Collecting for Discipline

What do you do when you have a 2 year old who starts throwing things?  I’m not talking about throwing a soft squishy Nerf ball or a teddy bear – I’m talking throwing his big plastic dump truck or his mini Radio Flyer red wagon.  Stuff like that.  Hard, heavy stuff that hurts (speaking from experience, here).

Easy.  You start a collection.

IMG_7721That’s the beginning of my confiscated toy collection.  I’ve since added the mini Radio Flyer red wagon, a Thomas the Train, and a few other bits ‘n pieces.

Joe has been throwing things.  He’s not angry when he does it – he just gets so excited or happy that he has to throw something.  Anything will do.  Usually whatever he’s got in his hand at the moment.  And this has led to some banged up heads (mine – thank you, Thomas the Train), his baby brother being knocked over, and a deep gouge in the wood floor.  You never get deep gouges with carpet!  Oh well.

I’d tried using time-out.  No good.  I’d tried saying things like, “Now Joe, I know it’s fun to throw stuff, but it hurts Mommy when your toys hit her in the head.”  Ha!  Reasoning with a 2 year old?  Every parent should know that doesn’t work (and it didn’t work, but I still wanted to try it).  I’d even resorted to yelling, sad to say.

Nothing worked.

Then I remembered something that I’d read somewhere about discipline: a lot of the time, children act up because they love the reaction it gets and the attention they receive as a result.

Hmm.   That got me to thinking.

You see, Jack has been sick.  I’ve been paying a lot of attention to him here lately.  If I’m being really honest, I’d say that it’s easy for me to pay more attention to Jack even when he’s not sick.  He’s 9 months old.  He needs to be nursed.  I have to spoonfeed him.  He can’t do anything by himself, so I am paying a lot of (necessary) attention to him.  There are only so many hours in the day, so… guess who hasn’t been getting as much attention?

Joe.

Except for when he misbehaves.  Then, hoo boy, he gets some attention.

I’m not saying that all of Joe’s bad behavior can be blamed on me.  I think that we’re naturally predisposed to misbehave, so Joe was simply doing what came naturally.  However, I do think that Jack’s illness + the fact that Joe has to share his mother played a part.

So, the next time he threw something, I reacted by not over-reacting.  I said, “Oh, you threw your toy?  That’s sad.  I guess you don’t want it anymore.  I’ll put it in my collection.”  Then I put it on the top shelf of the closet in plain sight for Joe, and you could have heard a pin drop.  I turned around and Joe was staring at me, bug-eyed, mouth forming a perfect “O”.  Then the tantrum began – yelling and crying and “but I need it!”

I used the shrug philosophy – I shrugged, said, “I know, it’s sad.  You’ll be alright.” and walked away.

Joe followed, sniffling, but got over it eventually.  And forgot about it, too, as evidenced by the other items in my collection.  Those toys on the shelf?  Those were accumulated over a period of about 3 hours.  Yep – lots of throwing going on around here, but you know something?  It’s diminished rapidly.  My collection has only had another 1 or 2 items added to it in the last few days.

In the meantime, I’ve been emphasizing the stuff that Joe can throw.  And paying more attention to him to boot.  We’ve been throwing squishy Nerf balls and kicking soccer balls and throwing wet clothes in the dryer (Joe loves that!).  We’ve been “throwing” leaves outside.  After all, it is fun to throw things – he just needs to figure out that some things are alright to throw, and other things aren’t.

Eventually, we’ll get those toys back down.  It’s not like he doesn’t have plenty of other things to play with.  And if he forgets and throws something, we’ll start the collection back up again.  In the meantime, I’m glad that I no longer have to dodge flying train engines or plastic oranges!

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Anyone else out there dealt with this sort of thing?  What kind of discipline tips or tricks have you used?  One of my favorite parenting books is “Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood” by father-son team Charles Fay and Jim Fay.  Are there any books that you recommend?

Bumps, Bubs, and Books

January is nearly over – how quickly it’s gone!  This has been such a great month, one where I’ve felt more settled and at home after all of our gallivanting.

Bumps

I’ve been going to an hour-long evening prenatal fitness class once weekly.  I’ve also enrolled Joe in the local gym’s creche and hopefully will be able to bring him with me when I work out there twice weekly.  I’m continuing to do an at-home fitness DVD (Erin O’Brien’s Prenatal Fitness Fix) on days when I don’t have class or am not going to the gym.  It’s a good DVD, though the sound quality leaves a little to be desired, and I like that you don’t need any special equipment.  As with any workout, you get out what you put in, so I try to make the most of those 40 minutes on the days that I use it.

There are days when I don’t feel like exercising at all, but I try to push through those feelings and get in a work out.  I keep reminding myself that doing at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise is one of several things that I can do during pregnancy to help ensure a healthy baby, complication-free labor & delivery, minimize aches and pains, and to help me bounce back postnatal.  I did a lot of running and walking right up to the time that I delivered Joe, but I felt like I could have done more.

I’m working 1-2 evenings a week, depending on Chris’ schedule and availability.  I’ve been thinking about what my work schedule will be when we return to the States.  Chris is supportive of whatever I want to do, but we’ll play it by ear for starters.  It’s always a little hectic when Chris starts a new job and is working on lectures and lesson plans.  I think that once he’s settled and we’ve gotten a house and vehicle sorted, then I’ll look at work for myself.  I was happy to see that there’s a charity clinic in our new town and another charity clinic just outside of town.  Both operate with volunteer staffing so, in the meantime, I may inquire about volunteering at one of those two places.  I’m also wondering if ER nursing is the place for me to stay, or if perhaps I ought to consider another discipline.

Bubs

Joe is keeping me busy and is a joy to be around.  Here’s a short video of him laughing uproariously because I was saying the word “so” in a funny way.  He loves to mimic!

Not only does he love to mimic and parrot what we say, but he’s full of questions.  He points at any old thing and asks, “Dis?” or “Dat?” (“This?” or “That?”).  He wants to know the words and names behind everything.  Curious boy!  His vocabulary has been rapidly expanding over the last month and a half and I love getting an even better view into what he’s thinking and feeling.  I can tell that there are times when he’s frustrated with communication, but he’s trying and learning every single day.

Books

I’ve just finished reading a book about mothers and sons.  It’s aptly entitled Mothers Raising Sons and is written by New Zealander Nigel Latta (Kiwis interested in purchasing the book should click here, or search it out in your local library).

It had me giggling and laughing at several parts and, overall, I enjoyed it to the point where I would read sections of it aloud to Chris (he enjoyed it as well – he asked “Where’s the ‘Dads Raising Sons’ book?”).  I appreciated the author’s candor and transparency.  As with any book, there were some things that I didn’t agree with him about, and other areas where I was nodding my head.  I thought that this was a good “preventative” book with a lot of common sense advice, but perhaps not a great book for a mother who’s mid-crisis.  While the author doesn’t have a “Fathers Raising Sons” book, he does offer a “Fathers Raising Daughters” one (Kiwis click here to purchase) that has been highly recommended to me, along with several other volumes (Kiwis click here for a list).

I’ve also re-started to read Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood: Practical Parenting from Birth to Six Years (click here for the Kindle edition, Kiwis click here) by father and son team Jim Fay and Charles Fay.

This book was recommended to me by an experienced mum who said that she found it useful to the point where she would highlight sections and then give them to her husband to read.  She was going to let me borrow her copy, but then realized that she needed to re-read a few sections herself.  I figured if it was that good, I would just buy it.  At the time, I was asking for books about ways to discipline children.  Joe was about 14 months old and was starting to test EVERYTHING.  I was often frustrated, both with him and myself.  I would quickly lose patience, yell at Joe, and then feel like a great big grouch of a mother.  I remember thinking at the time, “This is not what parenting should feel like, I should enjoy being around my son more than I am right now” and so began to seek out suggestions.

The “Love and Logic” book was a big help, at least to us.  I was worried that it would only apply to older children, but it had plenty of helpful advice and practical suggestions for parents with infants and toddlers.  I started reading it the month before we left for the UK and almost immediately began to put some of those suggestions into practice, talking it over with Chris and making sure that we were in agreement.  I noticed a change in Joe’s behaviour within a few days and in my own attitude almost immediately.  I felt like I had a plan and a starting-off point.  I don’t expect parenting to be fun all of the time, but I do expect it to be enjoyable most of the time.  That doesn’t mean that Joe and I laugh and play all day long or that we don’t have bad days, but we do laugh and smile and giggle and have a good time for most of the days of the week.

I mentioned the book to a sister-in-law when they were visiting us in Oxford, and as soon as I said the title, she began to nod her head and said that this is the book that they recommend to parents (she has her MS in Counseling Psychology and works with families of at-risk children).  It turns out that another family member uses this book’s techniques with their kids, too.  How did I not know about it?

Anyway, I read through most of it before leaving for the UK but was so excited to try some of the suggestions (and kind of desperate, to be honest) that I didn’t finish it.  I’m going to go back, re-read some parts and finish the last few chapters.  I may even suggest that Chris read a few of the chapters as well.  As with the “Mothers Raising Sons” book, there were some parts of “Love and Logic” where I didn’t see eye-to-eye with the authors, but I agreed with their overall approach and it was helpful to have guidelines.

Whew – I feel like that’s enough information for one post.  I hope that you’re all doing well and enjoying your week!

Dreamboat Books

We love to read to Joe.  Even before he was born, I was already buying books for him.  Thankfully, I had the foresight to buy most of them from our library’s withdrawn books sale.  They’re already banged up, so I don’t mind if Joe tosses them around, crawls on them, bends (or rips!) the pages, or spills a bit of water from his cup onto them.

We’ve had fun discovering different Kiwi authors and sharing them with Joe.  Some of our favorites books (and his, too!) are by Mark & Rowan Sommerset of Dreamboat Books:

screenshot via

We’ve read all of their books to Joe: “The Silliest Dream”, “Cork and the Bottle”, “Cork on the Ocean”, “Baa Baa Smart Sheep”, and their newest offering, “Two Little Bugs”.  Joe’s favorites would have to be “Baa Baa Smart Sheep”, with “The Silliest Dream” a close second.

It’s hard for me to identify just what it is about these books that makes them so special.  We love their rhythmic style.  The stories range from sweet to funny to poignant.  The pictures are simple but beautiful.  The colors are relaxing and a nice contrast from many of the other baby books we have for Joe.

Chris reading “Baa Baa Smart Sheep” to Joe, 3 months

Chris reading “The Silliest Dream” to Joe, 5 months

Joe, 9 months, reading “Baa Baa Smart Sheep”

We’re very glad that we’ve “found” these books.  If you haven’t already, you should find them, too!  You can buy the books on Dreamboat’s website (free shipping in Australia and New Zealand).

*****I’m not sure if there are any US sites that sell these books, but I do know that Dreamboat ships internationally*****

Kindle Owners: Read Me!!!

For those of you out there who are Kindle lovers (like me!) then you need to check out Lendle.

Lendle is a pretty awesome, completely free website that hooks up Kindle users with books to lend and borrow (big thanks to Miller for making me aware of this site).  It’s completely free plus you earn Amazon.com gift cards while getting to borrow books for free.  Within 12 hours of signing up, I’d already gotten 2 borrow requests and am currently on my way toward my first $10 Amazon card.

You may not be aware, but Amazon allows you to loan out your Kindle books for a period of 2 weeks.  Lendle works as an intermediary between Amazon.com and Kindle users, hooking you up with people who want to borrow books (books that you probably finished reading ages ago and won’t be reading again in the near future – why not put them to work for you?).

You’ve got to check out Lendle.  If you do decide to sign up, please-please-please use my referral code (doing so gets me 2 credits, but it also enters you into the drawing to win a Kindle Fire).  My referral code is PP5SL7OS.  Head on over to Lendle and sign up already!

Storytime

We go through at least 4 books with Joe every day.  Thank goodness the library is nearby.

Chris was reading to Joe one evening, and they looked so cute and precious that I had to take photos.  I hope that as Joe grows older, he’ll continue to enjoy reading books with his daddy as much as he did this day.

Reading “Baa Baa Smart Sheep”

A few days later, I snapped off some more.  It was a Sunday morning, and Chris was reading to Joe from “Little Pookie” while trying to get Joe down for a nap.

Joe is going through a spitting-up phase, hence Chris’ ratty t-shirt.  He didn’t want to get dressed for church, only to have to change because of spilled milk!

We’ve learned that Joe loves to be read to right before going to sleep.  I didn’t expect a 3 month old to like books so much.  I guess it’s a perfect combination of (1) being held and snuggled by people who love him, (2) hearing our voices, and (3) getting to look at brightly colored pictures.  I don’t know if he’ll always love books this much, but he certainly enjoys it for now.

Arty Bees Books in Wellington

When Chris, Joe and I made our trek to Wellington back in August, one of the many great shops that we visited was Arty Bees Books at 106 Manners Street:

I’ve written before about my love for used {ahem, “pre-loved”} books and bookshops.

Arty Bees has both pre-loved and new books.  I had a great time perusing their shelves and checking out the Children’s Section.

So many books!

It’s a good thing that we had a weight limit on our baggage, otherwise I likely would have bought about 20 different books and flown them back to Auckland with me.

In the end, I settled on a pre-loved book of nursery rhymes for Joe:

I’ve read nearly all of the rhymes to Joe already.  I wish that they had an Auckland branch, but I’m happy to see that you can find some of their inventory online.

So, next time you’re in Welly, take the time to visit Arty Bees {and look at the Children’s Section for me}!

Book Walk

Joe and I took a walk the other day.  Destination?  “Jason Books” in Chancery…

Joe was pretty excited to be out and about in the mei-tai carrier…

Of course, within 5 minutes of walking he looked like this…

And in case you’re interested, here’s the full view of Joe in the carrier…

“My future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades…”

We passed several shops on our way to the bookstore…

We finally got to the book shop…

As one would expect in a book shop, it had a lot of books!

We headed over to the children’s section.  There wasn’t a big supply of baby books, but I did find a book of poetry.  Perhaps you’ve heard of it?

{Forgot to mention that they sell new and used books… this one is obviously not new!}

I’ll bet you recognize that character in the bottom-right corner!

We meandered back home after buying our book.  I fed Joe, then tucked him into his bouncinette and read him some poems.  He seemed to enjoy it, and so did I.  Well worth the $8.00 + a walk :-)

Book Review – “Expat Women: Confessions”

I was contacted by Suzanne at ExpatWomen.com and asked to review their brand new book – “Expat Women: Confessions”, by Andrea Martins and Victoria Hepworth.

{ISBN 0980823609, Expat Women Enterprises Pty. Ltd., May 5, 2011, 274 pages}

“Confessions” stems from 50 questions posted by real women struggling with real issues on ExpatWomen.com.  The book covers a wide range of topics and is divided into 6 chapters: (1) Settling In, (2) Career and Money, (3) Raising Children, (4) Relationships, (5) Mixed Emotions, and (6) Repatriation.  Each chapter is further divided into individual sub-topics.  For example, “Settling In” has questions regarding culture shock, how to fit in quickly in your new home, what it’s like to be a “trailing spouse”, and more.  The chapter on relationships addresses questions faced by women who are overseas with their spouse/partner, such as what to do when your husband is the “trailing spouse” and isn’t happy about it, divorce, domestic violence, loneliness in a relationship, and other issues.

“Confessions” functions both as a preparation guide and a reference for those already overseas.  It’s part marriage counselor, part financial adviser, part parenting guru, and part coffee club all rolled up in one book.  The overwhelming theme for its female readers is “you’re not alone, you aren’t the only one going through the struggles of an expat life, and you can do it”.  The authors offer hope for women who are hurting, gentle encouragement for those who are feeling indecisive and unsure, congratulations in light of success, and suggestions and helpful resources for women who have transitioned back to their “passport country”.

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I was a bit hesitant to do this review.  At 38 weeks’ pregnant, it seemed like the last thing that I should be thinking about was adding something else to my “to do” list.  Still, I’d heard about the book on the Expat Women website and was intrigued by it.  The fact that I could get it on my Kindle was an added bonus – instant reading!

I finished the book in about 2 1/2 days.  It’s an easy read, and there were several “confessions” that resonated with me.  Not all of them, but enough to make me feel like this book was relevant to me, a married, American, soon-to-be-new-mom living in New Zealand.  I agreed with much of the advice given and realized that I’d employed several of their suggestions on my own.  For example, making sure to research-research-research before moving overseas.  So important!  I started reading one of the major newspapers online months before moving here so that I would be up to date on local issues.  I studied maps.  I looked at real estate to get an idea of what rentals were costing.  I reached out to other expat bloggers and viewed church websites to see if there were any that we might be interested in attending.  All of this helped me adjust once we made the move, and its the same advice that the authors give to their readers.

The topics on giving up your job or putting it on the back-burner in order to follow a spouse overseas was another “confession” that hit home with me.  I’ve ended up quite happy with my job here, but it was an adjustment at first and I struggled with the differences in healthcare practices.  However, as I’ve mentioned on here before (and as the authors mention in this book), it’s important to give yourself 6 months – 1 year to feel settled in any new situation, and I’m glad that I did that.  It’s turned out to be a great position for me.

The chapter on children struck me particularly.  I’ve wondered about having a baby abroad and what life will be like for our son.  To say that it shouldn’t be that different because, after all, they speak English in New Zealand, is just plain old naive.  New Zealand has a unique and varied culture, and children raised here have different experiences than what I had being raised in the States.  It was good for me to know that other women struggle with this very issue, and I enjoyed reading the suggestions made by the authors.

As I stated before, not all of the “confessions” applied to me, but I came away with the impression that this would be a good book for any expat woman to have on her bookshelf.  You never know when one of those “inapplicable” subjects will suddenly apply – a death overseas, caring for sick parents when you’re thousands of miles away, substance abuse, depression, or some other life crisis.  Even if it doesn’t affect you personally, you may know someone who is dealing with one of these issues and needs advice.  This is a good book to have around in situations like that.

If this review has interested you and you’d like to read the book, then head over to ExpatWomen.com to find out where to purchase a copy of your own.  While you’re there, be sure to check out the “confessions” link, and look up blogs listed in your new country to connect with other women like you.

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In exchange for doing this review, I was provided with an e-copy of the book and will be entered into a promotional drawing.  All of the opinions above are my own :-)

Jane Austen? Yes, Please!

It just so happens that I have a Jane Austen quote hanging above my computer.  It’s particularly appropriate this time of year in New Zealand {humidity: 100%, temps in the mid-70sF}.

I love it despite the fact that the artist misspelled Jane Austen’s name {horrors!}.  I’ve kind of been on the lookout for something similar ever since I bought it, and recently turned to Etsy to see if they had anything that looked interesting.  I was amazed at how much Jane Austen stuff you can find on there – it’s fabulous!  Check out some of my favorites…

Cuff from JezebelCharms – Quoting Mr. Darcy in “Pride & Prejudice”

“You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

I love the colors of these cuffs, and I got a kick out of this next one…

Cuff from JezebelCharms – Quoting Mr. Knightley in “Emma”

“Men of sense, whatever you may choose to say, do not want silly wives.”

But it’s not just Jane Austen jewelery that caught my eye.  I love these mugs from Brookish

Happiness Mug from Brookish – Quoting Jane in “Pride and Prejudice”

What a great quote to start off the day :-) I have to admit that I’m more of a “Persuasion” fan than a “Pride and Prejudice” kind of girl.  Don’t get me wrong, P&P is definitely up there, but “Persuasion” edges it out by just a hair.  This next mug would be my choice for morning coffee {if I drank it!}…

Half Agony mug from Brookish – Quoting Capt. Wentworth in “Persuasion”

“I am half agony, half hope.”

I suppose that, depending on your mood, you could choose to either drink out of the “hope” or “agony” side, or maybe have a sip from both sides if you weren’t sure :-)

I loved these prints from BookFiend, all of which can come in different background colors…

Run Mad Poster by BookFiend

Book is Well-Written Print from BookFiend

You Pierce My Soul print by BookFiend – Capt. Wentworth in “Persuasion”

Then, to go along with my “Persuasion” coffee mug, I could use these “Pride and Prejudice” coasters from SherryLynns.  Perfect!

Pride and Prejudice coasters from SherryLynns

I’ve definitely got my Jane Austen fix for the day :-)  Now, to find out if any of these sellers will ship to New Zealand…

“Two Brides Too Many” – August Book Review

This month’s selection is a book entitled, “Two Brides Too Many”, by Mona Hodgson.

{ISBN 0307458903, Waterbrook Press, May 2010, 320 pages}

“Two Brides Too Many” is the story of sisters Kat and Nell Sinclair.  Recently arrived in Cripple Creek, CO to marry men that they’ve only met through letters, their world is thrown for a loop when no one meets them at the station.  Not being afraid of a challenge, Kat gathers her skirts and heads off in the direction of the nearest {and only} boardinghouse with Nell following in her wake.

Misfortune isn’t far behind, and it seems like one thing piles on top of another.  Kat discovers that her fiance is nothing more than a common, womanizing drunk.  Nell’s fiance is nowhere to be found.  And if that wasn’t enough, a fire breaks out in town and claims several lives and buildings.  Kat and Nell are separated in the midst of the melee, and Kat barely escapes becoming one of the victims herself while saving a young child.  After being stitched up in the local hospital and finding herself with the now-orphaned child she saved, Kat makes her way back to the boardinghouse, but not before being mistaken for a midwife and insulted by the town’s newest doctor.  Nothing is going according to plan!

But God hasn’t forgotten about the Sinclair sisters.  Things may not be going according to their plans, but He has everything under control.  Through hard work, trust, and more than a few embarrassing situations, Kat grows deeper in her faith and comes to rely on Him to meet her every need and the needs of those around her.  She learns that the hardships she faced were opportunities that God used to refine her and draw her closer to Him, all while showing her a love that she’d never expected.

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Hodgson does a good job of drawing historical aspects into her story, but the characters lack depth.  It would’ve been better to focus on one Sinclair sister at a time rather than trying to tie in 2 love stories in one novel.  Inevitably, one sister is short-changed, and the end result is that the story focuses more on Kat while Nell is barely a shade more than an afterthought.  The story lacks deep emotion or connection with the reader, but would be a good selection for a beach read or something just before bed.

*To read other reviews or to learn about my approach to reviewing, please click here*

“Broken: A Novel” – July Book Review

Hello, my lovely readers, and welcome to July’s book review.  To read more about my book review approach, giveaways, and previous book selections, click here.

This month, I’ve selected the novel “Broken”, by Travis Thrasher

{ISBN 0446505552, FaithWords Publishing, May 2010, 288 pages}

Broken tells the story of Laila, a young woman who left Small Town, Texas at the age of 17 courtesy of a lucrative modeling contract in NYC.  Full of hope and rosy dreams, Laila envisions a life for herself filled with love and glamour, but discovers that living a life based solely on the surface can lead to a harsh reality.  Ten years later, 27 year old Laila finds herself working as a highly paid escort in Chicago, a far cry from the fashion magazine covers of her younger years.

Laila’s experience with men has been one horrible ordeal after another – used, abused, utterly crushed, abandoned, and left like a sack of garbage again and again.  She’s unable to fathom or trust a relationship with any man who claims that he “only wants to love her”.  She’s surrounded her heart with a thick wall for protection, and isn’t about to let anyone in.  She doesn’t think she can fall any lower – a former model who’s working as an overly glorified prostitute with no meaningful relationships while completely cut off from her family.

But things can always get worse.

On New Year’s Eve, Laila shoots a sadistic client in self-defense.  Covered in blood and afraid of the repercussions, she clears out of Chicago and moves to Greenville, SC, looking for escape and anonymity while working as a bank teller.

You can’t leave your sins behind you, though, and Laila’s trouble follows her South.  Despite the offered friendships of both her neighbor and a fellow employee, Laila feels utterly alone.  She is overwhelmed by the guilt of past choices and nightmares blur with reality.  Peace eludes her, and when reminders of Chicago make their presence known, Laila doesn’t know what else to do except run.

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Broken has an overwhelming theme of redemption and the search for absolution.  There’s anger, hate, lust, selfishness, and fear, but also concern and the barest glimmer of nervous hope.

It’s written from the perspectives of several different people – Laila, her brother, and her pursuers – and can be confusing at times.  In the pursuit of making sure that the reader understands that no one is perfect, Thrasher makes his characters almost too flawed.  There’s very little that’s likable about the main character.  She’s depressing, selfish, and discouraging.  In short, she’s a mess.  The author ties in supernatural elements, but you can’t tell if he wants you to believe that Laila has gone mad, that ghosts are real, or that demons are haunting her every step.  Messages left for Laila in a rather creepy, ghoulish fashion are apparently delivered by “good” angels or spirits, despite the fact that they’re written in dripping, red letters and she nearly drowns while being forced to read some of them.

The idea of this story is a good one, but the delivery needs some work.  I normally do a giveaway with each review, but a giveaway seems like tacit endorsement.  I’ve decided that, from here on out, I’ll only do giveaways for books that I really enjoy and want to share.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to do a giveaway next month!

June Book Review + Giveaway Winner!

Hey everyone – thanks for commenting on my book review and entering the giveaway.  I enjoy writing about the things that I read, and I’m glad that some of you enjoy reading the things that I write!

The winner of this month’s book giveaway is Rebecca @ Knit by God’s Hand!

Rebecca – send me an email at mrs{dot}practicallyperfect{at}gmail{dot}com with your full name and mailing address, and I’ll send the book on its way :-)

Don’t be too upset if you didn’t win this time around.  I do a book review and giveaway each month {check out my “Book Reviews”}.  If you want to know about future reviews + giveaways, become a subscriber and be on the lookout for next month’s selection :-)

“This Fine Life” – June Book Review + Giveaway

Hello, my lovely readers, and welcome to this month’s book review and giveaway!  To read more about my book review approach and giveaways, please click here.

My book for June is “This Fine Life”, by Eva Marie Everson

(ISBN 080073274X, Revell Publishing House, May 1st, 2010)

The book tells the story of 18 year old Mariette Putnam, living in 1959 Georgia.  According to her, however, “This is not the story of my life.  This is the story of my husband’s life, or at the very least how the story of his life affected mine and all those he touched just by his being near them or with them.”  The major theme of this story is self-discovery guided by love, patience, and forgiveness.

Mariette has just returned home from boarding school.  She has loving parents and 2 younger brothers but, at 18, she’s at loose ends.  Her father is pushing for college and a career in management, while her mother is encouraging her to find a husband with the right social connections and career pathway.  Mariette has managed to convince her parents to give her the summer to find out what she wants.  She can’t see herself going for more schooling, but she isn’t ready to turn into her mother, either.  Enter Thayne Scott.

Thayne is the mail-boy in her father’s apparel factory, although “boy” isn’t exactly accurate.  He’s a 20-something college dropout who’s working on a fresh start, and he’s unlike anyone Mariette has ever met.  You can guess what happens from here – they fall in love and, despite two very different backgrounds, make the decision to go against Mariette’s parents and elope.

The story unfolds from here, following the newlywed couple through arguments, forgiveness, misunderstandings, heartache, and healing.  Through Thayne’s decision to become a pastor, through the humbling experience of having to move in with her parents in order to cut expenses, through the frustrations that occur when one spouse believes in God when the other doesn’t know what to think, and through the loss and death of loved ones.  Can a marriage survive all of this?

The book is well-written and draws you right from the start.  The marriage is a believable, realistic one with an emphasis on the wife’s character, but not necessarily at the expense of understanding the husband.  The side-players are involved in a way that makes sense, and no one mysteriously appears or disappears from the storyline – each character has a purpose.  She does a good job of covering a lot of years without allowing the plot to become stagnant.

I enjoyed this book, right from the illustration on the cover till the very end.  It made me laugh, cry, and tugged at my heart-strings.  Mariette was a character that I could relate to, and I think that any woman, particularly those who are married, have been married, or have ever been in a relationship, will feel the same.

I’m excited that I get to share this book with one of you!  If you’d like to be in the drawing, please leave me a comment telling me your favorite book genre.  If you’d like a second entry, then mention this review in a post with a link-back, and let me know in a separate comment.  The giveaway is open to all US and New Zealand readers and will end June 2oth at midnight in New Zealand {which would be Sunday, June 20th at 8am EST in the US}.  The winner will be announced the following day.  My only request is that once the winner reads the book, they let me know what they thought of it :-)  Good luck!

Excuse me, are those sheep in your car?

It’s not every day that you read an article with the title, “Police Find 14 Sheep Crammed Into Car”

Seriously – what were these guys thinking?!

Also, congrats to Tami of 29 and Holding for winning my May book review giveaway!  Send me your address at mrs{dot}practicallyperfect{at}hotmail{dot}com, and I’ll send it your way!

May Book Review + Giveaway: The Bride Collector

I’ll bet you thought that since I had just moved to another country, that I’d completely forgotten about the monthly book reviews.  Well, you’re wrong!  I didn’t forget, and this month I have another good one to share with you – “The Bride Collector”, by Ted Dekker.

Ted Dekker is known for being primarily a Christian author, but this book is considered a cross-over.  It’s a religious author, but there aren’t any, what I would call, significantly direct mentions of Christianity.  It’s been very successful and has been one of the top 10 New York Times’ bestsellers.  Here’s the official synopsis from TedDekker.com…

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He loves them because they are beautiful. He kills them because he loves them.

A virtuoso killer is carving a path of death across the west, intent on killing only the most beautiful women, all in the name of love. He has claimed six victims and slipped through the FBI’s fingers, each time leaving behind a hand written note and a bridal veil.

Special agent Brad Raines has hunted the Bride Collector from crime scene to crime scene, but each time finds himself one step behind. Desperate for help, Raines turns to the Center for Wellness and Intelligence, a private home for gifted, mentally-ill residents. There, he finds help in an unlikely group of four who eagerly agree to help him solve the case.

Raines is quickly drawn to an unlikely young woman named Paradise who struggles with psychosis. As they grow closer, he begins to see the world through her eyes. Together they enter the killer’s deadly game and begin to close in. But like Paradise, the Bride Collector is supremely gifted and he has a distinct advantage: This is his game.

Now Paradise will be pushed beyond her limits. She will learn what it means to be beautiful and what it means to love, really love. Full of surprising wit and hair-raising twists that will keep you riveted to the end, The Bride Collector will haunt you with a new way of looking at beauty, love and the world in which you live.

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I’ve read a couple Ted Dekker books (“House” and “Three”) and was excited when this one was published.  It was a refreshing change from what I normally read, and although there were a few cringe-inducing moments (the author gets pretty descriptive), I liked it.  It was entertaining, had some great twists, and did a good job of keeping you on the edge of your seat.  He competently switches the story’s point of view from that of the Special Agent, the killer, and Paradise in a way that weaves them together without leaving you confused.

I liked how it it focused on the mentally ill in society, specifically those people who have such unique mental “gifts” that they aren’t able to function well amongst the rest of the world.  It was interesting to see how an FBI investigation could possibly rely on the help of someone who would otherwise be written off and excluded.

Paradise presents an interesting character.  She’s smart, a leader, independent in an odd sense (she hasn’t been outside of the Center for years), and vulnerable.  She wants to be a part of the “real” world, but is scared to death of what might happen to her if she takes the risk of opening herself up to love.

I give this book 2 thumbs up, and I’d love to share it with one of you, my lovely readers.  If you’re interested, just leave me a comment.  I’ll randomly select a winner and announce it on Monday, May 31st.  The entry is open to all US and New Zealand readers (all 3 of you!).  Good luck!

Book Giveaway Winner!

Happy Friday, my lovely readers.  We are having a wonderful time in St. Thomas – lots of fun and sunshine :-)  Last night was spent down at the beach bar, listening to my husband and father-in-law give various karaoke renditions of “Daydream Believer”, “Super Freak”, “Love Shack”, “Kokomo”, and I think something else.  My husband won the prize for worst singer, but he took it like a champ.  I think that his prize of a bottle of Cruzan Coconut Rum helped ease the pain!

Anyway, I wanted to make sure to post the winner of my book review giveaway before we did too many things today and I forgot about it.  Many congratulations to Need a Nap 2!  Email me at mrs(dot)practicallyperfect(at)gmail(dot)com, and I’ll send you your copy!

Francine Rivers: Book Review + Giveaway

Hello, my lovely readers!  I was surprised to find time for this month’s book review + giveaway, but I’m so glad that I did.  I’ve had this book on my nightstand for the last 3 weeks.  I was incredibly lazy one day and read the whole thing through without stopping, except once for a little nap {all that reading is tiring, you know}.  Considering all of the overtime nights that I’ve pulled, combined with the fact that I’ll be moving 8,000+ miles away in about 3 weeks, taking a day off didn’t seem like all that big of a deal.  The world kept spinning, and I was able to finish this lovely novel :-)

Francine Rivers has been writing books for several years, and she knows what she’s doing.  Many of you have already found a favorite in “Redeeming Love”, the re-imagined story of the book of Hosea.  Rivers’ latest book strays a little from her primarily romantic genre to focus a bit more on the love and relationship that exists between mothers and daughters.  Considering the fact that Mother’s Day is just around the corner, this book seemed a fitting choice, wouldn’t you say?

Here’s the official synopsis of the book…

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Near the turn of the twentieth century, fiery Marta Schneider is torn between her father’s declaration that she’ll never be more than a servant and her mother’s encouragement to chase her dreams.  Determined to fulfill her mother’s hope, Marta leaves home for a better life.  Young and alone, she earns her way with a series of housekeeping and cooking jobs that bring her ever closer to her dream of owning an inn.

Heartbreaking news from home strengthens Marta’s resolve as she moves to England and eventually to Canada.  There, she meets handsome Niclas Waltert, a man just as committed as she to forging a better life in a new place.  But nothing has prepared her for the sacrifices she must make for marriage and motherhood as she travels first to the Canadian wilderness and finally to the dusty Central Valey of California to raise her family.

Marta’s hope is to give her children a better life, but experience has taught her that only the strong survive.  Her tough love is often misunderstood, especially by her oldest daughter, Hildemara Rose, who craves her mother’s acceptance.  Amid the drama of World War II, Hildie falls in love and begins a family of her own.  But unexpected and tragic events force mother and daughter to face their own shortcomings and the ever-widening chasm that threatens to separate them forever.

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The author does a good job of telling the story from the point of view of Marta, the mother, and Hildie, the daughter.  The book is long at 450 pages, but it’s an easy, entertaining read.  I found myself comparing the story of Marta and her harshness to stories that I’d heard about my mom’s grandmother.  I never met her, but I was told that she’d live a hard life – losing her husband early, surviving the Great Depression with young children.  I think that a lot of us have stories like that in our backgrounds.  Even if you don’t, most women can relate to having at least a few strained moments in their relationship with their mother {my own mother, as great as we get along now, could tell you some stories from my teenage years}!

I was surprised and pleased to find that Rivers based this book in part on her own mother and grandmother and the relationship that she observed between them.  Rivers discusses this at the end of the book, and it was interesting to read about.  It made me enjoy the book even more, even though I’d already finished it by that point.

I’d like to pass along this book to someone else, except once again I’m not willing to part with my copy :-)  I’m planning to keep mine and offer up a new copy to anyone who’s interested in entering.  The rules are simple: you must be a follower, and you need to leave a comment telling me something that you admire about your mother or something that you’re looking forward to this summer.  Entries are open to anyone in the US or with an APO/FPO mailing address.  The giveaway winner will be announced Friday, April 30th, at whatever time I get around to posting {we’ll be in St. Thomas by that point}!  Good luck!

“Demon: A Memoir” Book Review

This month’s book selection is a bit darker than those I’ve reviewed in the past.  It’s entitled “Demon: A Memoir”, by Tosca Lee.

Tosca Lee graduated from Smith College in Massachusetts, completing a degree in English and Literature and in International Relations in 3 1/2 years.  She later spent time at Oxford studying economics, and currently works as a consultant for the Gallup Organization.  How she finds time to turn out novels on top of working for such a large company is beyond me, but write them she does.  “Demon: A Memoir” was the first fiction book that she published.  It came out several years ago but is set for re-release this summer.  Shortly following will be her 3rd novel – Iscariot.

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One night changes everything.

Recently divorced and mired in a meaningless existence, Clay drifts from his drab apartment to his equally lusterless job as an editor for a small Boston press – until the night Lucian finds him and everything changes with the simple words, “I’m going to tell you my story, and you’re going to write it down and publish it.”

What begins as a mystery soon spirals into chaotic obsession as Clay struggles to piece together Lucian’s dark tale of love, ambition, and grace – only to discover that the demon’s story has become his own.

And then only one thing matters: learning how the story ends.

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Tosca Lee describes the premise of this book in her own words: “One day… I realized that being angelic and fallen was very similar to being human and fallen – except for one major difference: the provision of a messiah.  I immediately wondered what it must feel like to be unquestionably damned – and worse, to watch humans luxuriate in and take for granted the grace made available to them from a doting God.  And I thought: Why wouldn’t a fallen angelic creation resent a human recipient of God’s grace?  And why wouldn’t a demon want to prove that creature unworthy again and again as a result?  Now I knew what it must feel like to be an angelic outsider looking in with jealous eyes and… through this new lens “Demon: A Memoir” was born.”

I couldn’t help but compare this book to C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters”.  Only instead of a collection of letters from one demon to another, this was the story of a man’s conversations and encounters with something truly evil disguised as a harmless human being.  It was unsettling, thought provoking, and left me feeling strangely bereft of hope.  The ending was unsatisfying, but I believe this was what the author intended.  I think that she purposely leaves you hanging so that you can answer certain questions for yourself.  Questions about what things are true, what life is for, how we’re supposed to live, and what’s most important.  Don’t misunderstand me – this is a good book.  It’s just different from my normal reading style.  If you read it, you’ll see what I mean.

Book Giveaway Winner

Thanks to everyone who read and commented on my book review.  I enjoy doing them and hope to keep reviewing one book a month and giving it away for the rest of the year!

My latest book review and giveaway was for “Beguiled: A Novel” by Deeanne Gist and J. Mark Bertrand.  This is my brief summary of what the book is about…

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Beguiled takes place in South Carolina.  I like it already.  The story centers around two main characters – Rylee Monroe, a Charleston dogwalker to the wealthy, and Logan Woods, a reporter.  Rylee loves her job but everything is threatened when a rash of burglaries begins.  To make things worse, it appears that someone is targeting her.  Logan is keeping a close eye on the robberies and hopes to use them for a book on true crime, but he keeps coming back to Rylee.  You know the old saying – curiosity killed the cat, and in this case, it’s threatening the dogwalker, too.  Logan has to decide what’s most important – the story, the girl, or bringing a villain to justice.

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And the winner is Amy B!  Congratulations, Amy :-)  I’m so glad that you won!  Send me an email at mrs(dot)practicallyperfect(at)gmail(dot)com with your mailing address, and I’ll send your copy on it’s merry way!

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