Genre: Non-Fiction


Strengthen Your Relationship with Deb DeArmand’s I Choose You Today

February 18, 2015 Book Review, reviews 6

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Strengthen Your Relationship with Deb DeArmand’s I Choose You TodayI Choose You Today by Deb DeArmond
Published by Abingdon Press on January 6th, 2015
Genres: Christian, Non-Fiction
Pages: 208
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonBarnes & Noble


It may seem a bit strange to my regular readers that I am reviewing a book on marriage.  Having failed at too many relationships to count I actually kind of think perhaps I am best suited to discuss a book on marriage.  As I’m typing this I’m hearing the Priest in The Princess Bride just beginning his discussion of “Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. . . . ”  A bit off topic but true, nonetheless 😉

So friends, marriage is what brings us here today.  Are you in one? Want to be in one? Planning one? Thinking one day, someday in a far-away distant future you’d like to be in one?  Then this book is for you.

Thirty-one chapters. Each dedicated to how you can make a choice to love your spouse, fiancée or significant other. It’s not a book to read through all at once.  I have been reading a chapter every other day or so and applying the key concept for the following day ~ After going through the book once I now plan to take a chapter a week and apply the concepts ~ I’m excited to see the results!  A key takeaway from this book is that love is a choice, not an emotion. Choosing to respect, love, honor my sweetheart makes all the difference in the world. Below is a sampling of a few chapter headings.  

  • I Choose to Bless You
  • I Choose to be Adaptable
  • I Choose to Share Your Burdens
  • I Choose to Serve You
  • I Choose to Be Generous With You
  • I Choose to Pray For You
  • I Choose to Help You Achieve Your Dreams and Goals
  • I Choose to Comfort You
  • I Choose to Live in Peace With  You
  • I Choose to Prefer You

[Tweet “Love is a choice, not an emotion. #IChooseYouChallenge”]

Each chapter ends with a quote, three questions and a short prayer, all geared to help the reader take the topic deeper.  While it is targeted to an already-married population, I can see this book being especially suited for small group discussions, premarital counseling and anyone contemplating marriage some day.

It does come from a Christian perspective that is spot-on in addressing the work it takes to make love last, to keep a happy, forever-kind-of marriage.  Deb DeArmond is conversational in her writing tone, and  she will definitely have you considering if you’re doing all that you can to make the relationship last.

[Tweet “The secret for hanging on to the happily-ever-after feelings from the day you said, “I do”? #IChooseYouChallenge “]

You’re invited to participate in two marriage-strengthening challenges: one beginning February 1 and the other beginning in March. It’s not too late to join the February Challenge!  Don’t miss out on this opportunity to build your relationship with your spouse and enter to win some prizes along the way!

The Valentine’s Challenge: February 1 – 28

Tell your spouse “I Choose You” every day of the month. Sign up online at and receive a free downloadable February calendar to mark off the days of the challenge.

Deb will also be emailing participants 1–2 times throughout the month with giveaway opportunities and “keep going” encouragement.

The “I Choose You” Challenge: March 1 – December 31, 2015

Sign up online at to receive 10 weekly emails, each teaching one of the choices from Deb’s book along with practical applications. This challenge is broken up into three different sessions, covering all 31 choices from the book.

There will be giveaways and opportunities to win throughout the year. Participants can decide when to join—it’s not required to do all three sessions.

Many thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the review copy.


Book Review: Little Things Long Remembered

December 5, 2014 Book Review, reviews 2

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Book Review:  Little Things Long RememberedLittle Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day by PhD, Susan Newman
Published by Iron Gate Press on October 1st, 2014
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 148
Source: complimentary review copy

Filled with practical tips on creating memories with your children {or grandchildren}, Little Things Long Remembered is a practical, darling addition to any parent or grandparent’s repertoire of parenting. It is especially great for new parents or even veteran parents who need quick tips without a lot of steps. The ideas are broken up into memory-makers for 5 minutes, 30 minutes and longer.

Soon after I received this book the Little Monkey was spending the day with me and it happened to be pouring rain. I was at a loss as to what to do {sometimes in the moment it’s hard to think of cool ideas that are both entertaining, memory-making and educational}. Anyone else ever feel that way? Normally we would head outside to go on a nature walk but the cold rain prohibited that idea. Sooo, I grabbed this little gem of a book, flipped through the pages to “5 Minutes More or Less” and “Sick Days” {I figured rain days would fall into that category as well} and quickly was reminded of a game my kids had enjoyed – flipping playing cards into a hat. Yup, something as simple as flipping playing cards kept a three year old entertained for quite a while and in the meantime taught hand-eye coordination {without the benefit of a game station might I add!}; playing well with others {hey, the Little Monkey can’t win every time!} and simply laughing at the simple things in life. Now, on the days I have the Little Monkey he always asks if we can play cards/throw cards!

Much of what is included in Little Things Long Remembered is common sense, practical tips that anyone can implement. I would love to see this in the hands of every parent and grandparent. Makes for a perfect stocking stuffer, baby shower or everyday gift.

Be sure to read Susan Newman’s guest post on Making Memories during the holidays. A gentle reminder to enjoy the little things and not try too hard.

[Tweet “Key to making memories with little ones during holidays is don’t try too hard”]

What little memories do you remember from your childhood?

Many thanks to iRead Book Tours for including me on this tour.


A Few Author Insights via By the Book

November 12, 2014 Book Review, reviews 5

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

A Few Author Insights via By the BookBy the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review by Pamela Paul
Published by Henry Holt & Co on October 28th, 2014
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: complimentary review copy

from the book jacket

Every Sunday, readers of The New York Times Book Review turn with anticipation to see which novelist, historian, short story writer, or artist will be the subject of the popular By the Book feature.  These wide-ranging interviews are conducted by Pamela Paul, the editor of the Book Review, and here she brings together sixty-five of the most intriguing and fascinating exchanges. . .

With a star-studded list of authors interviewed, from J.K. Rowling to Arnold Schwarzenegger to Donna Tartt and Stephen King, By the Book is a book-lover’s dream.  It’s kind-of like the Entertainment Tonight of the writing world, only without the flashy dresses, bright lights and intro music!

By the Book delves deeper into the lives of familiar authors and others on the fringes of the literary world.  Many of the interviews have similar questions, though not all.  It was interesting to see of those authors who did have similar questions how far-ranging the responses were across the board!  Just goes to show how incredibly unique us humans are.

Most intriguing interview question?  If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?  Malcolm Gladwell’s response is particularly insightful 😉 The new Lee Child, of course!  It might be nice for him to escape for a few hours to a world where one man can solve every one of the world’s problems with nothing but his wits and his fists.  Which has me wondering, do you think President Obama reads these interviews and presidential book recommendations?

Interview answer I could most relate to?  Sheryl Sandberg in response to What were your favorite books as a child? Do you have a favorite character of hero from one of those books? can I be Shery’s new best friend?!?  I wanted to be Meg Murray, the admittedly geeky heroine of A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle. . . . .if you’re new to The Novel Life you may want to read my love letter to Madeleine L’Engle.

Had me scrambling for a dictionary?  Question posed to Ira Glass You studied semiotics at Brown.  How has that informed the way you read novels?  what the heck is semiotic?  for those like me who are unfamiliar with the term ~ it is the study of signs and sign-using behaviour, especially in language.  I wonder if Paul deliberately used $5 words for this particular interview. . .

Left me proud to have read his books?  The interview with Dave Eggers reveals his total dedication to encouraging young people to read and to write. Eggers cofounded 826 National and annually he works with high school students to put together an anthology of The Best American Nonrequired Reading.

In these interviews it is easy to get a sense of who is grossly opinionated, who has a funny bone and who you could see yourself hanging out with companionably with maybe a cup of coffee or a cold beer.  The interviews of authors I already adore mostly made me love them even more.  This book would make a wonderful Christmas present for a reader in your life {or yourself!}.  It’s one of those books that you don’t read at one sitting but keep nearby and read an interview here and there.  I’m hoping By the Book will become an annual tradition!

Please note that the quotes used were from an advanced reader’s copy and may be edited in the final copy.


Kindness Makes All the Difference

October 27, 2014 Book Review 6

Kindness Makes All the DifferenceThe 13th Gift by Joanne Huist Smith
Published by Harmony Books on October 28th, 2014
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 224
Source: complimentary review copy


This post was inspired by The 13th Gift by Joanne Huist Smith, memoir about how  random acts of kindness transformed her family’s bereavement and grief during the holidays. Join From Left to Write on October 28th as we discuss The 13th Gift. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Help comes in all kinds of packages, Jo.  Don’t worry about who delivers it.  Just accept. (p.83)

Once upon a time, many, many moons ago, I opened the front door to . . . an empty house.   I had recently told my husband and step-father to my children that I wanted a divorce, and he left without a scene that very same day.   Lo and behold, a few days later when my kids and I returned home after a long day of me at work and them at school we discovered a practically empty house.  Everything from the silverware to the beds was gone.

When you’re standing in an empty living room with three children {ages 11, 10 & 8} looking at you, waiting to see you how you’ll react, the easiest thing to do is to have a complete emotional breakdown.  Fortunately, I was in a state of shock so going the easy route didn’t happen.  I remember sitting on the floor, holding onto my babes saying over and over again “it’s going to be ok. We are going to be ok.”  I’m not certain if I was trying to convince them or convince myself, but whichever way, we struggled and muddled and got through those first few moments.

In the days afterward we found small ways to make the best of the wide open space.  I brought the cd player home from my office, and we cranked up “The Phantom of the Opera” soundtrack, dancing around the living room while singing the high notes as off-key as possible {If you haven’t seen three little ones & one crazy mama belting out “Angel of Music” then you’re missing out!}; we took turns sliding up and down the laminate floor in our sock feet and spent lots of time wishful thinking about the furniture we would buy if we ever won the lottery {it kind-of helps if you play, which I don’t} 😉

Fast forward to another day of returning home to another shock, though this one so SOOO much better ~ and that was even before we opened the front door.  We found a note taped to the storm door encouraging us to enter the house together for a magical surprise!  Cautiously opening the front door we were greeted by a living room of beautiful furniture, artfully arranged,  a new set of dishes {that I still use to this day}, silverware, glassware ~ beds for everyone!  A true miracle to behold.

My best friend, along with several kind and generous people from our church, donated all that we could possibly need.  To this day, remembering the generosity of my church family leaves me feeling astounded, awed, blessed; so very blessed.  I had been at a loss as to how I could replace an entire house of furniture on a single mom income and a not-for-profit salary, as well.  The generosity and kindness of those individuals, many who gave anonymously, without any expectations in return, is the truest sense of “loving your brother as yourself.”

The 13th Gift takes this mandate and helps a family to heal from the loss of a beloved father and husband.  A legacy of generosity can create memories that reverberate beyond the moment and outshine the brightest of heirloom ornaments. (p. 201)

Have you ever been the recipient of surprising acts of kindness?  

Share with us your remarkable moments of “loving your brother as yourself!”  


Where Is the Humanness In Data?

October 9, 2014 Book Review, Book Talk 2

Where Is the Humanness In Data?Dataclysm Who We Are When We Think No One's Looking by Christian Rudder
Published by Crown Publishing Group on September 9th, 2014
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 304
Source: complimentary review copy


This post was inspired by Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by OKCupid co-founder Christian Rudder, where he analyzes online data to find out that people who prefer beer are more likely to have sex on a first date. Join From Left to Write on October 9th as we discuss Dataclysm. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Algorithms. . .Data. . .graphs. . .charts. . .numbers, likes, yes, no ~ we’ve been whittled down to a number on a graph in almost every aspect of our lives.  It’s ironic that the hospital I go to for multiple sclerosis treatment just this week changed the computer system to, you guessed it, easily track and number the patients.  Some of the questions asked now require answers that fit into the system’s predetermined sets.  Well, I’m human.  Some of my answers don’t necessarily fit in a box.  So what happens?  “just choose the symptom closest to what you’ve been experiencing”

And that’s where my concern is for all of the data that is being collected, formulated and used in turn to create opinions and absolutes.  We are not absolutes.

I have a conflicted relationship with data.  On the one hand it is incredibly useful and fascinating.  I look at my Google Analytics for the blog and see who/what/where my readers are from and can better tailor my posts for my readers’ benefit.  And I appreciate the data even when oftentimes I’m not even sure how to read it ~ any other bloggers see their Google Analytics and wonder what the heck to DO with that information?!?

My issue with data is when it comes to taking the person out of the equation I get a bit testy.  Dataclysm is all about data, collected from years of individuals answering questions and choosing boxes on the OKCupid site.  The book reminded me of a much snarkier version of Freakonmics.

I’d love to open up a discussion about data ~ answer me this Lovely Reader:

 What is your relationship with the four-letter word “data?”