Tag Archive | book reviews


A little over a year and a half ago, in effort to meet the book reading portion of her Thirty By Thirty checklist, Mary-Hall read and reviewed a book called 7:an experimental mutiny against excess by Jen Hatmaker.  (Read Mary-Hall’s original blog entry by clicking here.)  Coincidentally, about 3 months later my boss and I headed to a conference in Michigan where she had been hired to be one of two key-note speakers for the weekend…Jen being the other one.  I, of course, made several awkward blubbering remarks about how my best friend had just read her book and said it was awesome, etc. etc. but fortunately Jen is just as super and awesome and gracious and hilarious in person as you would expect her to be from her writing, and was completely un-phased by my temporary fan-girl moment.  Anyway.  Before I packed up and headed out, I purchased my own copy of “7” from her product table along with another of her earlier books.

And then I put them on my bookshelf at home.

And didn’t pick up either of them for over a year.

Until two days ago.

Keith was deep into a book of his own and the house was full of the peaceful sounds of birds chirping outside (plus an occasional chicken squwak or two) and the cat purring and the hum of passers-by outside headed to eat popsicles and fancy burgers from one of the fabulous joints at the end of our street.  Basically, and all around reading haven, and so I went into our library and carefully considered the many books on the shelves I’ve never read.  And from the middle of the “H” author section, “7” called my name and I’m ever so glad it did.

The short synopsis of the book is that the author went on seven different “fasts,” each one a month long, focused on simplifying life for the purpose of allowing Christ to reveal areas in her life that needed re-aligning.  It’s hilariously written, but the depth behind it has had me in tears on more than one occasion.  It’s the kind of book that made me want to make some changes, some of which may or may not happen. Changes like going more green. I spent about 20 minutes researching the possibility of setting up a self-waterer system for my chickens that involves the water we collect in our rain barrel.  (The jury is still out  whether or not that is a safe thing for the chickens to drink so I’ll need to do lots more research first.)  I’d love to finally try a CSA (community supported agriculture). I’m also motivated to clean out some of the like-new-condition housewares from our shed and find an organization that works with refugees instead of donating them to GoodWill or selling them on Craigslist.  I’m considering instituting a personal rule with housewares and clothing that if I buy an item, I give one away.  For example, if I buy a new sweater, I choose a sweater to give to a women’s shelter so that I never exceed the amount of clothing I have now.  I want to try my hand at composting again.  (I can already hear Keith groaning as he reads this.)  While financially our spending and saving are both on the right track, I think there is more we could be doing to plan for retirement.

My brain got overloaded with ideas and so I put the book down for a minute and opened up my laptop to check my email.  I had 13 new ones in the hour since I’d checked it (!) and as I checked the first one, from a marketing list I’m on, I clicked over to an Etsy shop that sold expensive, beautiful leather laptop bags.  Ten minutes later, I found that I was in the midst of an internal dialogue trying to rationalize the purchase of a super cute retro style bathing suit that was “on sale” from another shop that had sent me an email.  (No matter that I haven’t once this summer donned swim attire, have zero plans to go anywhere involving water for the rest of the summer, and that in addition to a few cute, relatively new-ish suits of my own, a friend recently sent me a box of almost-brand-new bathing suits that she wasn’t going to use post having given birth to twins.)  I kept clicking and suddenly realized that 12 out of the 13 emails were marketing emails from stores and that I’d wasted about 45 minutes and been tempted to purchase LOTS of things that I neither needed, or should spend money on.

And then it hit me.

I didn’t have to only eat 7 foods for an entire month (an actual chapter of the book) or sell my home and live in an trailer park or anything crazy drastic.  I could start small.  I could unsubscribe from marking emails that do nothing but flood my inbox, steal my time, and fill me with all sorts of consumerism that really at the end of the day only led to covetous thoughts and discontent with the many many many material things I am blessed with.  So I opened up my trash email folder and started unsubscribing and changing email settings.  When I was finished, I believe I had unsubscribed from a grand total of 47 different emails.  FORTY-SEVEN.  What in the world?  I was baffled at how many times a day I plug in my email address without thinking about the barrage of junk email that will ensue.  The Home Depot Garden Club from when I was comparison shopping rain barrels and hoped there would be a coupon.  CNNSports.com from when I was in a Final Four Bracket Challenge 5 years ago. (Five!  And I’ve just been hitting “Delete” all these years!)  The Red Dress Boutique from when, well, which I don’t even remember signing up for.  Most of them (Papa John’s Pizza, for instance) were no-brainers to pull the plug on.  A few were trickier.  Anthropologie was the hardest to unsubscribe from and I even tried to rationalize not unsubscribing because I actually shop there.  But I realized that I have tons of super cute clothes and I do NOT need the temptation (or the time waste) of browsing their emails daily.  And on and on it went.

I know it’s not drastic or revolutionary.  But I’m excited to see what this electronic purge does to my time management, satisfaction level, spending habits and online productivity.  And who knows.  Maybe it will be the first step in bigger things.  Like a social media fast or a shed clean out.  And I challenge you to figure out from what you need to unsubscribe.  I think we all have something we could use less of in our lives.


Book Review – Joyland by Stephen King

I read a book.  Somebody give me a gold star! OR maybe a cookie.

Last week I had to fortunate opportunity to meet my good friend Meredith, who is a real librarian, at where else but the library in our hometown.  We went for story hour with her two kiddos and Ransom.  A good time was had by all.  And to top it off, she gave me a book to read.

The book was Joyland by Stephen King.  I haven’t read any of Mr. King’s works prior to this, but I have enjoyed some of the film adaptations.  The Shining movie holds a special place {of ridiculousness} in my heart.  And The Green Mile movie is high on my list although not one I could watch regularly or anything.

I do love when people give me books or even just give me recommendations.  That solves the challenge of actually finding a book to read.  So of course I dove right in to Joyland, set in the early 70s in an amusement park.  I was kind of expecting suspense, fear, chills, horror maybe, from Stephen King.  But the suspense level was actually more on par with an episode of CSI or Criminal Minds.  There is a ghost but she’s fairly innocuous as ghosts go.  There’s also a lot of cool carny lingo.

The main character is this distant-ish 21 year old guy floating along in that highly relatable yet awkward zone between kid and adult.  He’s a pretty realistic character really, but so laid back about everything that I never did get to anxious for him, even around the ghost.  He takes a summer job at a carnival where there had been a (gasp!) murder.  The book describes all the events leading up to him solving the murder along with a lot of interwoven side plots.

All in all, its a good read though not entirely what I was expecting.  Its short so it goes by pretty fast.  (Also like tv show?)  Tell me, all you avid book readers out there.  Just how do you handle this reading thing?  My problem is this: If I start reading a book that’s even halfway decent, that’s usually all I do until I’m done.  I mean, everything else goes on the back burner and not necessarily in a good way.  I kind of HAVE to FINISH it so I can go on with life, you know?  Dinner on Monday night was a mess.  How do you contain the reading hours so that life can continue?  I need to know.

Anyway, pick up this book if you are going on a long trip and need an diversion.  It won’t change your life or give you nightmares but it is entertaining. 🙂

Thanks for the book Mere! At the very minimum I feel more well rounded being able to say that I’ve read a Stephen King book.

A Southern Book Review

For my birthday last month, my sweet parents gave me some birthday money which I promptly combined with a giftcard I’d gotten and bought a dress from Anthropologie that I’d had my eye on.  But before I did that, I made a stop over at Amazon.com and picked up a copy of a book that I’d been wanting to read since I’d heard it was being written.  I might have waited about a year to get my hands on a copy of the book, but I didn’t wait to read it.  I finished it the day after it arrived in my mailbox.

I can't tell you how much I love this dress.

I can’t tell you how much I love this dress.

About a year and a half ago I was road managing an event in Tuscaloosa Alabama.  It was a stressful day to say the least: the lead singer had had to make an emergency doctor visit because he’d lost his voice and couldn’t sing, we’d done our entire load-in during an all-out monsoon (floods and musical instruments and equipment don’t generally play well together), and sound-check had taken about 3 times too long due to a mysterious buzz in the speakers (potentially due to the aforementioned monsoon, but whatever.)  The show was set to start at 7pm and at exactly 6:52 PM, we found out that the power company had planned a “scheduled 4 hour outage for general maintenance” for that same time-frame.  If you know me well, you can picture my frazzled face.  My dear friend Leslie had driven about an hour to see me that day and arrived in the middle of this chaos.  She’d brought her friend Sophie with her who happened to be a blogger, and was terribly excited for us to meet saying that we’d surely be friends.  Sadly though, hang out time was not in the cards that night as I had to say only a quick hello before dashing off to plead with the power company to please not shut down our concert (fortunately the VP of Alabama power attended the host church so crisis was averted with about 30 seconds to spare.)

But fortunately, we had the opportunity to meet again one evening in the lobby of a Best Western in Birmingham, Alabama where we ate cake from Olexa’s (ya’ll……the BEST) with some fabulous ladies and laughed into the wee hours of the morning (but that’s a whole ‘nother story for a whole ‘nother day blog).  And that night, Sophie mentioned the book she was working on.  The book that, fast-forward to August 14, 2013, I bought on Amazon.

My mom, Me, Leslie and Sophie...taken on the night of cake eating and much laughter.

My mom, Me, Leslie and Sophie…taken on the night of cake eating and much laughter.

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet: Stories of Faith, Family and Fifteen Pounds of Bacon had me literally laughing out loud in bed one night….the same night that it had me shedding a few tears over stories of grandparents passing on and such.  My personal favorites involve her mother-in-law and Steinmart, although I’m pretty sure I could give a good case for each story being my favorite. You’ll also feel like cousin Paige, grandma Sissy, Sister, Brother and Aunt Choxie are your personal friends by the end of it.  Her writing is witty, inspirational and gosh-darn draws you in until you realize the only thing you didn’t like about the book was that you’ve come to the last page and you aren’t ready for the stories to stop coming.  And if you aren’t ready for the stories to stop coming, then you’re in luck.  Because Sophie writes a blog called BooMama, which means you can keep up with her hilariously snarky opinions on anything anytime you darn well choose.

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet.  They say don't judge a book by it's cover....but in this case, that's totally a safe thing to do.

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet. They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover….but in this case, that’s totally a safe thing to do.

Sophie reminds me of another favorite author of mine, Bailey White, whose book “Mama Makes Up Her Mind: and Other Dangers of Southern Living” shall forever be a favorite.  You should pick up a copy of each.  And then give em to your Mama.  Or Mama-In-Law.  Or StepMama.  Or GrandMama.  Or whatever kind of Mama you’ve got.  And then get ready to laugh and cry and rehash all your own favorite family stories.  Because family is ever so precious.

Why I Will Never Make Seal Team Six

I feel like half my misadventures begin with “so I found a Groupon……” and this one is no different.  As you know,  I’ve been working out like crazy these past 9 months.  My last major athletic accomplishment was the Chicago 1/2 marathon, then I took three personal training sessions…..and then pretty much quit working out for almost a month now.  And I’ve felt it.  I’ve missed the energy I have after a workout, the satisfaction of pushing myself to the limit, and the “good sore” muscles after a workout.  So when Keith said that he’d bought a Groupon to a Boot Camp class at Cross Fit Music City, I decided I would buy a few classes myself and go with him.

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The Bell Jar

Today I hopped a flight to Chicago, Illinois.  I’m here for two reasons: to accompany husband on a business trip for the first part of the week, and then to run my SECOND 1/2 marathon on Sunday.  Can you believe I’m crazy enough to go back for seconds? Of course I love to use any opportunity I can to check list items off.  I’m tempted to use Chicago as my “new major city” although I was here for a jazz band competition in highschool….I don’t remember seeing the city….just the house in the suburbs where we stayed….and the inside of the school where the competition was held.  But I won’t check it off since I have been here before, I just don’t remember it.  I scanned my list of things left to do and couldn’t really think of anything that I could check off while I was here.  Except….

I still have 3 books to go on my list.  Three X’s left to link up.  So I brought a book I was halfway finished with on the plane with me today and finished.  Bam.  Only 2 more books to go now.  Thank you, Chicago trip.

I first fell in love with Sylvia Plath in Mr. Locke’s English class in 12th grade.  Read More…


As you may have noticed, I’ve fallen a little behind on the book-a-month thing. I’d started off strong, and then I got to May. I started my May book, and then this afternoon, June 18th, I finished my “May” book. (Whoops.)

The summer of 2008 I read The Alchemist. It truly changed how I thought about my personal journey and secured a permanent place on my all-time Top 5 list. I started working my way through Paulo Coelho’s entire body of work, often procuring his books on overseas trips as they can be difficult to find in the United States…or even in English for that matter. Besides The Alchemist, I’ve also read Brida, The Witch of Portobello, The Valkyries, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, and The Zahir. In addition, I owned 4 additional books of his that I hadn’t yet read. The most recent addition to my collection was Aleph, which I’d received as a Christmas present from my parents last year.


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From Head to Foot

I actually got a jump on my April reading, and read my book on the first this month…..but then with everything going on, I haven’t blogged about it until now.

About two years ago my friend Annie (yes, the same Annie I watched Gone With The Wind with) emailed me a chapter of a book she was working on for me to preview. I remember reading it and thinking, “this is really good stuff….I wish I had more than just a chapter.” Then I got a phone call that the book was finished; then that she was going to be able to publish it; then that she had gotten a literary agent….you get the picture. Stuff started taking off for her! It’s been so fun watching this good friend and amazing writer achieve her goals over the past few years and to be a very tiny part of that journey with her. And then life happened, and somehow I never ended up with my very own copy of the book.

From Head To Foot by my friend Annie Downs. Grab it and give it to the nearest teenage girl in your life. You'll both be thankful you did.

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