in a Complex World
SIMPLE LIVING BOOKS AND REVIEWS - Plus books we just plain enjoy
Grab a cup of coffee and browse through our reviews and recommended reading.
Patti: Right now I'm reading The 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 him...how 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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