Book reviews

I’ve finished a few books over the last few weeks that I haven’t had a chance to mention yet.

shopping-for-time.jpgShopping For Time was written by the authors of the girltalk blog, mom Carolyn Mahaney and daughters Nicole Mahaney Whitacre, Kristin Chesemore, and Janelle Bradshaw. You might raise a skeptical eyebrow at the subtitle, “How To Do It All and NOT Be Overwhelmed,” until you get to page 13, where it says, “We can actually do all that God has called us to do” without becoming “overwhelmed, miserable, and exhausted.” That sentence succinctly states the theme of this book, and the following chapters outline several tips for using time wisely. Ephesians 5:15-16 is the theme passage of the book: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” “The phrase, ‘making the best,’ means to ‘buy up, rescue from loss, or improve’ the use of time,” (p. 19), so a shopping metaphor is employed throughout the book to illustrate ways to “buy up” the time. There are multiple tips for things like putting time with the Lord first, planning, evaluating relationships, etc.

The book is written in a conversational, encouraging, “coming alongside to help” style rather than having a rigid system of schedules and plans as some time management books do. Sprinkled throughout the tips are anecdotes from the authors’ own lives as well as snippets from notes and e-mails they have received. They frankly deal with issues that must be faced, but they also acknowledge problems women face in managing their time, especially with small children in the home, and offer creative ways to implement their tips in busy households with very different planning styles, schedules and seasons of life. They remind us that our standing before God is secure based on our relationship with Christ, not how well we perform our duties, yet we can improve our stewardship of the time and responsibilities He has given us.

Besides the topic and tips, I enjoyed getting to know the girltalk girls a little bit. When I read the blog I don’t always distinguish between the authors, but I felt I got to know the individual personalities a little better through this book.

258049o.jpgReturn To Me by Robin Lee Hatcher is a prodigal daughter story. Headstrong Roxy Burke left home as soon as she was of age to obtain her grandmother’s inheritance to go to Nashville and become a country music star. Her lack of discipline and listening to those trying to help her plus her spendthrift ways and friends who were just around for the good times eventually left her broke and nearly broken. The only thing she knows to do is go back home to see if her father will help her. He welcomes her back with open arms, but older sister Elena, who has done all the right things, doesn’t feel it’s fair that Roxy gets what seems to her to be easy forgiveness with few consequences. A wrinkle in this version of the story is that Elena is now engaged to Roxy’s old boyfriend, who was her rebel-in-arms at the time but who has now come to know the Lord and is desiring to be a pastor.

This is a well-written story portraying how this scenario might play out in modern times. It’s easy to sympathize with all the characters and their anguish and the lessons each has to learn.

When parts of Roxy and Elena’s parents’ story came out and sounded familiar, I realized they were the main characters in a story I read last year called A Carol For Christmas.

I was a little dismayed at where the author had Roxy “come to herself” in the book, but the more I thought about it the more I realized it was probably a parallel to the prodigal son’s story of coming to himself in about the lowest place he could be.

Overall it is a wonderful book and speaks of the need for redemption and forgiveness on many levels.

kk-clouds.jpgJust this morning I finished Just Beyond the Clouds by Karen Kingsbury. It is the contiuation of the story of Cody Gunner, a bull rider whose story was told in A Thousand Tomorrows.

In that book, Cody is driven to succeed by the anger and pain he feels toward his father, who left the family because he couldn’t handle dealing with the diagnosis of Cody’s younger brother, Carl Joseph, who has Down Syndrome. He meets Ali, another rodeo star, on the circuit and falls in love with her. Unbeknownst to most, Ali has cystic fibrosis, but she would rather live life to the fullest than play it safe at home, even if it means shaving a few years off her life. Cody donates a lung to help Ali, which gives them about 3 years — about a thousand more days together.

In this sequel, Cody still has not “gotten over” Ali’s death four years later. He doesn’t ride bulls any more, but he works on the rodeo circuit in the announcer’s booth, lending his unique understanding and perspective. But he can’t deal with it any more because painful memories of Ali infuse every moment and circumstance. He comes home to try to decide what to do. He finds that his brother is in a center for independent living. Cody fears for Carl Joseph’s safety and is adamantly against his being at the center. He attends class with Carl Joseph for a week and meets his teacher, Elle, with whom he clashes over the needs and abilities of Down Syndrome patients and who is harboring a heartache of her own. Though enemies at first, Cody and Elle are attracted to each other.

I loved the story of how Cody and Elle had to work through their initial first impressions of each other and their firm but opposite viewpoints, and I loved the representation of the Down Syndrome patients and what they could do and how much richer their lives were with some responsibilities and expectations.

The one major disappointment with this book, though, as well as its predecessor, is that the way of salvation is not very clear. I do realize a Christian author may not want to have a full-blown step-by-step salvation experience in each book, and that’s fine, but on the other hand an unsaved reader shouldn’t come away confused or unclear about what is happening if a character does become a Christian. In Cody’s case he goes from not wanting to have much at all to do with God to realizing he needs to pray and seek God’s guidance. That’s a good step, but in itself it is not salvation. I know from reading many Karen’s other books that she does make clear what it is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, so I am not sure why it is veiled here. I do remember having the same impression after reading the first book, though I don’t recall the details after so many years. If I remember correctly, I don’t recall that Cody or his family were professing believers who had gotten away from the Lord: that scenario would make a little more sense with their spiritual journeys in this book.

Since this post is longer than I intended, I am thinking maybe I should have made separate posts for each book. But I didn’t want to have three separate book posts right after one another.

5 thoughts on “Book reviews

  1. Shopping for Time sounds like a great book. I’ll try looking for it and it’ll be good to look at it from another perspective. You’re right, I’ve read many of the management-style related book and understand what you mean. Great reviews!

  2. I’m glad I read the review for the new Karen Kingsbury book. I didn’t realize it was sort of a part II. I’ll have to read the first one now instead. I love Karen’s books and also Robin Lee Hatcher’s. Two of my favorite authors.

  3. Pingback: Saturday Review of Books: October 13, 2007 at Semicolon

  4. Pingback: Fall Into Reading Wrap-Up and Reviews « Stray Thoughts

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