Friday, February 26, 2010

Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom

Recently I finished listening to this book on CD, Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom. I am a big fan of his and love every book he has written so far with this one included. Here is what Mitch's website tells us about the book:

"Albom’s first nonfiction book since Tuesdays with Morrie, Have a little Faith begins with an unusual request: an 82-year-old rabbi from Albom’s old hometown asks him to deliver his eulogy.

Feeling unworthy, Albom insists on understanding the man better, which throws him back into a world of faith he’d left years ago. Meanwhile, closer to his current home, Albom becomes involved with a Detroit pastor – a reformed drug dealer and convict – who preaches to the poor and homeless in a decaying church with a hole in its roof.

Moving between their worlds, Christian and Jewish, African-American and white, impoverished and well-to-do, Mitch observes how these very different men employ faith similarly in fighting for survival: the older, suburban rabbi, embracing it as death approaches; the younger, inner-city pastor relying on it to keep himself and his church afloat.

As America struggles with hard times and people turn more to their beliefs, Mitch and the two men of God explore issues that perplex modern man: how to endure when difficult things happen; what heaven is; intermarriage; forgiveness; doubting God; and the importance of faith in trying times. Although the texts, prayers and histories are different, Albom begins to realize a striking unity between the two worlds - and indeed, between beliefs everywhere.

In the end, as the rabbi nears death and a harsh winter threatens the pastor’s wobbly church, Albom sadly fulfills the last request and writes the eulogy. And he finally understands what both men had been teaching all along: the profound comfort of believing in something bigger than yourself.

Have a Little Faith is a book about a life’s purpose; about losing belief and finding it again; about the divine spark inside us all. It is one man’s journey, but it is everyone’s story." (end quote)

I really enjoyed listening to this book and cried in the car as it finished up. I plan on making this a book club selection for our group as soon as it comes out on paperback because right now it's only available in hardcover. I would recommend picking this one up. It's not very long (only 192 pgs) so it would make for a quick read. Listening to it on CD was only 4 hours. Albom isn't pushy on either religion but just tells these two different inspirational stories. As with his other books I really don't think you will be disappointed. Happy Reading!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Part one of the letters

Because of the format of the book I haven't had much to say on it this month and my apologies if you are a faithful reader of the blog. In the beginning some say the book is slow going. And I can see that, but I have to say that I didn't have a problem getting into it right away which may be because of how much authors, books, history and the like interest me so. Rather than recount our start and what the book is about which you know if you are reading is jump right in to two of my favorite quotes. I especially love two of the first thoughts Juliet shared with us in her very first letter to Dawsey Adams:

"I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers."

"That's what i love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It's geometrically progressive - all with no end in sight and for no other reason than shear enjoyment."

I love Juliet's English humor that is shown through her letters and her thought process. It is neat isn't it how we end up with books that belonged to those who have come before us and the common interest that we show in them. Amazing how books can bring people together. And I love what she says about one book leading to another. I can certainly agree with that wholeheartedly as I have a reading list because of this process that expands to 150 books plus! Juliet has a job to do for an article for the times and becomes interested in the Literary Society that Dawsey Adams mentions. And so begins the correspondence between her and the members. We learn how the society came about with the unusual name. On the off chance you are interested here's the recipe I found online for a Potato Peel Pie... I would try it at your own risk if I were you! Here it is word for word from the site:

"Here’s a recipe for a potato peel pie, but I warn you, it tastes like paste. The more authentic it is, the nastier. These ingredients will make a very small pie (expand at will):

1 potato
1 beet
1 Tablespoon milk

Peel the potato and put the peelings in a pie pan. Don’t cook the peels, because you’re in the middle of an Occupation and you don’t have any fuel. Boil the potato and the beet together in salty water, but not for very long, due to the fuel problem. Just until you can stick a fork in the potato. Take them out and mash them up with the milk. Pour the glop in the pie pan. Bake at 375 for as short a time as is consonant with digestion (fuel again), say, fifteen minutes.

The finished product will look quite attractive and pink. If you squint, you can almost imagine raspberries. Don’t be fooled. It looks a lot better than it is. However, if you forgot that you were in the middle of WWII and added a bunch of butter and milk and salt, it could be quite tasty. "

Blech! Don't believe I will do any pretending with that dish anytime soon. But this is the truth in what the Island was restricted with, how thankful we should be for all we have today. We learn history of what was going on with the island of Guernsey during WWII through the letters of the Society members writing to Juliet. It is quite amazing reading all these different stories and how books pulled them all together. It is amazing how you could never have been a reader before and all it takes is that one right book to pull you in to the wonderful world of literature. I dare say this has happened to some of you since we started this club as several of you tell me all the time.

It's interesting reading the letters from the individual who is disapproving of the Society and I am glad the author also made this perspective for us. I enjoy the fact that books helped one man romance a woman to be his wife and begin his new love of reading. And with this, I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing you can't do if you are willing to pick up a book and read about it. The letters that go back and forth captivated me and are quite believable. The author gives you a great sense of feeling as if you know these people. We come to the end of Part 1 and Juliet is off to Guernsey to meet all those she has been writing back and forth with and the adventure is just beginning for her.

Friday, February 19, 2010

He Chose the Nails by Max Lucado

Recently I finished up reading the book, He Chose the Nails by Max Lucado. This is a non-fiction book all about what Jesus dying on the cross means to each of us. I am looking for a book for our group to read during Easter time and so far no luck. I enjoy Lucado's writing and his style but while I enjoyed the book at times it wasn't quite what I was looking for right now. Here is the Amazon review:

Reading a Max Lucado book is as comfortable as having coffee and conversation with a close friend. He Chose the Nails: What God Did to Win Your Heart is signature Lucado: warm, conversational storytelling blended with scripture, humor, and vulnerability. Lucado invites us to understand the symbols surrounding Christ's crucifixion and celebrate the significance of the promises they offer. From the sign in different languages tacked to the cross ("I will speak to you in your language") to the burial clothing ("I can turn your tragedy into triumph"), he speaks of each symbol as a "gift of grace" that reveals God's love for mankind. Lucado takes us to Calvary and shows us our sins nailed between the hand of Jesus and the cross. "You've made some bad choices in life, haven't you," writes Lucado. "You've chosen the wrong friends, maybe the wrong career, even the wrong spouse. You look back over your life and say, 'If only I could make up for those bad choices.' You can. One good choice for eternity offsets a thousand bad ones on earth. The choice is yours." Whether he's bantering around phrases like "the hall monitors of holiness" or crafting a deeper expository on the crown of thorns, Lucado neatly balances the task of making his words accessible to a broad audience while delivering a meaty message on God's greatest sacrifice. Pick up this insightful read, and you'll be glad you made the choice. --Cindy Crosby (end quote)

This book is about 157 page with a study/discussion guide in the back of the book. Lucado has other books centered around Easter that if I have time I may look into for April since I couldn't get one picked for March. I also picked up another book by him called The Great House of God which breaks down The Lord's Prayer but couldn't really get into it. I know that we will do another one of his books for the group at some point but need the time and nudging to come for the right one. He is such a talented author I hope you will consider to read some of his work. He does such a great job of connecting with his reader. Happy Reading!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

March 2010 Book Selection

God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew with John and Elizabeth Sherrill is going to be our book club selection for March. This book is non-fiction based on the real life story of Brother Andrew and is 255 pages. Here is what is on the back of the book:

As a boy, Brother Andrew dreamed of being an undercover spy working behind enemy lines. As a man he found himself working undercover for God. His was a mission filled with danger, financed by faith, supported by miracles. Told it was impossible to minister behind the Iron Curtain, Andrew knew that nothing was too hard for God. Crossing "closed" borders, he prayed, "Lord, in my luggage I have Scripture I want to take to Your children. When You were on earth, You made blind eyes see. Now, I pray, make seeing eyes blind. Do not let the guards see those things You do not want them to see." And they never did. For thirty-five years, Brother Andrew's life story has inspired millions to step out on their own journeys of faith. This young Dutch factory worker's near-incredible adventures testify of God's step-by-step guidance and hour-by-hour provision-available to all who follow His call. Far from being over, Brother Andrew's current adventures are his most challenging yet. In a new prologue and epilogue, his story is carried into the new millennium with an account of Andrew's work in the "closed" societies of Islam.(end quote)

I had a friend of mine recommend this book to me a couple of years ago and so I added it to my reading list. Then one day while browsing in the $5 christian bookstore at the Tanger Outlet, there it was and only $5! I picked it up and really enjoyed reading it. Those of you that read with us last year I want to let you know a good comparison for this type of story would have been last year's selection The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom which also was written with John and Elizabeth Sherrill. If you want you can try the $5 book store but like I said it has been a long time since I got my book there. Our March meeting will be in Swift's new annex at 8:30 AM on March 27th. Please let me know if you have any questions.

**Don't forget the February meeting is coming up soon on February 27th at 8:30 am in Swift's new building. Feel free to bring your friends and family! I will be providing a traditional Guernsey dish to have with Coffee and some pictures of the island to share as well and maybe even a guest to participate in our discussion who's family originated in Guernsey. You don't want to miss it!****

And don't forget, any book suggestions are always appreciated as well!

Happy Reading!

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Ultimate Gift Completion

"In the end, life lived to its fullest is its own Ultimate Gift." That was our last quote of the book. I know many of you have enjoyed having those little quotes. Such little pearls of wisdom. In the end Jason finds out there was still one gift left in The Ultimate Gift, "..control of my charitable trust fund. Its current value is somewhere slightly over $1 billion." It is a gift to know that Jason wasn't even expecting anything by this point at the end. He truly believed that his Ultimate Gift were all the gifts he had already been given and he was content with that. I think we were all happy to see how this ended up.

We had a good meeting this past Saturday with 8 women in attendance but I know quite a few more than that who read the book and enjoyed it. Everyone seemed to be in agreement on what a "gift" the book was. (pun intended) We all agreed that it could get tiring with the same scenario at the beginning and end of each chapter but that the overall message outweighs the faults. Several women plan on giving the book away as a gift to someone they know. I brought a discussion guide that I found off of the main website for the movie and book. We didn't look at it too much but it was something to take home and review if you were interested with Bible verses that corresponded to different gifts. You can go to The Ultimate Gift Experience by clicking here and see where the different discussion guides can be found as well as several other resources for the movie and book. And let me back up a minute, yes there is a movie as well. I really like the movie even with the differences from the book I still enjoy it. You will have to watch it to see what I mean, regardless the gifts are taught the same, if not in a more emotional way being able to see the actors/actresses achieve them.

And if that still isn't enough for you of The Ultimate Gift, there is a sequel by Jim Stovall called, The Ultimate Life. Here is the description of this book from Amazon:

A profound follow-up to the bestselling book and major motion picture, The Ultimate Gift. When Jason Stevens found out he had to jump through hoops to maybe get an unnamed inheritance from his billionaire grandfather, he was not amused. By the time he'd finished learning the lessons he'd become a different man. Ready to tackle the duties of running a multi-billion dollar trust, he is once again derailed, this time by his pugnacious family. Not content with their cattle ranches and oil fields, his aunts, uncles, and even his parents are determined to see every last dime entrusted to their own self-serving pockets. With none of the reluctance he initially showed for the Gift, he eagerly accepts the challenge and pushes himself to prove not only to his family and the court but also to the world, that with determination and the simple tenets of the Gift, anyone can lead The Ultimate Life. (end quote)

The sequel is just as small and easy to get through as the first book and enjoyable as well. I wouldn't go as far to say it is a must read but nevertheless it's a good way for you to see where Jason went in life after he had completed his gift. I didn't even know a sequel existed until I happened upon it one day in our $5 Christian Book store in our outlet mall, so maybe you too one day stumble upon that deal.

I hope you have enjoyed our January Selection as we start our second year and that you join us for February. I pray that you take to your heart The Ultimate Gifts that Jason learned without forgetting THE ultimate gift God gave us all, His Son. I pray you live the gifts learned everyday and pass The Ultimate Gift on to others because, "what is knowledge if it isn't shared?" Happy Reading!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Day after Night By Anita Diamant

Recently I finished up reading Day after Night by Anita Diamant. This is a fiction based on Fact book. It is 292 pages long and a fairly easy read. Here is what Barnes and Noble tells you about the book:

This striking novel by the author of The Red Tent is based on a dramatic true story: In October 1945, more than 200 "illegal immigrant" prisoners at the Atlit internment camp in Palestine were freed. The story of this rescue, the friendships it forged, and its aftermath is told through the words of four young women who at first seem to share little except their incarceration. Zorah is a concentration camp survivor; Leonie, a Parisian beauty; Shayndel, an ideological Polish Zionist; and Tedi, a formerly hidden Dutch Jew. As always, Anita Diamant constructs her plot with the dignity and moral force of a biblical story. Fiction that makes history real. (end quote)

We previously read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant in the book club back in 2009. I have to say out of the two I enjoyed The Red Tent more. Day after night was interesting and educating but I felt it was missing a wow factor. It had no problem keeping my attention right up to the end, but I felt like it just kinda fizzled out and had a bittersweet conclusion. Thankfully the author does include an epilogue but I have to say I just wasn't as excited about it as I was with her previous work. She has a couple other novel's out there I will one day probably pick up and try out but for now I need to whittle away at the current stack on my table at home. This will not be a book club selection for us. I did want to warn you that it does use cuss words and can be graphic at times (similar to how The Red Tent was) but it's up for you to decide what this book would mean to you. Happy reading!