Introducing May’s Book Club Selection: Empire of the Summer Moon

Empire of the Summer MoonMay’s book for the Facebook book club is Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American HistoryEmpire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S. C. Gwynne by S. C. Gwynne

What It’s About

Excerpt from Goodreads:

[A] vivid historical account of the forty-year battle between Comanche Indians and white settlers for control of the American West, centering on Quanah, the greatest Comanche chief of them all.

Why Was This Title Selected

I wanted a history book for the year, and liked how this focused on a less-familiar time period and subject. Reviews led me to believe it would be fairly readable (not too academic or dry, even if the topic may be challenging), and I’ve found that most of the time books written by journalists tend to be engaging. So, despite no experience with Gwynne’s work, I was hoping that would hold true for him as well.

Anything Else to Know About It?

It was a Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for History and Biography in 2010.

It’s available in print, for Kindle, and on Audible. Heads-up! If you purchase the Kindle version, you can add the Audible version for $3.95.

Discussion about the book is starting next week, so if you’re a fast reader you may still have time to grab the book and join us, but it’s not the quickest read so instead you may want to bow out of this month’s discussion and instead join us next month.

However, don’t delay joining the Facebook group entirely – request to join this week, as I’m delaying starting the book discussion to give us all more time to finish Empire of the Summer Moon and instead will be posting more general bookish questions.

What’s Coming Up in June?

Big Little LiesBig Little LiesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty by Liane Moriarty.

Don’t be put off from reading June’s novel because of its length: it is a long one, but Moriarty is easy to read and her books read much quicker than you’d expect based on their size. This should be an easy read after the challenging book for May. Find out more about it at Goodreads.

It’s available in print, for Kindle, or on Audible. .

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.

See all the books we’ll be reading in 2016 here.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Born Round by Frank Bruni

Born RoundBorn Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious AppetiteBorn Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious Appetite by Frank Bruni by Frank Bruni

An inconsistent read – while the writing is always fine, the story itself sags in places. I enjoyed the traditional memoir aspects – the family stories, his time as a journalist on the Presidential campaign trail, working in Rome, and of course as the restaurant critic for the New York Times. Unfortunately, one of the key themes of the book is tracing his food issues, and while those may be important to him, they end up being less interesting to me as a reader and contributes to an overall feeling of lifelessness. He’s had some amazing experiences – where are the amazing stories about them?

In many ways though, Bruni’s book mostly suffers by comparisons – there are so many fantastic food memoirs out there, and his, while ok, isn’t as great as other possibilities. While it’s not that *his* story itself has been told before, the themes he addresses at his best have been, and in books that are stronger and more enjoyable to read.

If you’re particularly interested in his story, or in aspects of it, this isn’t meant to dissuade you from reading it, more of a caution that as you prioritize your reading time, I’d probably put other ones as higher options unless you have compelling reasons for boosting Bruni’s book.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
The New York Times restaurant critic’s heartbreaking and hilarious account of how he learned to love food just enough

Frank Bruni was born round. Round as in stout, chubby, and always hungry. His relationship with eating was difficult and his struggle with it began early. When named the restaurant critic for The New York Times in 2004, he knew he would be performing one of the most watched tasks in the epicurean universe. And with food his friend and enemy both, his jitters focused primarily on whether he’d finally made some sense of that relationship. A captivating story of his unpredictable journalistic odyssey as well as his lifelong love-hate affair with food, Born Round will speak to everyone who’s ever had to rein in an appetite to avoid letting out a waistband.

Book Details

Title: Born Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious AppetiteBorn Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious Appetite by Frank Bruni
Author: Frank Bruni
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

The Black Count by Tom Reiss (with linkup)

The Black Count The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte CristoThe Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss by Tom Reiss

This month’s book club pick, and I’m really happy that I selected it – it coordinated so well with The Count of Monte Cristo, and added a lot to my appreciation of Dumas’ classic novel.

While I really enjoyed Reiss’ book, it’s not one that I’d recommend to just anyone. Despite being promoted that way, it’s not a true biography, as the available source material for Dumas’ live simply wasn’t there to support that. Instead Reiss has written a history, focusing on one individual and how his experiences were impacted by the world around him.

Dumas lived in a time and place where there were a *lot* of significant historical events to impact his life, so there is a *lot* of history in the book – looking at slavery in what is now Haiti and other French possessions as well as America and the British Empire, the sugar industry, the French Revolution and Republic, Napoleon, his ill-fated Egyptian excursion…

I’m a huge history fan, so I loved (almost) all of it. I got slightly bogged down in some of the military details, such as Dumas’ victory in the Alps and a significant battle in northern Italy. It made such an impression on me I can’t even remember the city, but those issues say more about my lack of interest in military history than Reiss’ writing skill.

If you’re a fan of The Count of Monte Cristo or The Three Musketeers, I think you’ll enjoy this book, for the details about what aspects of those novels were inspired by the general’s life. If you’re not generally a fan of nonfiction, or of history or biography (or biographical history), I don’t think this is the book that will persuade you otherwise, and I’d recommend you skip it.


If you’ve written a post about The Black Count, you’re welcome to add it to the linkup below.

Looking ahead at next month, we’ll start our discussion on The Chosen March 1st. There will be a linkup for posts relating to that book on March 30th.


Link-up Guidelines:

1. Share a post about the book. Entries completely unrelated to this theme or linked to your homepage may be deleted.

2. Link back to The Deliberate Reader – you can use the button below if you’d like, or just use a text link.

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3. The linkup will be open for two weeks.

4. Please visit the person’s blog who linked up directly before you and leave them a comment.

5. By linking up, you’re granting me permission to use and/or repost photographs or comments from your linked post.

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: New On Your Stack (vol. 1)

From Stray Dog to World War I Hero

From Stray Dog to World War I HeroFrom Stray Dog to World War I Hero: The Paris Terrier Who Joined the First DivisionFrom Stray Dog to World War I Hero: The Paris Terrier Who Joined the First Division by Grant Hayter-Menzies by Grant Hayter-Menzies

I’m a dog lover, but don’t usually like dog stories. So often they seem to be written just to elicit tears, and that’s not the sort of book I want. Bring in some history with the story though, and you’ve got my interest. So the description of this one sounded like a great choice for me: a little-known story from World War I, about a dog who was a hero for the US.

Except, while I *wanted* to love the story, and while I can appreciate what Rags did from an intellectual standpoint, the book itself left me unaffected. It would have benefited from the emotions those other dog stories bring to their books.

Other reviews all seem to mention the beautiful writing, but clearly I’m still a cranky reader, because I found it to be serviceable writing, but nothing deserving special mention.

Overall, I found myself wishing that a picture book author would discover Rags’ story and turn it into a beautiful children’s book. The known facts of the story are thin enough that it simply doesn’t support a full book like this, but it could work really well as a children’s book, or in a compilation like the National Geographic Kids Animal StoriesNational Geographic Kids Animal Stories: Heartwarming True Tales from the Animal Kingdom book I love so much.

If you’re a dog lover and history buff, you may still enjoy this, but I wouldn’t make much effort to track it down if your library doesn’t already have a copy. It’s fine, but not worth searching out or buying for yourself.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
On the streets of Paris one day in July 1918, an American doughboy, Sgt. Jimmy Donovan, befriended a stray dog that he named Rags. No longer an unwanted street mutt, Rags became the mascot to the entire First Division of the American Expeditionary Force and a friend to the American troops who had crossed the Atlantic to fight. Rags was more than a scruffy face and a wagging tail, however. The little terrier mix was with the division at the crucial battle of Soissons, at the Saint-Mihiel offensive, and finally in the blood-and-mud bath of the Meuse-Argonne, during which he and his guardian were wounded. Despite being surrounded by distraction and danger, Rags learned to carry messages through gunfire, locate broken communications wire for the Signal Corps to repair, and alert soldiers to incoming shells, saving the lives of hundreds of American soldiers. Through it all, he brought inspiration to men with little to hope for, especially in the bitter last days of the war.

From Stray Dog to World War I Hero covers Rags’s entire life story, from the bomb-filled years of war through his secret journey to the United States that began his second life, one just as filled with drama and heartache. In years of peace, Rags served as a reminder to human survivors of what held men together when pushed past their limits by the horrors of battle.

Book Details

Title: From Stray Dog to World War I Hero: The Paris Terrier Who Joined the First DivisionFrom Stray Dog to World War I Hero: The Paris Terrier Who Joined the First Division by Grant Hayter-Menzies
Author: Grant Hayter-Menzies
Category: Nonfiction / History
My Rating: 2.5 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Reading After Having Children

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

SeabiscuitSeabiscuit: An American LegendSeabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand by Laura Hillenbrand

The Expectations

Perhaps taking the award for the most-anticipated, but took-me-the-longest-to-get-through book of the decade.

I’d been saving Seabiscuit for a time when I wanted a guaranteed winner. It’s gotten such amazing reviews, and I loved Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, so of course I’m going to love this, right?

The Reality

It was a book club pick last year, but I ended up having to miss the meeting, so didn’t have that time pressure to get the book finished. And when I finally started reading it I discovered that my high expecations were not going to be reached.

It’s not that it’s a bad book. It has moments where it’s a fantastic book. But they’re interspersed with lots and lots of tedious detail about the specifics of so. many. races.

Can you tell I have no real interest in horse racing?

The Verdict

I loved the parts about the people involved. I loved the strategy behind some of the training methods. I did not love reading about the races themselves, but once I realized that I didn’t have to read every last word about the races, I enjoyed the book a lot more. Yes, I skimmed the race descriptions, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

It’s a hard one to rate. The parts I liked were a solid 4, but the parts I didn’t were a 2 at best. I ended up going with a 3 figuring that balanced it out, but be warned that I thought it was an inconsistent one.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Seabiscuit was one of the most electrifying and popular attractions in sports history and the single biggest newsmaker in the world in 1938, receiving more coverage than FDR, Hitler, or Mussolini. But his success was a surprise to the racing establishment, which had written off the crooked-legged racehorse with the sad tail. Three men changed Seabiscuit’s fortunes:

Charles Howard was a onetime bicycle repairman who introduced the automobile to the western United States and became an overnight millionaire. When he needed a trainer for his new racehorses, he hired Tom Smith, a mysterious mustang breaker from the Colorado plains. Smith urged Howard to buy Seabiscuit for a bargain-basement price, then hired as his jockey Red Pollard, a failed boxer who was blind in one eye, half-crippled, and prone to quoting passages from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Over four years, these unlikely partners survived a phenomenal run of bad fortune, conspiracy, and severe injury to transform Seabiscuit from a neurotic, pathologically indolent also-ran into an American sports icon.

Author Laura Hillenbrand brilliantly re-creates a universal underdog story, one that proves life is a horse race.

Book Details

Title: Seabiscuit: An American LegendSeabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
Author: Laura Hillenbrand
Category: Nonfiction / History
My Rating: 3 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: January 2015 Recap

Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey

Out of SortsOut of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving FaithOut of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith by Sarah Bessey by Sarah Bessey

Bessey’s first book, Jesus Feminist, was one of my most disappointing reads last year. It wasn’t the book I expected it to be, and that aggravation and disappointment made me unable to fully appreciate the book that it was.

Bessey’s new book, Out of Sorts, had no such issues for me. I expected it to be a faith memoir, and that’s precisely what it is. This time I enjoyed the personal angle she brought to the discussion of faith and religion.

If you liked Jesus Feminist, you’re almost certain to enjoy this one. And even if you didn’t care for Jesus Feminist, Out of Sorts is a stronger, more cohesive account, that takes her story, and makes more universal.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
In Out of Sorts, Sarah Bessey—award-winning blogger and author of Jesus Feminist, which was hailed as “lucid, compelling, and beautifully written” (Frank Viola, author of God’s Favorite Place on Earth)—helps us grapple with core Christian issues using a mixture of beautiful storytelling and biblical teaching, a style well described as “narrative theology.”

As she candidly shares her wrestlings with core issues—such as who Jesus is, what place the Church has in our lives, how to disagree yet remain within a community, and how to love the Bible for what it is rather than what we want it to be—she teaches us how to walk courageously through our own tough questions.

In the process of gently helping us sort things out, Bessey teaches us how to be as comfortable with uncertainty as we are with solid answers. And as we learn to hold questions in one hand and answers in the other, we discover new depths of faith that will remain secure even through the storms of life.

Book Details

Title: Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving FaithOut of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith by Sarah Bessey
Author: Sarah Bessey
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir / Faith
My Rating: 4 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for review. I was not required to post a positive review, and all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Cooking the Book: Good Cheap Eats by Jessica Fisher

Our Literary Advent Plans, 2015

literary advent 2015I’ve written about it before, but each year seems to be slightly different: different ages for the kids, different energy levels for me, a few new books to add to the mix. This is what we’ll be using for our literary advent this year

Not sure what a literary advent is? From December 1 – 24, we read a “new” book every day. Sometimes it’s really a new book, and sometimes it’s just ones we haven’t seen since last year. I’ve even wrapped library books before!

And if you’re counting, and wondering why I’ve got more than 24 books? It’s because I try and have one book for each child each day. Note that I do *not* actually wrap them all – I put them in reusable gift bags, and each day use the same bag again. Less work for me versus wrapping lots of books, although it’s not as impressive looking as a big pile of wrapped books. Go with what works best for you. 🙂

Note: an (L) before a title means it’ll be a library book. These are subject to change based on availability. 😉

    Board Books:

  1. Baby’s First NativityBaby's First Nativity (The First Bible Collection) by Muff Singer, illustrated by Peter Stevenson by Muff Singer, illustrated by Peter Stevenson
  2. BobBob by Sandra Boynton by Sandra Boynton
  3. The Little Drummer BoyThe Little Drummer Boy illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats
  4. Tell Me the Christmas StoryTell Me the Christmas Story by Joni Walker by Joni Walker
  5. Who is Coming to Our House?Who is Coming to Our House? by Joseph Slate, illustrated by Ashley Wolff by Joseph Slate & illustrated by Ashley Wolff
  6. Jesus, Me, and My Christmas TreeJesus, Me, and My Christmas Tree by Crystal Bowman, illustrated by Claudine Gévry by Crystal Bowman, illustrated by Claudine Gévry
  7. A Star for JesusA Star for Jesus by Crystal Bowman, illustrated by Claudine Gévry by Crystal Bowman, illustrated by Claudine Gévry
  8. J Is for Jesus: The Sweetest Story Ever ToldJ Is for Jesus: The Sweetest Story Ever Told by Crystal Bowman, illustrated by Claudine Gévry by Crystal Bowman, illustrated by Claudine Gévry
  9. Christmastime Is HereChristmastime Is Here (Little people books) by Ellen Weiss by Ellen Weiss
  10. The Night Before ChristmasThe Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by  Christian Birmingham by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Christian Birmingham
  11. My Nativity Jigsaw BookMy Nativity Jigsaw Book by Christina Goodings, illustrated by Rebecca Elliott by Christina Goodings, illustrated by Rebecca Elliott
  12. *Fa La LaFa La La (Leslie Patricelli board books) by Leslie Patricelli by Leslie Patricelli
  13. Picture Books

  14. The Very First ChristmasThe Very First Christmas (The Beginner's Bible)
  15. I’ll Be Home for ChristmasI'll Be Home for Christmas (Toot & Puddle) by Holly Hobbie by Holly Hobbie
  16. The Littlest Christmas TreeThe Littlest Christmas Tree by R. A. Herman, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers by R. A. Herman, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers
  17. Hilary Knight’s The Twelve Days of ChristmasHilary Knight's The Twelve Days of Christmas
  18. Mortimer’s Christmas MangerMortimer's Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman
  19. Bear Stays Up for ChristmasBear Stays Up for Christmas (The Bear Books) by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman
  20. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian StoryThe Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story by Gloria Houston, illustrated by Barbara Cooney by Gloria Houston, illustrated by Barbara Cooney
  21. S Is for Star: A Christmas AlphabetS Is for Star: A Christmas Alphabet (Alphabet Books) by Cynthia Furlong Reynolds, illustrated by Pam Carroll by Cynthia Furlong Reynolds, illustrated by Pam Carroll
  22. Christmas in the Big WoodsChristmas in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Renee Graef by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Renee Graef
  23. Christmas in the BarnChristmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Diane Goode by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Diane Goode
  24. The Jolly Christmas PostmanThe Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet and Allen Ahlberg by Janet & Allen Ahlberg
  25. The NativityThe Nativity illustrated by Julie Vivas illustrated by Julie Vivas
  26. Only a StarOnly a Star by Margery Facklam, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter by Margery Facklam, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
  27. The Christmas StoryThe Christmas Story by Jane Werner, illustrated by Eloise Wilkin by Jane Werner, illustrated by Eloise Wilkin
  28. Christmas in the CityChristmas in the City by Loretta Krupinski by Loretta Krupinski
  29. The Parable Series: The Pine Tree ParableThe Parable Series: The Pine Tree Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs, illustrated by Nancy Munger by Liz Curtis Higgs, illustrated by Nancy Munger
  30. Humphrey’s First ChristmasHumphrey's First Christmas by Carol Heyer by Carol Heyer
  31. The Light of the World: The Life of Jesus for ChildrenThe Light of the World: The Life of Jesus for Children by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Francois Roca by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Francois Roca
  32. (L) The Christmas Tree ShipThe Christmas Tree Ship by Carol Crane, illustrated by Chris Ellison by Carol Crane, illustrated by Chris Ellison
  33. (L) Cobweb Christmas: The Tradition of TinselCobweb Christmas: The Tradition of Tinsel by Shirley Climo, illustrated by Jane Manning by Shirley Climo, illustrated by Jane Manning
  34. (L) Polar ExpressPolar Express by Chris Van Allsburg by Chris Van Allsburg
  35. (L) Llama Llama Holiday DramaLlama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney by Anna Dewdney
  36. (L) Madeline’s ChristmasMadeline's Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmans by Ludwig Bemelmans
  37. (L) Christmas OrangesChristmas Oranges by Linda Bethers, illustrated by Ben Sowards by Linda Bethers, illustrated by Ben Sowards
  38. (L) The Carpenter’s Gift: A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center TreeThe Carpenter's Gift: A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree by David Rubel, illustrated by Jim LaMarche by David Rubel, illustrated by Jim LaMarche
  39. (L) Christmas Day in the MorningChristmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck, illustrated by Mark Buehner by Pearl S. Buck, illustrated by Mark Buehner
  40. (L)The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan ToomeyThe Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P. J. Lynch by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P. J. Lynch
  41. (L) Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho!Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin
  42. (L) The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout FishThe Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish (A Pout-Pout Fish Adventure) by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Dan Hanna
  43. (L) Goodnight, MangerGoodnight, Manger by Laura Sassi, illustrated by Jane Chapman
    by Laura Sassi, illustrated by Jane Chapman
  44. (L) Legend of the Candy Cane: The Inspirational Story of Our Favorite Christmas CandyLegend of the Candy Cane: The Inspirational Story of Our Favorite Christmas Candy by Lori Walburg, illustrated by James Bernardin by Lori Walburg, illustrated by James Bernardin
  45. (L) An Orange for FrankieAn Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco by Patricia Polacco
  46. (L) Christmas TapestryChristmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco by Patricia Polacco
  47. Chapter Books

  48. The Best Christmas Pageant EverThe Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson by Barbara Robinson
  49. The Family Under the BridgeThe Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson, illustrated by Garth Williams by Natalie Savage Carlson, illustrated by Garth Williams
  50. The Jesse TreeThe Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrated by Bee Willey by Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrated by Bee Willey

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: New Christmas Books

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

Get Yourself Organized for ChristmasGet Yourself Organized for Christmas: Simple Steps to Enjoying the SeasonGet Yourself Organized for Christmas: Simple Steps to Enjoying the Season by Kathi Lipp by Kathi Lipp

There are a lot of Christmas organizing guides out there. I’ve even written about them before. What makes this one different? Lipp doesn’t seem to be trying to create THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO EVERYTHING HOLIDAY. (And that’s a good thing.)

Her focus is on keeping Christmas simple (whatever that means to you – and you’re going to figure it out working through the book) so that you can enjoy the holiday season. Even better, you’ll make it even easier for yourself next year, as you’ll be keeping track of everything you’re doing this year in one convenient place.

If you’ve already got a good handle on your Christmas plans, I wouldn’t bother with this. If you’re trying to scale back, start new traditions, or just figure out a way to make it manageable for yourself, you might give this a look.

It’s written in such an encouraging, you-can-do-this way it feels like you’ve got a friend right by your side cheering you on. And giving you a nudge to make sure you’re working on things a little bit at a time. 🙂

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Have you lost your Christmas joy? Does the thought of jam-packed malls, maxed-out credit cards, overcrowded supermarkets, and endless to-do lists give you the feeling that maybe Scrooge was on to something?

In Get Yourself Organized for Christmas, Kathi Lipp provides easy-to-follow steps to reduce the stress of the holiday season, including tactics for how to

  • put together a holiday binder you’ll use year after year
  • determine a budget that won’t break the bank
  • gather your elf supplies
  • get your gift list together (including ideas for various ages and relationships)
  • collect your recipes and prep your kitchen

By putting into practice Kathi’s tricks and tips, you’ll finally be able to fully enjoy this most wonderful time of the year.

Book Details

Title: Get Yourself Organized for Christmas: Simple Steps to Enjoying the SeasonGet Yourself Organized for Christmas: Simple Steps to Enjoying the Season by Kathi Lipp
Author: Kathi Lipp
Category: Nonfiction
My Rating: 3 Stars

Disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley for review. I was not required to post a positive review, and all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: New on My Bookcase (vol. 25)

The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck

The Oregon TrailThe Oregon Trail: A New American JourneyThe Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck by Rinker Buck

I wavered on what star rating to give this, and settled on 3. What was my hesitation? While I generally really enjoyed the book, and wanted to give it 4, I had some real issues with it that keep me from giving it that high of a rating.

The book is fascinating, and I loved how obsessive Buck is at detailing the history of so. many. aspects. of the trail. There’s an extensive section on the history of the mule (really), more on wagons, Mormon history, and more. Anyone who isn’t a major history fan is probably going to get bogged down in some of these details, and it’d be hard to recommend this book lightly (it’s almost 500 pages, so it’s quite the reading commitment).

I read the book while we road tripped, and that was a great way to experience it. Also great is to break it up – read a (long) chapter, and then read something else.

While I enjoyed all of the “trail stories” and most of the history lessons, I was less impressed with some of the sections about Buck’s issues with his father. Many of them seemed like they could have been cut out without harming the overall narrative of the book. I get that it was important to Buck, but as the book went on I got tired of feeling like an observer as he exorcised paternal demons on the trail. (As a side not, I also really wondered about the story with Buck’s mother – there is so much about his father and I don’t’ remember a single mention of his mother. He’s one of 11 kids, so clearly she existed, but was she that much of a non-entity in his life? The contrast was striking. Or maybe there are just no issued with her, so nothing to “work out” and no book fodder?)

Where I was really annoyed with the book was when Buck interjects his politics and pet peeves into the narrative. There are regular rants about RV drivers and retirees, and how Americans don’t read. Um, Buck, I’m reading your book right now. Why do you make me feel like you’re insulting me in the midst of it?

And while I should be used to it, the seemingly-obligatory remarks about conservatives, Fox News & their “idiotic” viewers just annoys me. No, I don’t watch it myself, so I’m not speaking from hurt feelings, but it was so out of place and unnecessary. My mother-in-law is a devoted Fox News watcher, and she bought the book – she’s the one who originally told me about it. I’m sure she loved getting to the part where he trashes her for her TV habits and political beliefs. There was also a section where he compares a hateful rancher to all law enforcement. Sure, there are law enforcement officers who are on power trips like that rancher, but *all* of them?

Buck also has a lot to say about the Mormons, most of it not so complimentary, but most of it is tied to the trail and trail history, so in general that didn’t bug me. His musings on all religions weren’t necessary, or helpful. The book was already so long – these portions could easily have been cut without harming the story, and would keep potential readers from being insulted.

And I think that’s really what bugged me the most about his asides – they were so unnecessary to the story, and with a book that is already that long, opportunities to trim the length should have been embraced. I want this to be a book that I can enthusiastically suggest, and the bloated feel to it all makes me hesitant to do that. It was fascinating, but you’ve got to really want to read it, and he doesn’t make it all that easy at times.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
In the bestselling tradition of Bill Bryson and Tony Horwitz, Rinker Buck’s “The Oregon Trail” is a major work of participatory history: an epic account of traveling the 2,000-mile length of the Oregon Trail the old-fashioned way, in a covered wagon with a team of mules–which hasn’t been done in a century–that also tells the rich history of the trail, the people who made the migration, and its significance to the country.

Spanning 2,000 miles and traversing six states from Missouri to the Pacific Ocean, the Oregon Trail is the route that made America. In the fifteen years before the Civil War, when 400,000 pioneers used it to emigrate West–historians still regard this as the largest land migration of all time–the trail united the coasts, doubled the size of the country, and laid the groundwork for the railroads. The trail years also solidified the American character: our plucky determination in the face of adversity, our impetuous cycle of financial bubbles and busts, the fractious clash of ethnic populations competing for the same jobs and space. Today, amazingly, the trail is all but forgotten.

Rinker Buck is no stranger to grand adventures. “The New Yorker “described his first travel narrative, “Flight of Passage,” as “a funny, cocky gem of a book,” and with “The Oregon Trail “he seeks to bring the most important road in American history back to life. At once a majestic American journey, a significant work of history, and a personal saga reminiscent of bestsellers by Bill Bryson and Cheryl Strayed, the book tells the story of Buck’s 2,000-mile expedition across the plains with tremendous humor and heart. He was accompanied by three cantankerous mules, his boisterous brother, Nick, and an “incurably filthy” Jack Russell terrier named Olive Oyl.

Along the way, Buck dodges thunderstorms in Nebraska, chases his runaway mules across miles of Wyoming plains, scouts more than five hundred miles of nearly vanished trail on foot, crosses the Rockies, makes desperate fifty-mile forced marches for water, and repairs so many broken wheels and axels that he nearly reinvents the art of wagon travel itself. Apart from charting his own geographical and emotional adventure, Buck introduces readers to the evangelists, shysters, natives, trailblazers, and everyday dreamers who were among the first of the pioneers to make the journey west. With a rare narrative power, a refreshing candor about his own weakness and mistakes, and an extremely attractive obsession for history and travel, “The Oregon Trail” draws readers into the journey of a lifetime.

Book Details

Title: The Oregon Trail: A New American JourneyThe Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck
Author: Rinker Buck
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir / History
My Rating: 3 Stars

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Girl Meets Change by Kristen Strong

Girl Meets ChangeGirl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You through Life’s TransitionsGirl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You through Life's Transitions by Kristen Strong | Review by @SheilaRCraig by Kristen Strong

Relatable and encouraging. I enjoyed her writing style, which discusses her heart without being overrun with emotional appeals.

It’s very quick to read, and I appreciated how at one point she emphasized something along the lines that it’s not a competition, and just because something would be no big deal to someone else doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal to you – acknowledge what you’re experiencing.

I also really liked how she discussed change can still be difficult, even when it’s something welcome and hoped for. (Say, a new baby or great new job). I tend to expect myself to get back to normal immediately and need to remember to give myself grace when things have changed, especially when those changes were positives.

Recommended if it sounds appealing to you. It’s not a must read, but it’s worthwhile and I’m glad I read it.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Whether chosen or unexpected, all change brings stress. Kristen Strong knows about change–especially the kind you didn’t choose. Over the years, she’s fought hard to learn an important truth: change is not something to be feared but something to be received as a blessing from a God who works through it, not in spite of it.

In this hope-filled book, Kristen invites you to see all the ways you are loved and cared for in the midst of change. She walks alongside you as a friend, gently ushering you toward a new view of change, one that meets you at the crossroads of your own sense of anxiety and God’s sense of purpose. With practical advice for coping in every part of life, she draws from her own experiences, the stories of others, and stories from Scripture to help you find contentment, purpose, and renewed strength.

Book Details

Title: Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You through Life’s TransitionsGirl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You through Life's Transitions by Kristen Strong | Review by @SheilaRCraig
Author: Kristen Strong
Category: Nonfiction / Faith
My Rating: 4 Stars


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review, but was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links – thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!