Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Road to Becoming - Jenny Simmons

Everyone has had a dream die.
Not everyone knows what to do when they do. We don't like talking about the lost dreams, the crashed and burned dreams, the abandoned dreams. We're told to work hard and persevere,taught to dream big and achieve. 
This means that when the inevitable happens, whether they were big dreams, life dreams, or everyday dreams we can feel lost because who wants to admit they've failed and if we don't talk about it how do we learn, grieve, and grow?

The Road to Becoming is one part lesson, one part memoir, and all excellent storytelling (which really is one of the best ways to learn).

When I started Jenny's book, I confess, I wondered what in the world I had started reading. College enforced my love of clear direction and thesis, much like the author I enjoy my books and movies neatly tied up in the end with a big red bow. So as I meandered through the first few chapters I almost put aside the book and moved on. 

I'm so glad I stuck with it though because once we moved through "The Dreaming and Destruction" this book packed a punch. Divided into "The burying," "The Lostness," "The Waiting," and "The Becoming" I found myself confronted by a woman who knew about the loss of dreams, the pain and confusion not only of that loss but of the emptiness that fills the dreams prior space and the journey back from that grief.

I was struck with Jenny's openness about her faith while she walked through her desert and her ability to highlight not only the sparseness in that environment but also the life that can slowly draw you back in if you're willing to learn to listen.

I would adore seeing this book used in a women's group. Honest, I think it would be painful and hard at times because who wants to talk about loss and grief when it involves the intangibles of dreams (as if their existence merely in thought lessens the loss) but Jenny's book provides enough humour, honesty, and faith to make this a wonderful vehicle for exploration of self and a topic often under acknowledged.

4.5 out of 5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for my honest opinion through Nuts About Books. The opinions expressed are entirely my own

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Plans I Have For You

The Plans I Have For You by Amy Parker takes kids through a colourful journey regarding what they can do with their lives. Presented with bright, fun, and engaging pictures Parker explores what kids can do with their lives seemingly anchoring the book on Jer. 29:11.

At first glance I was excited by this book. the pictures were instantly captivating and whimsical which is always nice for this Mama since we're firmly in the "let's repeat this book as many times as possible before Mama makes me go to bed" stage. Not to mention that as our gorgeous leaves start falling from the trees and cloudy weather ushers in cooler temperatures it's nice to find bright and sunny colours somewhere.

When I read through the book with my son I could quickly see how many people would gravitate towards this book. The passage is familiar, the story easy to read and easy to follow for pre-readers, and the lesson is easily expounded upon in real life - I'm just not sure of the message.

The book could easily read as find your passion and pursue it because God has this big plan for your life. The problem is I know so many people who followed their passion only to have it change, or fail, or discover twists and turns that slowed them from their ultimate goal. Many of them did well and found peace in living their lives by faith. However, the ones who struggled the most were the ones who had bought into the idea that God has a great plan for you to find your passion and excel in that path, that road brings no flexibility, less chance for growth, and less room from input from anyone other than self.

Maybe I'm reading too much into a children's book but kids are so perceptive and I want my boys to have the freedom to fail, the ability to not find their identity in passions/skills/job, the wisdom to know that their calling may be cleaning bathrooms but still being the smiling face a young student needs to see to get them through the rough patches.

3 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Imposter - Suzanne Woods Fisher

The Stoltzfus family has seen their fair share of trials over the last few years but as Katrina Stoltzfus reached adulthood things seemed to be looking up with new love and direction in her life. 
However, between church politics, family antics, and a few bad choices Katrina's life is getting more complicated by the day.

Once again I've jumped into a series mid-plot ( a habit i'm starting to become accustomed too) so I was pleasantly surprised to find this story stood reasonably well as a stand-alone with prior book references merely strengthening my desire to go back and become better acquainted with the Stoltzfus family.
This was an even bigger surprise as Amish fiction (my husband and I debated this but i'm convinced Amish fiction is its own sub-genre) is not my go-to genre.Suzanne's characters are so lively and honest that they transcend their genre to be simply warm, inviting, and intriguing characters who beckon readers into their world.

That said, I feel that The Imposter would find its most loyal fans among those who appreciate Amish fiction, Women's fiction, or even coming of age stories thanks to the character of Katrina, Jesse, and  Birdy (the latter may be arguable given Birdy's age but her plot felt as much of a coming into her own as Katrina's did). Fisher's book finds it's strength in it's wonderfully written relationships, characters, and emotional turmoil (not to mention a cup of tea and a cozy blanket).

For myself, I found myself drawn in by the characters. A novel without characters is just a retelling of facts or a poor essay. Novels need living characters to breathe life into them and Fisher has some good one.

Katrina was a wonderful character who surprised me with the decisions she made and her strength of character.I particularly enjoyed her interactions the widow Thelma (who really should have a story of her own!)

Jesse was another fascinating find. I loved Fisher's honesty with this teen who wasn't sure how to settle down. The relatability that Fisher was able to craft into the various Stoltzfus members really  shows her skill as an author.

I also found The Imposter  capable of holding my attention thanks to its varying range of dilemma's (no spoilers but range from the hilarious in my opinion to the honest and raw) as well as its ability to showcase differing sides. Throughout the book readers are gifted the chance to see things from the Stoltzfus children's perspective and their fathers, Katrina and Andy's point of view. I love that even though the story keeps returning to Katrina readers aren't left to understand merely from her perspective (a good technique but one that would have cheapened this story).

Overall. I was impressed with The Imposter and easily put it near the top of other Amish fiction I have read.
4.5/5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for my honest opinion through Nuts About Books. The opinions expressed are entirely my own/