Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book #38: LibraryLove August 15, 2010

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkaupf

Book description~ It happens quietly one August morning. As dawn’s shimmering light drenches the humid Iowa air, two families wake to find their little girls have gone missing in the night.  Seven-year-old Calli Clark is sweet, gentle, a dreamer who suffers from selective mutism brought on by a tragedy that pulled her deep into silence as a toddler. Calli’s mother, Antonia, tried to be the best mother she could within the confines of marriage to a mostly absent, often angry husband. Now, though she denies that her husband could be involved in the possible abductions, she fears her decision to stay in her marriage has cost her more than her daughter’s voice. Petra Gregory is Calli’s best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra nor Calli has been heard from since their disappearance was discovered. Desperate to find his child, Martin Gregory is forced to confront a side of himself he did not know existed beneath his intellectual, professorial demeanor. Now these families are tied by the question of what happened to their children. And the answer is trapped in the silence of unspoken family secrets.

As if being a mother didn’t already leave you with constant worry. Now you’re daughter is missing and was taken from the comforts of her bed. In your house. In the middle of the night. Oh wait. And by the way- your daughter is a selective mute who has not spoken since tragedy struck her as a toddler. This is the premise for Gudenkauf’s page-turning novel The Weight of Silence. We are along for a suspenseful thrill ride that I would compare to The Lovely Bones and Memory Keeper’s Daughter not in terms of plot, but the tone of the novel.

Silence was narrated by Antonia (Calli’s mother), Louis (detective), Martin (Petra’s father) , Petra (Calli’s best friend) and Ben (Calli’s brother) in first person narrative where Calli’s voice (the main character) is told in the third person. This was an extremely smart and strategic move on Gudenkaupf’s part and I absolutely loved her use of this technique, where if you remember, I criticized it in my earlier review of Heart of the Matter.

Calli, 7, is a selective mute. Calli has not spoken since she was four years old. Calli’s character would not have been anywhere near as magnetic to me if I knew what she was thinking/feeling. Instead, we rely on her best friend, kindred spirit, and “voice”, Petra, who also goes missing that fateful night from her own bed, to fill in the blanks.

“I am thinking that I should have put up posters the day Calli lost her voice. Missing it would say, Calli Clark’s beautiful voice. Four years old but sounds much older, has a very advanced vocabulary, last heard on December 19th, right after her mother fell down the stairs; please call with any information regarding its whereabouts, REWARD.”

Under normal circumstances, I probably would have criticized Gudenkaupf right away too, for how she develops the rising action so slowly, only giving the reader 1-3 pages per character/chapter before it switched to someone else’s voice. I compare it to listening to the radio on SCAN mode; just getting into a song and then it switches to the next station. Gudenkaupf also spent a lot of time on the backstories/love triangle between  Antonia, Louis and Griff (Calli’s father) when as the reader, I wanted nothing more than to stick with Calli, Petra and Ben’s stories. However, I feel as though Gudenkaupf’s goal was to do just that- frustrate the reader. Why would an author WANT to frustrate the reader you say? As a literary device.  How do you think you’d feel if for the last three years you’ve not been able to utter a single word. How frustrated would you be? Gudenkaupf wants to frustrate the reader, igniting a passion to find out what happens next. It successfully allowed me to really connect and relate to what Petra and Calli were going through in the woods, and feel the agony the family was going through during the search, in the moment, for that particular character. If the reader were let inside Calli’s head, there’d have been no element of uncertainty which every good suspense novel needs! I just love Gudenkaupf’s literary choices in this novel and think it really made me want to keep reading and turn the page.

“I see your lips begin to arrange themselves and I know, I know. I see the word form, the syllables hardening and sliding from your mouth with no effort. Your voice, not unsure or hoarse from lack of use but clear and bold.  One word, the first in three years. In an instant I have you in my arms and I am crying, tears dropping from many emotions, mostly thankfulness and relief, but tears of sorrow mixed in. I see Petra’s father crumble. Your chosen word doesn’t make sense to me. But it doesn’t matter, I don’t care. You have finally spoken.”

I enjoyed this book selected by one of my book club babes for discussion later this month. I’m really looking forward to hearing the opinions of our group and you as well, if you decide to pick it up.

If you want a suspenseful and quick read, I definitely recommend this book.

“My own silent little girl is even more of a mystery to me. The way she likes her hair combed smooth after a bath, the joy she has in inspecting her nails after I have inexpertly painted them. Having a little girl has been like following an old treasure map with the important paths torn away”.

4/5 stars

38 down, 14 to go!

In progress, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake




Book #28: Fabookulous August 12, 2010

Get Out of That Pit by Beth Moore
Straight Talk about God’s Deliverance

Book description: From her first breath of fresh air beyond the pit, it has never been enough for Beth Moore to be free. This author and teacher who’s opened the riches of Scripture to millions has longed for you to be free as well. To know the Love and Presence that are better than life- and the power of God’s Word that defies all darkness.

Her journey out of the pit has been heart-rending. But from this and the poetic expressions of Psalm 40 has come the reward: a new song for her soul- given by her Savior and offered to you here, friend to friend. It is Beth’s most stirring message yet of the sheer hope, utter deliverance…and complete and glorious freedom of God:

I waited patiently for the Lord
He turned to me and heard my cry
He lifted me out of the slimy pit
He set my feet on a rock
He put a new song in my mouth

It is a story, a song- a salvation- that you can know too.

Goodness knows we’ve all been in pits before and wondered how we get ourselves out of them. This message is certainly good and helpful in times like those. I didn’t pick this book up now because I’m currently struggling in a pit, rather I love Beth Moore’s teaching (and if you’ve been following this blog, are well aware of that fact) and I had this in my pile at home. Time to get through these books and either swap them on PaperBackSwap or give away to those who want to read them. I don’t keep books around because (as I once heard in a movie), “I like to lighten my load.”

Anyway, this is probably one of my favorite Beth Moore books yet. Despite the fact that I couldn’t necessarily relate at this season in my life, her teaching is clear, and this is also probably the most entertaining book of hers to read. Her husband, Keith, who she references often and is madly in love with, authors the Foreword of the book. They are such an adorable couple and I love how contagious their faith and beliefs are!

Beth teaches there are three ways we find ourselves in pits: We are thrown in (think: young child gets abused by a parent), we slip in when we are distracted (think: someone who just wants to watch their weight and then find themselves dealing with a serious eating disorder), and we jump into a pit knowing we shouldn’t be there (think: someone who wanted to have an affair or someone who wanted to steal that money). Of course there are tons and tons of other examples, and we’ve probably all been in pits through all of these methods- albeit different types of pits. We just can’t help ourselves. We’re human and we make mistakes regularly.

Several though-provoking points stuck out throughout this book:

  • When we won’t forgive, the people we often want to be around least because they’ve hurt us so badly are the very people we take with us emotionally everywhere we go.
  • Remember, God’s pursuit is relationship. Confession is one way we talk back after He speaks. He initiates conversation through conviction, and we answer back  through confession.
  • Without Jesus, history reads just like prophecy.
  • Smooth living invariably, eventually, makes for sloppy spirituality.
  • No family is perfect, and perhaps none less so than the one that tries to convince us it is.
  • Our hearts and minds still need considerable healing as long as somewhere deep inside we still associate fun with sin.

Those are just a few nuggets in this book filled with biblically sound teaching and instruction on how to protect ourselves from falling into a pit. God is always there ready to deliver us if only we seek Him and ask. This was brilliantly written, Beth’s humble attitude and willingness to share her trials to help others grow is endearing, and I highly recommend this book!

5/5 stars, without a doubt!

Happy Reading,


Book #27: Fabookulous August 8, 2010

Who Do I Lean On? by Neta Jackson
Book #3: Yada Yada House of Hope Series

Book description: Just months after her husband threw her out of their penthouse and sent their two sons away, Gabrielle Fairbanks is finally getting back on her feet. She has a job she loves at the homeless shelter, an apartment for her and the boys, caring friends, and even a new love interest. Best of all, an unexpected windfall has given her a brand-new dream- a House of Hope for homeless mothers and their children.

Piece by piece, Gabby’s new life is coming together- but the old one keeps dragging her back. First her husband Philip hints at a reconciliation…then hits her up for a loan to pay his gambling debts. And when Gabby tells him no, he makes a desperate move that puts them all in harm’s way. How can she even think of embarking on a new venture when so much is up in the air?

Gabby is realizing that she needs something far greater than her own strength or even that of her friends. That to move forward, she must first lean on the only One who knows what the future holds.

Having anxiously awaited this third installment in Neta Jackson’s House of Hope series, I couldn’t wait to see what happened with Gabby and her boys. Who Do I Lean On? did not disappoint at all! In fact, this was my favorite book in the series yet! Last year I read the first two books, Where Do I Go? and Who Do I Talk To? of Neta Jackson’s new series. Jackson is also the best-selling author of the Yada Yada Prayer Group series, which I hope to get through someday too (so many books, so little time…)

What was refreshing about these books is that they are set in Chicago. Seems simple, but I had discovered these books after reading Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin (both of whom I love!) but most of their novels are set in New York City. After a while, the same city gets bored and a reader wants to read about a new location! So I very much welcomed the Chicago scenes. (And as it would be, I’ll be traveling to Chicago for the first time- albeit for business- in just two weeks!)

I loved reading where Gabby is now after learning how to piece her life back together. I feel this book moved at a perfect pace, introducing new situations and scenarios and keeping the reader’s interest the entire time. Gabby’s faith is definitely stronger in this novel, as she learns to trust God more with her life and decisions. Funny how the tables turn when Philip asks her for a loan. It’s obvious how Gabby has grown as a woman and Christian based on how she handles that situation. Looking back, she was really all over the place in the first novel (who wouldn’t be, given the plot line) but she is absolutely more together in Who Do I Lean On? and it’s easy to root for her.

Jackson wraps this one up nicely as she prepares readers for the finale, Who Is My Shelter?, coming March 2011. While it’s exciting to see how it will end, it will be sad to say goodbye. This is the first “series” of books I’ve read, and with the exception of Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, my first experience with Christian fiction novels. Neta Jackson develops her characters in a way that makes you feel comfortable from the very first page. I would love to see this series turned into a movie because I can just picture the Manna House and the new Shepherds Fold recreational room! It’s been a fun journey with these characters.

Gabby is much more “likable” this time around as she is finding her independence and holding her head high. This one can definitely make you think. When the rug is completely pulled out from under you, it’s important to turn to the One that knows everything about you (Psalm 139) and knows what the future holds. This series is a fantastic reminder of those things, and I really have enjoyed the fictional stories with the Christian theme. Jackson is an engaging, inspiring, and creative author who keeps readers coming back for more. (No wonder the Yada Yada Prayer Group series is on book #7!) 🙂 While it might be anti-climactic to read that series now (some characters from that series make appearances in the House of Hope series), I still want to read them. And the good part is I won’t have to wait several months for the next one!

If you like Christian fiction, I’d recommend this book. And even if you don’t like Christian fiction, but like an inspiring read with characters that will feel like your extended family, I recommend the House of Hope series. And if you read the first three books before March, we can all read the finale together! 🙂 Happy reading all!

5/5 stars!



Book #26: Fabookulous August 1, 2010

The Richest Man In Babylon by George S. Clason

Book description:
Beloved by millions, this timeless classic holds the key to all you desire and everything you wish to accomplish. This is the book that reveals the secret to personal wealth.

Countless readers have been helped by the famous “Babylonian parables,” hailed as the greatest of all inspirational works on the subject of thrift, financial planning, and personal wealth. In language as simple as that found in the Bible, these fascinating and informative stories set you on a sure path to prosperity and its accompanying joys. Acclaimed as a modern-day classic, this celebrated bestseller offers an understanding of- and a solution to- your personal financial problems that will guide you through a lifetime. This is the book that holds the secrets to acquiring money, keeping money, and making money earn more money.

I heard about The Richest Man In Babylon from Dave Ramsey. A few years ago, I read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and ever since, Dave has been my go-to financial advice guru. His advice is intelligent, in line with biblical teachings, and has proven results in maintaining a debt-free lifestyle and building wealth. In one of Dave’s podcasts, I heard him mention The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason.

This is a very quick read and a book full of wisdom and advice for all of your financial questions. None of it will surprise you- it’s a lot of common sense. But the stories in the parables make the book so interesting. Must be that practical application that helps illustrate the moral of the story.

Most people know what they need to do to create and maintain wealth, but we live in a society where we spend money we don’t have to buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t even like. (Paraphrased Dave Ramsey quote.) In an effort to keep up with the Joneses and afford ourselves all the luxuries and conveniences life has to offer, we find ourselves confused when debt piles up and we can’t pay the monthly expenses. We must not kid ourselves into thinking we do not need a financial advisor, teacher, or aid. That which we educate ourselves in is where we will excel. We should all consider reading one book a year regarding money and finances, or attend a seminar, or listen to a podcast of someone with principles you trust and believe in. In tough economic times such as these, this is more important than ever.

Divided into ten Babylonian parables, this quick read offers practical guidance and food for thought. Among the advice found here, are the following take-aways:

  • A Part of All You Earn is Yours to Keep
  • Men of Action are Favored by the Goddess of Good Luck
  • Better a Little Caution than a Great Regret
  • We Cannot Afford to Be Without Adequate Protection
  • Where The Determination is, the Way Can Be Found

This book can be read in one sitting if you had the time to set aside. I’ve suggested this to our small group as recommended reading. I recommend this book to everyone as practical wisdom regarding your finances. We can all use little reminders from time to time.

4.5/5 stars

Happy Reading,