Thursday, January 26, 2012

January 2012 Book List

1. One Call Away by Brenda Warner

Strong. It's the first word that comes to mind when I hear the name Brenda Warner. She's not just physically strong (farm girl, cheerleader, U.S. Marine, mother of 7), she's also emotionally strong and spiritually strong.

I first heard Brenda Warner, wife of former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner, speak at a Women of Faith conference in Dallas last August. I was impressed with what she had to say, and once I heard she had written this book, I knew I wanted to read it. As soon as I saw it in the new book section of my public library, I snatched it up. I was hooked before I got to the bottom of the first page, and I was captivated until the very end.

The continual thread of One Call Away is how certain instances in Brenda's life - often coming through phone calls - have changed her and helped shape her into the woman she is now. The book begins with her then-husband Neil calling her at work to tell her their 4-month old son isn't breathing right. She rushes home, then they rush him to a hospital. Her son Zack's brain is swelling for some unknown reason, and Neil keeps reiterating that "he just started breathing funny". Twenty-four hours and multiple tests later, Neil admits that he dropped Zack and accidentally hit his head on the side of the tub while bathing him. Then her nightmare gets worse...

Brenda then takes us back to her childhood and the first phone call that changed her life. From there, she leads us chronologically through her teen years; life in the Marines; marriage, betrayal, and divorce; raising two young children as a single mom; the sudden death of her parents; etc. Her life looks nothing like what she dreamed it would be, but instead of giving up and giving in, she does what she can to make the best of what she has. She learns to rely on God instead of others or herself.

I was brought to tears many times as I read. Some of the things she went through are things I have no experience with - and hope to never have to deal with. I connected with her story the most when she described what it was like to suffer a miscarriage. She felt some of the same emotions - dealt with some of the same inner turmoil - that I had dealt with. Even now, many years after the fact, she comforted and encouraged me.

I hate that I have to return this book to the library. This is definitely one to buy and keep on your shelf to read over and over again. Brenda Warner is an inspiration.

Click here to watch a clip of an interview with Brenda Warner about One Call Away.

2. Create Your Own Blog: 6 Easy Projects to Start Blogging Like a Pro by Tris Hussey

Although I've blogging for more than eight years now, I felt the need to read this book. Not only was I curious about how to make this blog better, I wanted to learn some tips on how to design a blog for my jewelry business.

This book is basically for beginners. The first four chapters explain what blogging is, detail the history of blogging, and lead the reader through the set-up process.

The next section is more of what I was interested in: types of blogs. While I didn't really learn anything I could use for my personal blog, I did learn some valuable tips for creating my jewelry blog. At first I was thinking I should consider it a business blog, which it is, but the tips in that section weren't applicable to me. The business blog chapter is more geared toward writing corporate blogs. Instead, my idea for my jewelry business blog falls more under his "Portfolio Blog for Artists" chapter. Once I get my jewelry blog up and running, I hope to incorporate Hussey's ideas to make my images pop on the screen - and to include writings about my processes, ideas, etc. - but without giving away my "trade secrets" or techniques.

In actuality, I only read about half this book. I skimmed parts I was already familiar with, and I skipped parts I wasn't interested in. Probably my biggest complaint about what I actually did read, though, is the author's bias toward WordPress. He mentions Blogger and other hosting sites briefly, but since he prefers WordPress, he doesn't do much to help those of us who choose to use something else.

Overall, I think it's a helpful book for people who are new to the blogging world and want some great tips for getting started. For a seasoned (though by no means professional) blogger like myself, I would look for something different.


Every so often I come across a few books that I just can't read, for whatever reason. I've had two of those this month already!

1. I Didn't Ask to Be Born (But I'm Glad I Was) by Bill Cosby

The first chapter was funny. It was based on a YouTube video clip of You Bet Your Life, featuring a lady who was trying to explain to him where North, South Carolina was. I saw that just a few weeks ago, so it was fresh in my mind and made the retelling funnier. The second chapter wasn't quite as funny, and it made me realize I'd rather watch/listen to Billy Cosby than read his book.

2. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

I really wanted to read this - something to help me get better organized this year. After the first page, I started skimming and looking ahead to see if it got better. It didn't. I dropped it in the return slot of the library on my way out the door. I'll have to see if I can find something else like it, just more interesting.

3. Food Network Star: The Official Insider's Guide to America's Hottest Food Show by Ian Jackman

This isn't so much a reading book as it is a remembering book - if you've followed the show. The book is broken down by season, with each chapter highlighting the contestants, their experiences on the show, and some of their recipes.

Having seen the first six seasons, I was familiar with the contestants throughout most of the book, so I just skimmed it. It was good for jogging my memory about certain contestants and for finding some interesting recipes to try.

The chapter about the seventh season was brief, as the show hadn't been completely edited when the book went to press. I think I would have either waited or left it out altogether. I wasn't particularly interested in seeing the contestants but not knowing much about them. That may also have something to do with the fact that we no longer have cable TV, and that was why I missed watching season seven... Still, it seemed like a weak way to end the book.

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