Thursday, September 8, 2016

Book Review: Dark Matter

Title:  Dark Matter
Author:  Blake Crouch
Genre:  Science Fiction/Thriller
Publisher:  Crown, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC
Number of Pages:  340
My Rating:  4 out of 5

Ever hear of Wayward Pines? It's that creepy enclave in a shattered post-apocalyptic Earth that kept me glued to my couch every week it aired on television. I loved seasons one and two and sure do hope there's a season three on the horizon. That said, when I tried to read Blake Crouch's books that the show was based upon, I gave up after about 50 pages out of sheer boredom. I felt the writing lacked enough luster for me to keep going with it. I was disappointed.

So when the opportunity arose for me to try another Blake Crouch book -- Dark Matter -- I was intrigued enough by the storyline to lay aside my hesitancy, and I am so glad I gave him another go. This book kept me glued and riveted and questioning and pulling my hair out from the first page to the last. Aside from the author's fondness for the F-bomb (the book would have been just as great without it), Dark Matter will pull you in and hold you in suspense until the very end.

The main character, Jason, is an immediately likable fellow, and his separation from and search for his wife and son will touch your heart. Their are baddies galore who will stop at nothing to keep a reunion from happening, and his journey through, not time, but parallel space is exciting and rife with twists and turns. I appreciate that the science behind the whole parallel universes theory is presented in a way that is not overwhelming and confusing. Crouch did a good job of spreading said explanations throughout the book and in a manner that even a layman could (mostly) understand.

Given the success of the Wayward Pines franchise, I hope Dark Matter is also made into a movie for the big screen. Visually, it would be stunning. And the audience would be on the edge of their seats the entire time.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from for review.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Book Review: Taste and See

Title:  Taste and See
Subtitle:  Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life
Author:  John Piper
Genre:  Christian Devotional
Publisher:  Multnomah, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC
Number of Pages:  390
My Rating:  4.5 out of 5

I am always excited to read a new-to-me devotional book because on days when I don't have time for longer reading, the bite-sized portions are perfect. However, not all devotionals are created equal. Some are milk; some are meat. These meditations by John Piper definitely fall in the meat category.

John Piper is a well-known theologian and author who is not afraid to talk about issues that could be considered controversial, but praise the Lord for that. In this book of 125 short chapters, each dealing with a topic that is maybe not so nice and neat, he has the courage to present his Biblical worldview clearly and compassionately. I may not always agree with everything he says, but I love that Piper doesn't shy away from the tougher stuff and that he makes me think. I have to chew and digest my way through his mediations, so even though they are short, they are packed.

Taste and See touches on many topics ranging from omnipotence to love to retirement, sin, evil, righteousness, adoption, eternity, prayer, mental health, joy, discipline, salvation -- the list goes on and on. It covers the gamut from Biblical theology to contemporary issues facing the Christian (and the world) today. You will not be bored, period. Especially helpful are the indices in the back of the book for quick subject and scriptural referencing.

Piper states that what he has "written here is partly meditations on Biblical reality and partly applications to contemporary life" and that he "hopes that what pervades all the readings is a savoring of the supremacy of God." And I feel he has done what he set out to do.

And a shout-out regarding his poem of dedication to his daughter -- it is absolutely delightful and not to be skipped over.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from for review.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Book Review: The Gift for All People

Title:  The Gift for All People: Thoughts on God's Great Grace
Author:  Max Lucado
Genre:  Christian Devotional
Publisher:  WaterBrook Multnomah, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC
Number of Pages:  132
My Rating:  4 out of 5

Max Lucado, a prolific speaker and writer who lives and serves in a church in Texas, is a well-known and beloved author. His soft-spoken words, both oral and written, inspire and encourage millions. This book offers his usual content, seeking to lead the reader into a deeper understanding of the amazing grace of God.

It is divided into four main sections -- The Gift of a Savior; Ransom for Sinners; Bounteous Grace; and The Choice -- designed to cover the gift and experience of grace from the birth of Jesus Christ to the need for a decision to receive this gift and experience of grace in one's own life. 

Each main section is divided into about eight short chapters with such headings as "It Began in a Manger," "Road to Calvary," Pardon and Peace," and "The God Who Invites." The reader is taken on a journey of discovery in the gentle, heartfelt way that Lucado is famous for. His ability to clothe theological truths and insights in practical, earthly terms helps the reader to visualize the Word becaming flesh and dwelling among us.

While there is nothing 'new' presented in this book, Lucado's skill in presenting age-old truths in contemporary ways makes for a fresh and engaging read that will definitely touch the heart, mind, and spirit of those who take the time to consider again just how great God's grace is.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from for review.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Book Review: The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts

Title:  The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts
Author:  Maja Safstrom
Genre:  Non-fiction
Publisher:  Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC
Number of Pages:  119
My Rating:  4.5 out of 5

This book is not at all what I expected it was going to be. I thought it would be heavy in words and light in pictures, somewhat like an encyclopedia. But it's actually light in words and heavy in pictures, somewhat like an art display at the museum. Once I embraced this new reality, I came to the conclusion that I was utterly and pleasantly surprised. This is a delightful little book. For all ages. Truly, a seven-year-old boy will get a kick out of it as much as a 40-year-old working woman and a 90-year-old grandpa and everyone in between.

Both covers are highly appealing with their muted teal backgrounds and crisp black-and-white drawings, and every page is filled with whimsical illustrations and interesting scientific facts. At my age, I've already learned about half of these facts, although remembering them is another story and therefore a good reason to read (and re-read) the book and be charmingly reminded. Keep it on the nightstand, the coffee table, or better yet, the dinner table for impromptu guessing games.

Little Johnny will appreciate the occasional bathroom humor ("Mosquitoes not only bite you -- they also pee on you!"), Mom can likely commiserate with the pregnant kiwi whose egg is "so big that it makes her belly touch the ground," and introverts will be jealous of the snail's ability "to go into its shell and hibernate" until the weather improves. Those are just a few of the gems that Safstrom offers the reader about 55 creatures, from crocodiles to tarantulas to penguins to cockroaches. Some details are lovely, some details are gross, and all of the details are fascinating.

This is a delightful little book. Well done, Maja Safstrom. You brightened up my day.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from for review. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Book Review: The Quality of Silence

Title:  The Quality of Silence
Author:  Rosamund Lupton
Genre:  Adventure/Thriller
Publisher:  Crown Publishers, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC
Number of Pages:  286
My Rating:  3.5 out of 5

I love adventure stories. I especially love adventure stories that thrust the reader into life-or-death scenarios, complete with almost impossible challenges to overcome, characters I can love or hate, and clear-cut wars being waged between good and evil.  For me, this book fell a bit short. Here's why:

Life-or-death & Good v. Evil: Lupton does an expert job of setting the stage on the vast, barren, frigid expanse of Alaska, in which a mother and her deaf daughter defy the odds to find their missing and presumed dead husband and father, who was spending time in a remote village researching native wildlife. Facing the dangers posed by both humans and weather, the two gear up and set out with no knowledge of how treacherous their journey would actually be.  It is sometimes unclear which humans are on the side of good or evil along the way, but a little confusion keeps things interesting.

Challenges: The unpredictable and hammering weather, first and foremost, seeks to be their undoing, followed next by guilty men intent on stopping the duo from discovering the truth.

Characters: The only two characters I connected to were the weather -- which Lupton manages to give its own personality through continuous strong depiction of its relentless, unforgiving wind, snow, and darkness -- and ten-year-old Ruby, whose 'voice' sounds more like a 12 or 13 year old to me. Ruby insists on accompanying her mother on her harrowing journey, but I could never quite accept the fact that her mother allowed her to do so. I can't imagine putting my own child in that dangerous situation. Ruby's love for her parents and her acceptance of her deafness lace the story in a positive way, so that rooting for her is easy. The mother, Yasmin, gets on my nerves, but not enough for me to feel strongly about her one way or the other. I thought she had a chilly heart, though she does thaw out somewhat by the end. The father, Matt, though physically absent for most of the story, is also easy to like. However, I just didn't have the opportunity to know him well enough to form a strong opinion. It is truly the weather that is the central character in the book, and I'm certain I saw my own frozen breath on every page. Kudos to Lupton for her intense portrayal of a non-human entity.

As a story, I feel the first half of the book drags, the second half picks up speed and is more exciting, and the ending is rushed in its effort to wrap things up. And I did not appreciate the geo-political lecturing that filled the final chapters. Interesting facts were presented, but it was rather in-your-face.

There you have it. Some great elements, some not so great. Just my opinion, of course.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from for review.  

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

One Word 2016

I have finally settled on my One Word 2016. Out of a potential of about 15 words, I have chosen "yes."

I am so tired of saying "no" most of the time because I feel incapable, doubtful, fearful, or lazy. This year I want to say "yes" as much as I can to things that will challenge me, stretch me, and cause me to grow spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I know I will be yanked out of my comfort zone, but honestly, my comfort zone has gotten boring.

I still have some health limitations that will require me to say "no," but my hope is that I will break out of the habit of automatically saying "no" and get into the habit of saying "yes" instead, even though my knees might be knocking and my heart might be resisting. 

I am sure that the capable, believing, confident person I once was is still inside me -- I just have to remove the rubble under which she is buried and set her free.

"I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Welcome to Little Golden Book Land

I finally found time to make a list of all the Little Golden Books I own. Oh, the memories of snuggling on the sofa with Sunshine and reading and re-reading and re-reading them to our hearts' content. She needs to hurry up and have a child so I can again sit on the sofa with a wee one and introduce him or her to these books that filled their mother's childhood (or perhaps I'll just have to borrow a kindergartener once a week and work my way through the books with them!).

Here are the titles:


101 Dalmatians
A Book of God’s Gifts
A Child’s Year
A First Airplane Ride
A Fox Jumped Up One Winter’s Night
A House for a Mouse
A Visit to the Children’s Zoo
Alice in Wonderland Meets the White Rabbit
Animal Daddies and My Daddy
Baby Dear
Baby Farm Animals
Baby’s Christmas
Baby’s Day Out
Bambi: Friends of the Forest
Beauty and the Beast
Bettina the Ballerina
Bialosky’s Special Picnic
Bible Stories of Boys and Girls
Bunny’s New Shoes
Buster Cat Goes Out
But, You’re a Duck
Christmas Carols
Colors Are Nice
David and Goliath
Doctor Dan the Bandage Man
Donald Duck’s Christmas Tree
Eloise Wilkin’s Mother Goose
Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book
Favorite Nursery Tales: The Gingerbread Man and The Golden Goose
Finding Nemo
Fire Engine
Forest Hotel
Four Little Kittens
Fozzie’s Funnies
Frosty the Snowma
Good Night, Little Bear
Hansel and Gretel
Heroes of the Bible
Home for a Bunny
How Things Grow
How to Tell Time
I Can Fly
I Don’t Want to Go!
I Think About God: Two Stories About My Day
Jack and the Beanstalk
Jingle Bells
Kitty on the Farm
Kitty’s New Doll
Lady and the Tramp
Let’s Go Shopping
Let’s Go, Trucks!
Little Golden Book Favorites
Little Golden Picture Dictionary
Little Pussycat
Little Red Riding Hood
Mickey’s Christmas Carol
Minnie ‘n Me: Where’s Fifi?
Minnie’s Slumber Party
Mister Dog
Mother Goose
Moving Day
Mr. Bell’s Fixit Shop
My First Book of Planets
My First Book of Sounds
My First Counting Book
My Home
My Little Golden Book About Cats
My Little Golden Book About God
My Little Golden Book of Cars and Trucks
My Little Golden Book of Manners
My Puppy
Noah’s Ark
Oh, Little Rabbit!
Old Mother Goose and Other Nursery Rhymes
Peter Pan
Pierre Bear
Pierrot’s ABC Garden
Pocketful of Nonsense
Poky and Friends: Tails of Friendship
Poky Little Puppy
Poky Little Puppy’s First Christmas
Poky Little Puppy Follows His Nose Home
Poky Little Puppy’s Naughty Day
Poky Little Puppy’s Special Day
Polly’s Pet
Puss in Boots
Prayers for Children
Precious Moments: Put on a Happy Face!
Rabbit and His Friends
Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Little Gray Kitten
Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Rainy Day Circus
Raggedy Ann and Andy: Five Birthday Parties in a Row
Raggedy Ann and the Cookie Snatcher
Richard Scarry’s Best Balloon Ride Ever!
Richard Scarry’s Best Little Word Book Ever!
Richard Scarry’s Floating Bananas
Richard Scarry’s Hilda Needs Help!
Richard Scarry’s Just For Fun
Richard Scarry’s Mr. Frumbles’s Coffee Shop Disaster
Right’s Animal Farm
Romper Room Do Bees: A Book of Manners
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Rupert the Rhinoceros
Santa’s Toy Shop
Scuffy the Tugboat
Shy Little Kitten’s Secret Place
Sleeping Beauty
Sleepytime A B C
Smokey the Bear
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Stories of Jesus
The Animals’ Christmas Eve
The Animals of Farmer Jones
The Big Brown Bear
The Biggest, Most Beautiful Christmas Tree
The Cat That Climbed the Christmas Tree
The Christmas Bunny
The Christmas Donkey
The Christmas Story
The Christmas Tree That Grew
The Color Kittens
The Colorful Mouse
The Country Mouse and the City Mouse
The Cow Went Over the Mountain
The Elves and the Shoemaker
The Emperor’s New Clothes
The Fox and the Hound Hide and Seek
The Friendly Book
The Fuzzy Duckling
The Gingerbread Man
The Ginderbread Shop
The Golden Egg Book
The Jungle Book
The Large and Growly Bear
The Lion King
The Little Golden Book of Hymns (2)
The Littlest Christmas Elf
The Little Mermaid
The Little Red Caboose
The Lively Little Rabbit
The Musicians of Bremen
The Night Before Christmas
The New Puppy
The Nutcracker
The Pied Piper
The Prince and the Pauper
The Princess and the Pea
The Rescuers Down Under
The Saggy Baggy Elephant
The Sailor Dog
The Shy Little Kitten
The Silly Sisters
The Sleepy Book
The Snowstorm Surprise
The Store-Bought Doll
The Story of Jonah
The Tales of Peter Rabbit
The Taxi That Hurried
The Three Bears
The Twelve Dancing Princesses
The Twelve Days of Christmas
The Velveteen Rabbit
The Very Best Home for Me
The Whispering Rabbit
Tawny Scrawny Lion
Theodore Mouse Goes to Sea
Theodore Mouse Up in the Air
There Are Tyrannosaurs Trying on Pants in My Bedroom
This Is My Family
Three Bedtime Stories
Three Little Pigs
Thumbelina (2)
Time for Bed
Tom and Jerry’s Party
Tommy Visits the Doctor
Uncle Remus
Uncle Wiggly
Underdog and the Disappearing Ice Cream
Water Babies
We Help Daddy
We Help Mommy
Welcome to Little Golden Book Land
We Like Kindergarten
When Bunny Grows Up
Wild Animal Babies
Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Patch
Winnie the Pooh and Tigger
Winnie the Pooh: Eeyore, Be Happy!
Winnie the Pooh: The Grand and Wonderful Day
Winnie the Pooh: The Honey Tree
Winnie the Pooh: The Sweetest Christmas
Yogi Bear


Big Happy Sigh.