Saturday, April 30, 2016

Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup

Stuff has become a part of our culture.

Lives revolve around the accumulation and/or removing of stuff from our lives. Tv Shows have popped up on both extremes from Hoarders to Tiny House Hunters thriving of our fascination with things.

But for many people, there would be contentment just to find some balance and purpose in the stuff and that's where Ruth Soukup's newest book Unstuffed enters the picture.

Ruth is no newcomer to the battle on stuff. Already widely recognized from her blog, In Unstuffed Ruth takes readers through three areas - home, mind, and soul - exploring the mentality and reasoning behind unstuffing with practical tips and guidelines scattered throughout the text.

I really enjoyed how Ruth approaches the topic of clutter with a holistic outlook - examining physical, mental and soul causes.  So many books on the topic only address one failing to spot how interconnected the issue can be or become. Many of her points are wrapped in stories from her own experiences giving the instruction a more conversational feel rather than instruction.

I also appreciated all the additional support posted online that is mentioned throughout the text, providing extra support for those who require it. Decluttering and unstuffing can be a paralyzing task for some and just naturally flows out of some personalities better than others. These extra supports really help level the playing field.

That said, I appreciated Ruth's honesty how each family is going to be and look different when it comes to stuff. There is no one size fits all. Although I love an uncluttered look in our home the reality is that our son needs some of his extra "toys" because they're actually therapy items related to his autism. Though I don't recall Ruth directly saying there was an implied acceptance of different needs rather than a simple "your house isn't clean enough" (which I've seen in other material).

This book may not be for everyone, some may feel that Ruth does tend to some extremes at times (which I occassionaly had to check myself against as I slipped into that mentality as well), however, Unstuffed serves as a great launching point into  what seems to be a never ending battle here in North America.

4 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.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Face to Face by Jayme Hull with Laura Captari

Mentoring is weird.

We enter into relationship, walking through life, sharing experiences and growth. It sounds great, more and more people are recognizing the importance of this unique relationship and yet ask people how to find a mentor or how to mentor someone else and most people just stare blankly.

In Face to Face Jayme Hull and Laura Captari explore the ins and outs of mentoring in a laid back and accessible format. In fact, at times I almost felt the book was to laid back as I sought out clear cut rules and guidelines, only to realize that by giving the chapter and its stories space, the concept did jump out in more organic and relational ways (sort of how I picture mentoring).

Face to Face is not an instruction manual, There is no 1, 2, 3 to easy mentoring because it involves people and life is messy. However, this book does walk readers through the basics including: the purpose of mentoring, how to find a mentor (it involves some risk as a heads up, all the way to working through conflict in the mentoring relationship and ending well. The chapters are cleanly divided into manageable portions each ending with their own collection of reflective questions geared towards helping the reader in their own mentoring journey.

Face to Face is definitely written towards a female audience and draws heavily upon Jayme's own experience as a mentor and mentee. I know I picked out certain passages to comment on with my husband but the book is not gender neutral.

The need for mentoring is one I've seen replayed over and over again and Face to Face does an excellent job opening up intentional space to address this issue.

4 out of 5 stars

I received this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion. The views expressed are entirely my own.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Better Together by Jill Savage and Anne McClane

A few months ago I had the opportunity to review Moms are Scary. It was my first foray into the world of Mom books. It had quirky humour, geeky references, and a lot of uniqueness that resonated with me. So when I had the chance to read Better Together I was curious what other moms were saying and how this book would bring its own voice into the chorus of "momming"

Better Together is a book that holds true to its name. Written by the mother/daughter duo of Jill Savage and Anne Mcclane, these pages are filled with the insight of generations as Jill provides the wisdom of her experiences in partnership with her daughter who is still in the midst of raising her own children alongside the intended reader base.

I was pleasantly surprised at some of the highlights Jill and Anne brought to the forefront of their presentation. Topics such as levels of friendship (not everyone is going to or should be a BFF), differing personalities (and what those differences bring as far as strengths and weaknesses), all the way too being a friend through difficult times and what to do with conflict or dissolution of a friendship.

Their openness and honesty regarding the tough seasons, stepping out of one's comfort zone, and how to walk with grace through the lows of relationship towards the end of the book really help Better Together stand out from other parenting books in general (and I've read a few since my first foray in last year). So few books are willing to wade into that messiness through the venue of a book. I wonder if the authors connections to the blogging community and the ability to dialogue with readers in that format helped them push forward into these necessary discussions.

Indeed, the importance of community is woven into each breathe of this book, laid out plainly on ever page.

As far as personal preference goes, I enjoy a little bit more humour in my parenting reads since life is usually a bit stressful and hectic but Better Together still offers a solid experience for moms young and old.

4 out of 5 stars.

I received this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion. The views expressed are entirely my own.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Brazen by Leeana Tankersley

It seems to be the pattern that the books I hesitate to read the most are the books in which I find myself finding the most truth.

I wasn't keen on Leeana Tankersley's new book at first. Hot pink has never been my colour and brazen was a word I didn't hear very often, certainly never in a positive context. Yet, here was this hot pink book staring up at me from my computer, unashamedly asking me "what do you have to loose?" While my inner voices screamed upteen dozen reasons why I shouldn't and couldn't read this book.

So I started reading.

According to the back cover

There are so many moments in life when we choose to silence our intuition, abandon our own voice, and play small, because of that accusing voice inside that whispers, "Who do you think you are, anyway?" 

Who you are is a human--loved, worthy, and becoming. Who you are is a woman created by God to be and to do something unique. Who you are, deep down, is brazen.

Brazen means "without shame."

Leeana would probably classify my inner reasons as soul bullies. I'm not sure she would be wrong in that.

In Brazen Leeana offers women a uniquely crafted call to living as they have been called, to be free in "the wild spaces." Equal parts unapologetic calling out and truth speaking is partnered with a grace for women and a heart for creativity and passion.

As far as the structure goes, the chapters are not overly long and could theoretically be read quickly. However, I found this was one of the slowest books I've read recently due to wanting space to reflect upon the material and attempt some of the homework given at the end of each chapter.

The layout with the short chapters and homework option would make Brazen a wonderful option for a women's group or book club and I think the community aspect could add an entirely new dimension if led well.

My only concern with Brazen is that some areas felt very "new age" to me. I'm not entirely sure whether it was unfamiliar practices (free and inhibited are not exactly the first choice people would use when asked to describe me :P ), cultural difference, or if it was borderline new age. Some more conservative readers may find this to be an issue.

Overall, I think Leeana has bravely and brazenly brought a new outlook on an issue that, while often written about, is still largely felt and requiring the new life she brings into the situation.

4.5 out of 5 stars
"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Friday, April 8, 2016

Night Night Daddy by Amy Parker

I love bedtime stories.

They've always seemed the perfect way to end a day, cuddling up with a good book and a warm blanket, letting the story wash over you.

I also like good stories, relatable kids stories because, lets face it, if you have a toddler you are going to be reading that book until both you and your toddler have it memorized and then a few more times for good measure.

When I saw Amy Parker's new release Night Night Daddy I was intrigued. I've noticed a trend in kids tv and books where the father figures aren't often as role model worthy as the moms. This is a problem because my little guys adore their daddy and I want to have books that highlight that relationship.
This is definitely that book.

Both our littles were fascinated from the first page until we said "night night daddy". The text is simple, rhythmic, and has activities that all kids will recognize. I loved how many of the pages illustrated things that are already special memories for my eldest and husband (although Mommy hopes they wait until she's not in the room if they attempt to recreate the making of pancakes).

The pictures were beautiful and have both an engaging and soft effect that seemed perfect for end of day reflections of an exciting day of activities.

I also love how natural the little fox is taught about life and fun by simply doing things with his dad, what a great message.

5 out of 5 stars from both my and my hubby plus a spinning frog from our eldest (high praise)

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.

The Inheritance by Michael Phillips

The death of clan patriarch Macgregor Tulloch has thrown the tiny Shetland Islands community of Whales Reef into turmoil. Everyone assumed Tulloch’s heir to be his much-loved grandnephew David. But when no will is discovered, David’s calculating cousin Hardy submits his own claim to the inheritance, an estate that controls most of the island’s land. And Hardy knows a North Sea oil investor who will pay dearly for that control.

Past and present collide in master storyteller Michael Phillips’ dramatic new saga of loss and discovery, of grasping and grace.

(Official synopsis)

There is no denying Michael Phillips is a storyteller. It takes skill to make a character live and breathe and Phillips breathes life into the entire village of Whales Reef and beyond.For those willing to wrestle with the "simplified" local dialect, which can be a little difficult to understand if you're like me a reading into the wee hours of the morning, a wonderfully developed little town with a rich history is waiting to be introduced in The Inheritance. Oh, and I do mean introduced.

Those of you who don't like cliff hangers may want to wait until book 2 is released because very little is resolved in this one. The Inheritance reads like the introduction it is. At times, I even found the book to be too "jumpy" as we were carted off to Whale's Reef and back to Washington to meet more characters and even off on side treks to Pennsylvania for good measure. While a part of me can see the necessity of these character introductions and the importance of the build up (not to mention how they should lessen in book 2) , this jumpy sensation did prove frustrating for the times I wanted to get lost in the world Phillips had crafted.

That said, for people looking for a good novel that takes its time, slowly unraveling the plot (although I was able to guess why we kept jumping over to Loni's storyline), and takes a look at harder subject like faith, community, perceptions, etc . . This is a book that rewards if you're patient and allow the story the time it needs to set it's roots.

Although I was sorely tempted to stop reading in the first 100 pages, I'm now quite curious for Volume 2 in October.

4 out of 5 stars.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Atonement - Beverly Lewis

Lucy Flaud has a past that haunts her.

Despite the years passing, time has not healed her wounds nor repaired her relationships with her family, her community, or God. Instead she pours herself into her charities and sister's family trying to find a peace that eludes her. When her father Christian begins going to a support group with Englischers, Lucy finds herself pulled into a crossroads where her past can either engulf her future or redemption can pull her into the present - if she's brave enough to risk it.

Ack! I'm so torn on this book.

I've said it before, Amish literature is not my favourite. That said, there's something intriguing in the simpler way of life that still bears witness to deep and complex emotions.

This book confuses me though it has some wonderful strong story-telling elements and then some elements that continually jarred me out of the narrative.

I really did enjoy the gradual storytelling. Although most readers could probably guess what Lucy's secret was early on, I enjoyed how Lewis gives glimpses, little tidbits through observers and most importantly Lucy. It felt real and very close to how someone with a trauma or grief would unravel their story.

I also enjoyed Lewis' twist on Christian's motivation for attending the group and the honest wrestling presented by his character. That mixture of strength and brokenness was a great addition to the cast of characters.

The text, however, distracted from the story. The language felt more jarring than usual and I often wanted to correct the spelling before I comprehended the sentence itself. In fact, partially because of this Dorothea and the story of the bridge felt like a stronger element to the story then the illustration it was supposed to serve for Lucy.

Lucy was a darling mystery but again, it sometimes felt jarring as some behaviours seemed so conflicting despite the readers ability to see the greater picture. This could be, in part, due to my own unfamiliarity with the Amish way of life but, since the book was not written to an Amish audience a little more explanation of the rationale behind key decision would have been welcome, especially with so many Englischers running around the plot to form natural points of connection.

3 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."