through the fog of mental illness

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As an avid reader, I get excited about the great number of books out there to read, either for entertainment, education, inspiration or with some books, all three. The quantity available in print, audio, and e-books reminds me of the vast amount of life in the oceans, so I call these book reviews “Diving Into A Sea of Books”. As with diving into an ocean looking for interesting objects, diving into books means you come across mixed results: over here, a book you don’t bother to finish, over there, a “treasure”–one that you like so much you can’t wait to reread it, and over there, a book you read and think, “meh”.

Caution: Possible Triggers

Last Christmas Eve I drove the four miles to church in a fog so thick everything was a whitish-gray. Familiar landmarks disappeared, swallowed up in the enveloping fog. I went off the road once.

Reading Rambler, Linda K. Schmitmeyer’s memoir of her family’s struggle with her husband’s mental illness, reminded me of that scary experience. The landmarks of family routine and roles shifted like the images at a carnival fun-house and the bonds of love were tested as her husband’s mind grew unstable in the swirling, thickening fog of mental illness. As the illness manifested itself, Steve, who had a bachelor’s degree in engineering, couldn’t concentrate on his work enough to be the chief breadwinner. He couldn’t do things that formally he had no problem with. He acted in ways far out of character. At times, Steve drove hundreds of miles away from home without telling anyone. Other times, he threatened suicide. The illness thwarted his ability to be the husband and father he wanted to be.

Linda was thrust into the new role of head of the household, while working everyday, trying to understand her husband’s condition, helping the three children understand, and grieving the life that was slipping away. In the early days, she was frustrated by Steve’s behavior, believing that he could control it. Gradually she realized her husband was not in full control of his mind.

Eventually, through months and then years of treatment, doctors diagnosed Steve as schizoaffective, after an original diagnosis of manic-depression (as bi-polar was called in the 1990’s).

Told in topical format, rather than chronologically, Rambler gives a first-hand account of a family’s life in the midst of mental illness, of trying to hold it together when it feels as though the ground underneath is sliding away.

Because of the subject matter, Rambler can be a painful read at times. Ultimately, it is instructive and life-affirming.

It is instructive because the book points out a correct diagnosis takes time, as does finding the appropriate medication and dosage. Any medication has side effects, and those must be dealt with.

The book shows the approach that doesn’t help: insisting that the person can beat this, if he tries. Mental illness doesn’t result from a lack of willpower. Nor is it a character flaw. More and more research proves it is the result of processes in the brain which go awry.

Rambler also illustrates the approach that does help the patient and the family: a listening, caring heart, one that does not judge the person or family. Linda found the support of several people, especially her sister, Nancy, absolutely essential to helping her and her family make it through those tough days.

The book is life-affirming because the family didn’t give up. Steve and Linda continued to support their children’s activities, even through the hard times. Steve committed himself to getting better: he went to weekly therapy, and participated in clinical studies. He and Linda became active in NAMI–the National Alliance on Mental Illness–a support group for patients and their families, which also involves researchers and health-care providers. They remain active today. Steve and Linda’s three children–John, Luke, and Elly–are grown and say the experience, hard as it was, deepened their compassion for people who are struggling in various ways.

Rambler shows that mental illness doesn’t have to define a person; the person is so much more than the illness. Steve’s life shows a person can go on, as the three hundred fifty-five mile bike trip Steve, Linda, and Nancy took proves.

Note: Discussion questions appear in the back of the book.

For further info.: http://www.lindaschmitmeyer.com. You can also follow her on Twitter@LKSchm.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author, for purpose of review. This is an honest review.

P. Booher


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Diving Into a Sea of Books–The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice To Writers

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As an avid reader, I get excited about the great number of books out there to read, either for entertainment, education, inspiration or with some books, all three. The quantity available in print, audio, and e-books reminds me of the vast amount of life in the oceans, so I call these book reviews “Diving Into A Sea of Books”. As with diving into an ocean looking for interesting objects, diving into books means you come across mixed results: over here, a book you don’t bother to finish, over there, a “treasure”—one that you like so much you can’t wait to reread it, and over there, a book you read and think, “Meh”.

The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice To Writers by Betsy Lerner, appears on suggested reading lists of different blogs about writing. The author, with years of experience as writer, editor, and now, literary agent, is well-qualified to write this helpful book.

In Part I, “Writing”, the author talks about traits of writers she knew, worked with, or read about. She points out the things writers are known for—introversion, perfectionism, working in solitude—have their downsides. This part of the book dragged for me, I have to admit, but her compassionate tone for writers was evident early on, and my interest in the book shot up when I started reading the second part of the book, “Publishing”.

Part II gives writers a valuable insider’s perspective on editing and traditional publishing. The author addresses questions such as: “Why is it taking so long for my editor to get back to me?” and “What is my publicist doing?” She emphasizes the importance of patience and politeness in the writer’s dealings with the various people involved in bringing the writer’s creation to the outside world. Ms. Lerner describes the many steps involved in a book’s publication, from the time a writer turns in the final draft of the manuscript to the time the book hits the bookshelves or appears online. Among other topics, she writes about dealing with rejection, what an author can do if the publisher doesn’t have much of a publicity effort going, and the reasons a book may not do as well in the marketplace as the writer hoped. Part II sounds like the advice and empathy you might find at a writers’ conference.

Language Alert: for readers who find certain words/phrases offensive (aka “adult language”), a few of those appear.

©P. Booher

 

 

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Diving Into A Sea of Books–Million Dollar Dilemma

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As an avid reader, I get excited about the great number of books out there to read, either for entertainment, education, inspiration, or with some books, all three. The quantity available in print, audio, and e-books reminds me of the vast amount of life in the oceans, so I call these book reviews “Diving Into A Sea of Books”. As with diving into an ocean looking for interesting objects, diving into books means you come across mixed results: over here, a book you don’t bother to finish, over there, a “treasure”—one that you like so much you can’t wait to reread it, and over there, a book you read and think, “Meh”.

Million Dollar Dilemma by Judy Baer is a novel about a single woman who wins part of a multi-million dollar lottery drawing. She thinks she’s putting her money in the office kitty for another co-worker. The collection is really for a lottery drawing. The office wins, big time.

Most people probably would be extremely happy to win millions of dollars. Cassia Carr, however, considers it a huge aggravation. She tries to find a church to give it to, but runs into another problem with that idea.

As the novel unwinds, Cassia becomes increasingly attracted to the new neighbor with the feisty cat. She isn’t quite sure if he feels the same, and if he does, why does he? She still has the problem of what to do with all that money, and life seems more uncertain than it did before.

Her problems and questions are resolved in a surprising, satisfying way.

Note: Million Dollar Dilemma is in a genre known in publishing circles as Christian chick-lit. It is a romance, but “clean” in matters of romantic relationships and language. At least one of the main characters has a strong or growing faith in God, and that faith is central to how the character approaches life.

Million Dollar Dilemma is a fun read. Most of the time I don’t care for reading romance; this story has enough of a mystery in it to make it enjoyable for me. It’s a book I’ll read again.

©P. Booher

 

 

 

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