Book reviews: His and hers.

When Matt and I were engaged, we had our first fight over scripture study. Yep. It turns out that we were both passionate about the scriptures and the gospel, but with different interests and different study methods. He liked to study things like signs of the times and how to get your calling and election made sure. I was more into understanding grace and the role of charity. Neither was too intrigued by the other’s enthusiasm. We’ve had to figure it out over the years.

Deseret Book sometimes offers to send me books in exchange for an honest review on my blog. I love reading things that enhance my personal gospel study, so I welcome the opportunity. I only accept books that I have an interest in reading and owning, and occasionally I come across one that I think Matt would like, too. The review today is for two books: one for him, and one for me.

millet  In_Tune_cover_detail

Matt’s Review: Living in the Eleventh Hour by Robert Millet

There are a wide range of emotions one feels when thinking about the last days and the return of the Savior. Among them are feelings ranging from excitement and apprehension to outright fear. As a father charged with the protection and maintenance of my family, I want to know what are the most important things that I can be doing now, today, to ensure that my family is prepared for what lies ahead. There are many who focus on temporal preparedness and amassing large stores of emergency supplies and provisions. This seems wise, for we have been warned and live in tenuous times. However, as I listen to modern prophets and apostles monthly and semi-annually, one recurring theme that rings clear to me: it is most important to be spiritually prepared to meet the Savior. One can build the envy of doomsday preppers the world over and all would be for nothing if one cannot find the faith and self-discipline to serve one’s neighbors, live in harmony with the Gospel, and keep covenants made, thus qualifying for eternal life.

Brother Millet eloquently describes common feelings we may have, and situations we may find ourselves in as we ponder our standing before God and our current level of spiritual and temporal preparedness. Brother Millet’s knowledge and experience with the scriptures shows in his frequent and relevant citations to both Biblical and restoration scriptures. I found many new and relevant sources of further inspiration from our modern prophets and apostles, as well as a collection of scriptural references that will provide hours of thoughtful study on this important topic.  Far from an academic treatise on the topic, Living in the Eleventh Hour is compact, to the point and powerful.

My Review: In Tune by Gerald N. Lund

I love to teach and I’ve been doing it in many capacities for many years. I feel  like I’m slowly starting to get a handle on how the Spirit can “take over” the teaching experience and I can be more of an instrument than an instructor. Elder Lund’s book is well-organized and is an extensive collection of quotes and ideas related to the power of the Holy Ghost: its functions, its role, and its results. I like his definition of what teaching by the Spirit means:

Teaching by the Spirit takes place when the Holy Ghost is fulling His role and His functions with either the teacher or the learner or both.

I especially loved the chapter called “An Increase in Skills and Abilities” because of the way he explains that the Spirit does not just help us teach a lesson, but it makes us better teachers. This Elder Maxwell quote intrigued me:

“Of course there are individuals who are keeping their covenants who lack teaching charisma. Of course there are those whose lives are in order who are not exciting teachers. However, the Spirit blesses the efforts of all who live worthily. It endorses what they say or do. There is a witnessing authenticity which proceeds from the commandment keeper, which speaks for itself. Therefore, I prefer doctrinal accuracy and spiritual certitude (even with a little dullness) to charisma with unanchored cleverness.”

I also really liked how he clarified some of the misconceptions about fruits of the spirit and loved the chapters “Nourished by the Good Word of God,” and “Putting Ourselves in Tune–Drawing Closer to the Spirit.” I think I’ll use this book often as a good reminder about important teaching principles and how to tap in to the power of the Holy Ghost more in my personal life, parenting, and teaching.

Summer reading report, so far.

Now that my children are able to swim while I sit and read a book (joy!), this summer I’ve been able to do a lot more reading than I could in years past. Here are some of my summer reads to date:

Title
The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next #1)
The House at Rose Creek
The Secret Keeper
Blackmoore: A Proper Romance
The Lemon Grove: A Novel
A Timeless Romance Anthology: Spring Vacation Collection
Longing for Home: A Proper Romance
A Timeless Romance Anthology: Summer Wedding Collection
In His Hands: A Mother's Journey Through the Grief of Sudden Loss
The Kiss of a Stranger
Band of Sisters
House of Secrets (A Shandra Covington Mystery, #1)
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life
Persuasion: A Latter-day Tale

Some of these I’ve blogged about already, and some of them I’m still going to tell you about a little later, but you can go to my Goodreads account if you’re at all interested in knowing my reviews of the books.

Today I want to tell you about Sarah Eden’s newest book, Longing for Home. Even though I’ve met Sarah briefly before and we have a long list of mutual friends, I had never read any of her books before this summer. I don’t want to dare say that I get tired of reading Jane Austen, because I love her books, but I wanted to read something similar to Austen rather than repeat my reading of her classics for the who-knows-how-many-really time. I knew that Eden’s books are Regency Romance, so I gave them a try, and found them to be quite delightful. You can see from the  book list above that I read several. When I got the chance to read Longing for Home, I was excited, but a little skeptical because it wasn’t even Regency. It was Wyoming in the 1800s and that sounded eerily Western to me, but I read it anyway and I really, really liked it. In fact, I think it may be my favorite of her books so far.  Here’s a description:

Though she was only a child during the darkest days of Ireland s Great Famine, Katie Macauley feels responsible for the loss of her family s land and the death of her sister. Now a woman grown, Katie has left Ireland for America and the promise of earning money enough to return home again and plead for her family s forgiveness. She arrives in Hope Springs, Wyoming Territory, a town sharply divided between the Americans who have settled there, with their deep hatred of the Irish, and the Irish immigrants who have come searching for a place to call home. Her arrival tips the precarious balance, and the feud erupts anew. Even in the midst of hatred and violence, however, Katie finds reason to hope. Two men, as different as they are intriguing, vie for her heart, turning her thoughts for the first time toward a future away from Ireland. Katie must now make the hardest decision of her life: stay and give her heart a chance at love, or return home and give her soul the possibility of peace.

 

eden

It really wasn’t a western at all, but I did learn a lot about some of the challenges of the immigrants and settlers. I really liked Katie’s spunk and determination, and her overall lack of self-pity when there was much she could have mourned. The story is a romance, which usually makes it quite predictable, but it was more than that too. She has competing suitors and some real challenges to face and I really didn’t know how it was all going to play out. I think Eden develops her male characters well, and this book is no exception. This was a great read and one I can easily recommend.

What’s been one of your favorite summer reads so far?

The loss of a child

Even though I worry about losing one of my children and I occasionally have nightmares about it, I have never experienced the death of a child. I hope I never do. Sometimes in my dark imaginations, I try to picture what it would feel like, how I would react, how people around me would react, and I speculate about what I could and could not handle.

I recently finished reading a book called In His Hands: A Mother’s Journey through the Grief of Sudden Loss by Jenny Hess. She explains in great detail her experience with grief after the tragic death of her 4-year old son, Russell, just a few short years ago. I hurt for her, I admired her, in some ways I understood her, and I definitely learned a lot from her story. Here is a description:

With the sudden loss of a loved one comes an unavoidable fork in the road. Some succumb to anger and despair, while others seek strength in the healing power of Jesus Christ. When faced with paralyzing sorrow, how can one truly find peace and perspective? In His Hands offers a candid portrait of grief in which one family fights to find a way out of the black hole of grief and into the arms of the Savior. Author Jenny Hess invites readers on her journey from heartache to healing, from the shattering loss of her young son to her personal quest for hope. With grace and wisdom, the heavenly insights gained by one woman navigating through her darkest hours demonstrate that though grief is achingly painful, there are tender mercies to be found along the path.

In His Hands

I cried through most of the first three chapters. This book made me think deeply about two things– 1) Would I grieve the same way she did? I don’t think I would, but I’m sure there would be many similarities, and yet, I simply do not know. I can’t possibly understand what it’s really like unless I’ve experienced a related loss myself. And I don’t want to. Her experience confirmed that for me–it is a dark and ugly path that I hope to God to never have to tread. Her story taught me a lot about all of the many ways that a person and her relationships can be affected by grief. There were so many more emotional, spiritual, mental and even physical levels to it than I ever imagined. I hope that if I ever found myself facing the death of a child… well, I hope I could come through it like Jenny did, and still is. With faith and trust despite the hot pain.

The second thing I thought about was this: 2) How can I help people who experience grief on any level? The scriptures teach us to mourn with those that mourn and to comfort those that need comfort. Her story taught me a great deal about things to do and say and not do and not say when someone is grieving a deep loss. I ate up her examples about things that were helpful and thoughtful to her. People brought meals, ran her errands, made and gave gifts reminiscent of her son, offered gifts and letters and encouragement to her living children, visited her, called her and checked on her, asked her how she was doing and really wanted to know, and were not afraid of her or afraid to talk about her son. People also did and said well-intentioned things that hurt her. I realized that there needs to be some balance between moving on with normal life and also acknowledging the loss and identity of the deceased. I know that people mourn differently, and things that were helpful to her may have been hard for someone else, so I see the value of listening the Spirit and acting and not being afraid to ask questions about what might really be the most helpful or what is hurting the most.

I hope that I will be a better comforter and succorer after reading Jenny and Russell’s story. I think she is incredibly brave. Having written a book myself, I know something of the vulnerability that comes with the territory, and she was very honest and raw with the things she experienced and felt. I know that–although cathartic–it must have been incredibly difficult to do and I’m sure there were fears about how it would be received.

I do not know if Jenny will see this review, but thank you, Jenny, for sharing your journey. It seems that one of your fears is that Russell will be forgotten, but having read your story, I now know Russell even though I never met him. I will remember him, and I think everyone that reads will think about him and continue to keep his memory alive. And thank you for your beautiful testimony of God’s love and plan for His children.

To any of you who have experienced loss or had a front row seat to the loss of a loved one, what are some things that people did or said that was helpful to you? Or meaningful? I would love to have an army of ideas to add to those that Jenny shared in her book because I learned that the healing process is a long and painful road. I want to be someone who makes it better any way I can.

FOOD for thought

I have a new favorite food, and it’s strangely outside my normal categories of chocolate, potatoes, and soups (I know. I’m like an icon of health.). So this is it:

kneaders
The Veggie Avocado sandwich at Kneaders Bakery. On Paesano bread, minus the onions, add cucumber. Yum! (That picture is on the wrong kind of bread, but conveniently seems to be accompanied by a potato-ish soup.)

I know, it seems like I should be kidding because it’s almost too healthy for me, but it is so tasty and it totally eliminates any drive-thru window guilt. And if I order it with a Blueberry No. 5 smoothie, double yum. So, you’re welcome. (Do you have a favorite “healthy” fast food option?)

2. Speaking of healthy, as a nice take-away gift for speaking at RootsTech, the Story@Home people gave me a box of 10 Utah truffles. Ten. On Saturday. Now there are none. I have nothing to say about that except that it’s a good thing I like myself or I might actually hate myself right now.

3. The infamous (3 Amigos reference) Middle-aged Mormon Man interviewed me on his blog today and asked me questions about my book, Covenant Motherhood, and other important things like Taco Bell and soda. You should go check it out because the poor man could really use the traffic (I’m teasing him).

4. I’m curious. Have any of you read my book yet? Did you like it? And what did you eat while you read it? (Just trying to keep everything on topic here.) If you did like it, would you maybe go write a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Deseret Book, and/or Seagull Book? I’ve heard that good reviews can make a big difference if people add it to their shopping cart or not. If you didn’t like my book, please disregard this part of the post and just go back to thinking about sandwiches and chocolate. Thankyouverymuch.