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SIMPLE LIVING BOOKS AND REVIEWS - Plus books we just plain enjoy     

 Grab a cup of coffee and browse through our reviews and recommended reading.  

  Rule Your Money
  THE COMPLETE TIGHTWAD GAZETTE  by Amy Dacyczyn. This is one of my all time favorite frugal living books. It is a very thick paperback. The author was a graphic artist and her creativity is a delight to read. You will find many ideas that you will simply enjoy.  
  YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE  by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. This is a classic in learning real financial freedom.
  Think and Grow Rich  by Napoleon Hill - This is another classic and probably the basis for most of the self-improvement books written today.  Practical and enlightening and useful!

THE COMPLETE IDIOTS GUIDE TO BEING A CHEAPSKATE     by Mark W Miller.  Help with saving money on travel, gifts, home items and more in the traditional "complete idiot's guide" format.  

Natural Beauty at Home: More than 250 Easy to Use Recipes to Use for Body, Bath, and Hair

- Luxurious and effective beauty treatments that you make at home from your own wholesome ingredients. Invite a few friends over and have a pampered spa party! Saving money was never so exquisite.
  Think and Grow Rich  by Napoleon Hill and Ross Cornwell - This is an updated and revised modern version of the classic self-improvement book.

THE TIGHTWAD TWINS - Living on a Shoestring
  Are you cheap. . . and proud of it? Hundreds of time tested cheap tricks. Ranges from practical and useful to downright strange! (Would you starch and iron used gift wrapping paper so you could re-use it?)

Grow Rich! With Peace of Mind by Napoleon Hill
- This book has five star reviews on Amazon.  It has been called "life-changing", "amazing", "profound", "treasured". 
Raising Kids with Just a Little Cash
by Lisa Reid. Tips on salvaging clothes, making toys, party ideas, and many suggestions on how to make better use of the money spent on your kids. 

Saving Money with The Tightwad Twins:  1000 Practical Tips for Women on a Budget
  Family Meals - Cooking
  DINNER'S IN THE FREEZER by Jill Bond - a cookbook to help you cook once a week or once a month and still enjoy  a home cooked meal every night.  
FROZEN ASSETS - How to cook for a day and eat for a month by Deborah Taylor-Hough - cook once a month and enjoy the results
  CLEVER AND DELICIOUS COOKING - Simple Life Corp's own cookbook - designed to help you use a bit of this and a bit of that for great family cooking
  Clear the Clutter
  Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life by Karen Rauch Carter
  Clutter Free! Finally and Forever   by Don Aslett.  Wow!  And I thought I was alone in my packrat habits.  This book has inspired me to continue dejunking my shelves, closets, and drawers.  What a burden unused and unneeded items can be!   Lots of true confessions of fellow packrats. Martin Sheen is an inspiration and an expert, having written this book after years of running a professional cleaning service.  Written with a wonderful sense of humor and insight, but with a no nonsense attitude toward clutter, Sheen regales us with how-to and how-not-to instructions on decluttering for a simpler, happier life.  
Clutter's Last Stand: It's Time to De-Junk Your Life!
- by Don Aslett
Sink Reflections
- by Marla Cilley.  This is the "Fly Lady", with a sort of kind, goofy, warm, stubborn personality (with football coach undertones) that cheers and marches you on to getting rid of the clutter in your home.  She also has routines for keeping your house clean and organized, and of course, keeping the kitchen sink shining clean.  While the tone can sometimes make you feel as though you are back in first grade, well, it works! Funny and inspiring... you may find yourself putting on your shoes and tackling the housework within a few pages!  
  The Journey Toward Simplicity
SIMPLE ABUNDANCE: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy - Sarah Ban Breathnach.  A book of essays, one for each day, each with a message or theme of simplicity, views of the daily endeavors, conflicts and events that are unique to a woman.  Very highly rated on Amazon reviews.  Each essay takes just a few minutes to read and is a thought-provoking start to the morning and a nice accompaniment to your morning coffee or tea.

THE SIMPLE LIFE   by Larry Roth. Do you need more "stuff" or do you need more real control over your life, more freedom, more peace?  This book may change your life. 


THE SEVEN SPIRITUAL LAWS OF SUCCESS:  A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO THE FULFILLMENT OF YOUR DREAMS  by Deepak Chopra.  This book is jewel...a small hardcover that fits well in your hands, feels pleasurable to hold, and  can be carried around easily.  I was fortunate enough to take my copy to one of  Dr. Chopra's appearances and he kindly put his signature in the front.   Deepak Chopra is a highly educated medical doctor turned spiritualist.  His childhood was enriched with visits in his home from many spiritual leaders and his influence is highly eastern.   This book is different. . . a little more new age. . . a little more zen. . . It awakens an entirely new way of looking at not only your place in the universe, but also+++++++++++ the rules of the universe.  It also gently contradicts many of the rules you may have held dear, breaking apart such ideas as limited supplies of money, love, and success.    

  THE SIMPLE LIVING GUIDE - A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living   - by Janet Luhrs.  This is an excellent guidebook for simplifying almost every aspect of your life.  This is considered by many to be the "bible" of simple living guides. You'll find many, many recommendations that you like - feel free to leave the author on her soapbox with the rest.   
Handbook to a Happier Life; A Simple Guide to Creating the Life You've Always Wanted
by: Jim Donovan 
 by Steven Covey.     This book was my first introduction to Steven Covey.  I expected to read a time-management book that would give me rules on how to do things better, faster, and wiser.  Instead, as I began to read this book, I found myself examining my own life, my goals, my relationships, and I realized that the book was beginning to fulfill my great thirst for finding some meaning to my life.  I strongly recommend this book in paperback as I also recommend reading it with a pencil and a yellow highlighter in hand (there is less guilt involved in marking in a paperback and I assure you, you will find many passages that have a special meaning for you.)  I was inspired enough by this book that I attended and completed a course on the material in this book.    
Living the Simple Life - Elaine St. James   Hardcover
  or Cassette (Audio) - Elaine St. James offers very practical steps to simplifying your life.  Her advice comes from her own experiences in simplification.  A practical, down to earth, rather than spiritual book.
VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY: Toward a Way of Life That is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich
Keeping Life Simple
by: Levine, Karen  
7 Seeds  The Secret of the Seven Seeds: A Parable of Leadership and Life - Seven seeds teach a belligerent, impatient businessman and father important lessons on how to bring peace and happiness to his life. 
  Repairing and Enriching Family Relationships
The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success for Parents - Daily Lessons for Children to Live - Deepak Chopra - Book  
         or Cassette (Audio)
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff with Your Family; Simple Ways to Keep Daily Responsibilities and Household Chaos from Taking Over Your Life
by Richard Carlson.  Strategies for greater peace and enjoyment of our families.  
8 Essential Traits of Couples Who Thrive - Susan Page
Family First
- Dr. Phil McGraw. Take the time to read this book.


Patti:  Right now I'm reading 7 SeedsThe Secret of the Seven Seeds, A Parable of Leadership and Life by David Fischman.  I am grateful to have found this book.  I am only about a third of the way through the book and already I have learned so many simple yet profound truths about how to begin an awakening of self-knowledge and insight into my own behaviors.  Each seed that the master gives to Ignacio, reveals yet another secret on how this demanding, impatient, explosive businessman can begin to regain control of himself and his floundering business.  I am learning with to quiet my mind and find the deep inner peace that brings so much richness to life... how to recognize and understand some of my own reactions to problems and how I can make a dramatic change in my life with this understanding.  Written as a directive on true business success, it applies equally well to anyone searching for answers to problems and seeking a new richness and meaning to their life.  I can hardly put this book down, so I should be finished soon and ready to give a full report!  Meantime, it is worth taking a look at and would be a good consideration as a gift this Christmas.  Just released this year, I predict that this book will soon become a classic.

Patti:  Just Finished:    How Could You Do That?  - by Dr. Laura Schlessinger.  Dr. Laura is a very strongly opinionated woman!  The tone of the book brings to mind a mouthy, pushy, stubborn, shrill woman.  (Nothing like the very pretty picture shown on the dust jacket!)  There are lots of "Oh, puhlease!" comments throughout.  Dr. Laura conveys a very strong moral message, believes strongly in the sacredness of marriage, and doesn't waste a lot of sympathy on people who have created their own awkward or painful situations (which is nearly everyone in this book).  The book is a series of short case examples, in the form of an advice-seeker writing a  letter or making a phone call to Dr Laura.  Page after page of problems, affairs, shirking of responsibilities, clueless women... these are fascinating and often hit too close to home (either a been-there-done-that-how-could-I-have or that-sounds-like-someone-I-know!)  Dr. Laura often over simplifies the problem and greatly oversimplifies the solution.  And yes, she can be very annoying, but here's the thing:  her advice almost always seems to ring very true.  Really makes you think.  Really makes you take a personal moral inventory.  Really makes you wonder just how much better the world and its families could be if everyone followed at least some of her rigid moral codes.  If you are looking to simplify your life, here is a book to read.  With a strong moral code, decisions are a lot easier.  Eliminate the behavior that grates with your own moral codes, and your life will have a lot fewer problems!

Patti:   On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft  - by Stephen King.  I recommend this book to anyone who is serious about writing.  I'd also recommend this book to any Stephen King fans.  The books is both a gentle instruction book on blossoming into the writer's life and a humorous and delightful glimpse into Stephen King's life.  He spends the last several pages of the book discussing the recent accident that nearly killed him; a driver plowed him down while he was taking one of his regular country walks.  Stephen saw the van coming, but did not have time to get out of the way of the wildly swerving van.   Seems the driver was fighting his dog for some meat in a cooler in the back seat....  well, I'll let you read it.  

Stephen gives us some fascinating and interesting glimpses of his childhood and early adult life.  He shares his avid love of horror movies.  We discover that he successfully self-published in the 8th grade by writing a synopsis of a horror movie that he had watched and selling the stories for 25 cents each.  The success was soon stifled by his principal, whose words still echo today as she chides him to stop writing "junk!"   And we find that Stephen adores his wife, Tabitha, and that she is the one person that he cares most to please with his writing.  Good choice, too, since it was Tabitha that discovered one of his early manuscripts in the trash can, rescued and read it and told him that it was good, that it needed to be finished.  So he did.  The rest is history and you can read it for yourself.

There are chapters on the techniques of writing.  Kill the adverbs.  Write in the active voice, not the passive voice.  Don't over describe.  Let the characters decide how to behave.  Probably the most overwhelming advice, though, is to live the life of a writer:  Write everyday.  Commit.  Tell the truth.  

I give this book five stars.  And if you ask, I'd have to tell the truth.  No, I'm not a Stephen King fan.  I'm nervous enough in the dark without adding any fuel for my imagination.  But after reading this book, I just may pick up another of his novels. But I'm only reading it in broad daylight and most definitely not when I'm alone!


Books already read:

Caravans by James Michener.  Take a literary tour of Afghanistan with this book.  Author James Michener is well traveled and meticulous about his research.  The book, Caravans, is set in the Afghanistan city of Kabul (sound familiar?) and the main character is a likeable, handsome, young American man who works for the U.S. embassy in Kabul.  Although the book was written years ago and is set just after World War II, the description of Afghanistan and the people and their way of life sounds very contemporary.  The plot:    an Afghan man has brought his young, lively, American bride back to Afghanistan.  Now, she has disappeared.  Her frantic parents and their persistent congressman have convinced the reluctant US embassy that they must locate her.  So Mark begins the journey to Kandahar through the harsh desert and rugged mountains, in the hopes of finding her...    

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire... - "Just who is this Harry Potter?  I started reading the Harry Potter books because my son, a formerly half-hearted reader, was absorbed in them and was even voluntarily going to bed early so he could read them in bed.  Then I heard the cry, "Ban these books!  They are evil!"  Wow!  Time to check these out.  I picked up the first book, intending to leaf through looking for "bad" words or evil concepts.  What I found instead was a magical, joyful, bumpy ride through a boy's first year at Hogwarts, a boarding school for wizards.  I started reading and didn't stop until I had finished the third book and was eagerly awaiting this fourth book.  Yes, there is magic and wizardry and spells and such, but it is funny, intriguing , and sometimes a little scary, and about as likely to make your kids think they can fly on a broomstick as "Roadrunner and the Coyote" cartoons are to make your kids think you can lug a 500 lb anvil up a cliff and then accidentally drop it on your head, doing no more damage than momentarily flattening yourself. 

Harry Potter is an orphan who lives with his muggle (non wizard) relatives.  He wears glasses and has a head of hair that refuses to lie neatly combed.  An powerful evil wizard murdered his parents when he was an infant, but somehow infant Harry was able to deflect the evil wizard's power, both saving himself and doing great and lasting damage to the evil wizard.  For this, he has become an unlikely legend in the wizard world.  But having no other living relatives, he was brought to live with his awful muggle relatives.

Harry's aunt and uncle, with whom he lives, are goofy and snootish, keeping Harry in hiding for fear that one of the neighbors will discover that Harry 's parents were wizards!  So Harry has led a sad and misunderstood life - until one day when Harry turns old enough to start school at Hogwarts and strange messages and messengers begin to appear regarding enrollment and necessary supplies!  

Until now, Harry did not even know he was a wizard, although lots of unexpected things have happened, especially when he got angry or distressed.  A misfit in the muggle world, he is more than eager to escape to Hogwarts.  And his relatives are relieved to be rid of him.  Thus begins the series of books.  

In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we join Harry in his fourth year at Hogwarts.  I'm delighted to know that his friend Ron, along with Ron's amazing and bustling family, will still be featured characters.  In this fourth book, the plot will be a little more tense, a little scarier, as we find out early on that the evil wizard has regained enough of his power to try to reclaim his former wickedness, if he can get Harry out of the way first.   

  Back When We Were Grownups - by Anne Tyler   Once I started I couldn't put it down and drank in every word.  Anne's newest novel opens with Rebecca Davitch, a 53 year old widow, beginning to feel like a stranger in her own life.  How ever did I get to where I am now? is the question she ponders.  Perhaps more importantly, she begins to ask what if questions.  What if I had finished college?  What if I had married my childhood sweetheart?  Soon we follow Rebecca as she begins to find out the answers to these questions.  

This is a typical, endearing, engrossing Anne Tyler book.  Rebecca is perhaps a bit eccentric, not exactly pretty, and a bit overweight.  But she is loveable, generous and caring and has devoted her life to raising three not-very-grateful stepdaughters plus one sulky daughter.  None of the children are completely likeable and I find this a bit of a sore point of the novel.  Why are they all so grouchy, snippy, self-centered, and unable to keep their own lives in balance?  Anne never answers this question, or even attempts to; they are only supporting characters.  However, all of the girls are so interesting in character that I found that my fascination with their behavior outweighed my annoyance with their actions.  

I'll rate this book a 4.2 on a scale of 5.0.  I took away points because I found most of the characters unsympathetic, although fascinating, and because I felt that the ending sort of petered out and left me wondering what was happening.


Anne Tyler - Searching for Caleb:  "I discovered this Anne Tyler novel while browsing some books at a garage sale!  I have read several of her books, including "An Accidental Tourist" and "Breathing Lessons."  I like her straightforward and simple voice.  "Searching for Caleb" follows the meandering, sometimes troubling, and always interesting life of Justine, a fortune teller.  Justine was raised in an upper class family that scorns outsiders, poor manners, and emotional displays of any kind.  These rules are peppered with all sorts of other smaller, sillier rules that the family takes quite seriously.  Justine must come to terms, albiet in her own fumbling way, with her family, her husband, and her daughter.  Wonderful book!  Perhaps Anne Tyler's best!

Patti:  Magic Kingdom for Sale - Sold! - by Terry Brooks - another accidental find.  I picked this book up and read the first page and was intrigued enough to keep reading.  Terry Brooks, an attorney-turned-writer, is a master at clever plots and unexpected twists.  This fantasy book begins with Ben Holiday, a Chicago attorney, lonesome and grieving for his dead wife, Annie.  He thumbs through an exclusive catalog and finds the advertisement for a magic kingdom that needs a king.  Thus begins Ben Holiday's journey toward kingship.  All is not as easy, though in Landover, the kingdom that Holiday purchases.  The kingdom has languished, evil forces threaten, and the kingdom is divided and unkempt.  Holiday must use all the skills (and then some) that he learned as an ace Chicago attorney.  

While this book was intriguing enough to keep me reading, I found that it lacked depth of character and I felt the writing was a little shallow.  It is not dissimilar to a Danielle Steel romance novel in writing, although the plots and twists were much, much more clever than Steel ever musters.

A good read for a rainy day or an airplane trip.  Terry Brooks has also written two other books in the Landover Kingdom series, as well as several other fantasy books.


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