Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Secrets of Happy Families - TLC Book Tour

The Secrets of Happy Families: Surprising New Ideas to Bring More Togetherness, Less Chaos, and Greater Joy by Bruce Feiler

Publisher: William Morrow
Publication date: February 19, 2013
Hardcover: 292 pages
Price: $25.99

While I don't read parenting books often, every once in awhile it's nice to get a fresh perspective. My four kids are all in school and between them, we are involved in lots of extracurricular activities after school. Sometimes I feel like my entire life is scripted for me, just based on the carpool scheduling.

For this tour we were asked to implement one of Feiler's suggestions in our family. So for the last couple of weeks, we have been conducting a Sunday night family meeting. The first week we did it more to organize schedules. We have been having trouble finding time that all six of us could sit down for a few minutes to have our daily scripture reading. It just wasn't working for us to have it at the same time every day, because someone was always missing. We worked together to find a time every day that we would all be there and put it as a priority in our calendars.

The second week we took the meeting a step further. I asked three questions:
1. What things went well for our family this week? (Everyone said scripture study! We felt more calm and everyone got along better.)
2. What things could we improve in our family? (This mostly had to do with keeping play areas tidy.)
3. What things will you commit to working on this week? (Feiler suggests choosing two things.)

The meeting was short, simple and upbeat. The family meeting is based on the business idea of agile development. We meet together to make ourselves accountable and to encourage continual incremental improvements in our family. I have noticed that I feel much more in control of the family happenings these past few weeks. So far, it's working for us!

This book has great ideas for strengthening marriages and family life from nontraditional sources. Want to know how to have better game time? Feiler visited the folks at Zynga. Want to know how to set children's allowances? Find out what Warren Buffett did.

I highly recommend this book.
Bruce Feiler is the author of five bestsellers. He writes a family life column for the New York Times. To learn more about him, you can visit Feiler's website, Facebook page, and Twitter account.

Check out the other great reviews on this tour!
Source: I received this book from the publisher as part of the TLC Book Tour.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Someone Knows My Name

Someone Knows My NameSomeone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
Awards: Myers Outstanding Book Award, Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book Overall, Scotiabank Giller Prize Nominee, Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction, CBC Canada Reads

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The breadth of this novel is so huge, even sitting down to write a review is a daunting task. My book club read this in January and there was plenty to discuss.

Aminata Diallo is a young girl in Africa when she is stolen by the slave traders and forced into slavery. She is brought to South Carolina and eventually escapes in New York City. After serving the British during the American Revolution she is granted freedom in Nova Scotia. When living conditions there worsen, she travels back to Sierra Leone. She finishes her life in London where her life and testimony support the abolitionist movement.

I loved this book for opening my eyes to many more facets of slavery than I have really allowed myself to consider before. It's real and it's heartbreaking. But somehow Aminata is inspiring and I never really found the book particularly depressing, even though it could have been.

The book came short of 5 stars for me because the last 150 pages really glossed over the last part of her life. For giving us so much detail in the beginning, I felt a little short-changed. But I felt the author did a fantastic job writing the book from a female perspective and I appreciated his attention to historical details. If you do read this book, I suggest reading the author's note at the back first. I was glad I did.

Also reviewed by: My Book Retreat ~ Gerbera Daisy Diaries ~ Thoughts of Joy ~ Your link here?
Source: Library

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Sparrow

The SparrowThe Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
Awards: Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Novel, Kurd-Laßwitz-Preis for Foreign Novel British Science Fiction Association Award for Novel, John W. Campbell Memorial Award Nominee for Best Science Fiction Novel, James Tiptree Jr. Award, Puddly Award for Science Fiction
Series: Book 1 of 2

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In 2008, I read Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell and loved it. I have been anxious to read this book, which is most acclaimed of all her work. However, I heard a few rumors about this book that put me off. It's not an easy book to read, but definitely worth it. I feel like my mind was stretched in all directions!

I am definitely impressed by the diversity and talent of this author. Dreamers of the Day is historical fiction and this book is science fiction. Set in the future, a team of scientists, funded by the Jesuits, take an asteroid to a distant planet light years away. They make amazing discoveries and endure unimaginable horrors.

I have heard that AMC has just optioned this book and its successor, Children of God, as a television series. I plan on reading the next book for sure. But for now I need to let this one rest in my mind. It's really a philosophical novel at its core, and one I won't soon forget.

Also reviewed by: Avid Reader's Musings ~ It's All About Books ~ My Friend Amy ~ Alison McCarty ~ 1morechapter ~ Your link here?
Source: Purchased

Monday, February 4, 2013

Cold Sassy Tree

Cold Sassy TreeCold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns

On the library shelves: Adult fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

14-year old Will Tweedy is the narrator of this Southern novel set in Georgia in the early 1900s. After the passing of Will's grandmother, his grandfather, Rucker Blakeslee, shocks their small town of Cold Sassy by running off and marrying the milliner in his store. Ms. Love Simpson (a Yankee!) is liked well enough, but she is young enough to be Mr. Blakeslee's daughter.

Added into that familial stress, Will is nearly run over by a train, is caught kissing a girl from the mill in the cemetery, and goes on a camping trip with the boys where he tells a few tall tales. And the whole town is abuzz when Will's father drives into town with a brand new automobile.

This is a lovely book and I enjoyed my time in Cold Sassy. It wasn't a quick read for me, but Will is a very likeable character and I was rooting for him the whole way. Even though there are some periods of silliness in this book, there are also some hard-hitting issues to think about including suicide, racism and religion. It's a well thought out novel that I found rewarding to read. Definitely recommended for fans of Southern literature.

Also reviewed by: Book Nut ~ Your link here?
Source: Purchased