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My 1ST BOOK CLUB! & Book Review: “Sensible Shoes,” by Sharon Garlough Brown

16204594Genre: Christian fiction

Plot Summary: [from goodreads.com:] “Sharon Garlough Brown tells the moving story of four strangers as they embark together on a journey of spiritual formation: Hannah, a pastor who doesn’t realize how exhausted she is. Meg, a widow and recent empty-nester who is haunted by her past. Mara, a woman who has experienced a lifetime of rejection and is now trying to navigate a difficult marriage. Charissa, a hard-working graduate student who wants to get things right. You’re invited to join these four women as they reluctantly arrive at a retreat center and find themselves drawn out of their separate stories of isolation and struggle and into a collective journey of spiritual practice, mutual support and personal revelation. Along the way, readers will be taken into a new understanding of key spiritual practices and find tangible support for the deeper life with God.”

My Book Review: I first heard of this book on Midday Connection, where it was once recommended for one of their on-air book clubs.  It never really seemed to appeal to me as far as reading genres go.  No excitement, no adventure, intrigue, etc.  But a lady from my church whom I highly respect and who is also in charge of our women’s ministry had an inspired idea to start a women’s book club throughout the summer with this book for discussion.  It turns out, she personally knew the author Sharon Garlough Brown, and contacted her about visiting our church in October around the time the third in the Sensible Shoe trilogy was released.  Well, how could I pass on something this neat?  I signed up for the book club discussions, and got a copy of the book.

The book’s publisher, IVP, is not in the habit of printing fiction books. Their attention is directed toward non fiction (usually in the contemplative genre) that help people grow in their spiritual walk.  But when Brown approached them with her manuscript, they decided to change their rules for once and publish it.  They felt strongly that even though it was fiction, it taught great spiritual disciplines.  Through the emotional medium of fictional characters, biblical truth can be effectively taught in a way non fiction can’t.  This is what has meant so much to fans of the Sensible Shoes club.  Truth climbs in the back door of our heart and helps us see that we truly are God’s beloved and we long to walk more closely with Him, overcoming the walls and barriers that have closed off life for so long.

At first, I had a hard time getting into the story.  It still wasn’t my thing.  It was well written, but just not exciting.  One of the main reasons I had joined was because I knew that the topic of contemplative Christianity would be brought up, and I wanted to learn more about it.  I had come to the right place.  The four female characters in the book—Mara, Charissa, Meg, and Hannah—meet one another at a spiritual retreat center, where a wise spiritual director introduces them to disciplines that help them grow in their walk with the Lord.

a71db3c4fc05f755450487872d6e06fdThere are probably some of you reading this review and already the hackles have gone on the back of your neck. You’ve heard about this strange “pagan form of New Age religion” called contemplative Christianity and you’re scared to death.  I’m glad the author addresses those concerns in her book.  It takes a mind fully bent on discerning truth under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and not someone who gets creeped out because of something new or outside of the comfortable box to embrace this book.

90 women showed up at our church to begin the book club discussions. Even our pastor picked it up to read and got into it.  We split the book up into 3 chapters at a time and got together in smaller groups at a local log cabin retreat center (WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE!).  We talked about the characters and how we identified or didn’t identify with them, and also about the spiritual disciplines taught along the way, and what God was teaching us through them.  It was my first time being a part of a book club, and I really enjoyed the conversations.

As far as the story itself went, I finally started to get more into it around 2/3 of the way through. The plot gained some suspense and I wanted to know what happened next.  I would probably say I identified the most with the character Hannah, though not in the way some in my group supposed I did.  I knew God was wanting me to dig through some stuff I kept on wanting to shove under the rug.  I would like to go back through the book again and incorporate the spiritual disciplines into my routine.  It’s definitely something I want to explore more deeply.

004October came and we had our big shebang at the end of the bookclub. when Sharon Garlough Brown came to visit our church. Unfortunately, the even started at 9:00 in the morning.  Um, no.  I don’t do mornings well.  I got myself around the earliest as best I could and arrived an hour and a half late, but was able to sit in on the last half hour of her lecture.  Amazingly, it was exactly at that spot in her speech that I needed to hear.  She was talking on Romans 8:31-39 and it was like it was just for me!  I took lots of notes.

We broke for lunch and reconvened later for music worship and then Sharon came on stage again to talk, mainly about her inspiration and background for writing the book. Then it was Q & A time and giveaway time.  At the end of the afternoon, Sharon sat at a little card table with a flower in a vase and we lined up to get our copies autographed by her.  That was so much fun!  I even got my picture taken with her, but I don’t post my pic on the net.  I’ll just post the one I took of her signing books.

Sharon Brown was a lovely person to meet, and such a regular-body, too. I found a video of her promoting her series, and more can be found on Youtube:

It seems these books are the type of thing you read and pass on to someone else, and they spread and grow among friends. I even recommended it to my uncle!  I lent mine to another friend who appreciated it, but also said she felt like the problems the characters dealt with were gotten over ‘too quickly.’ She has a point– there are usually no quick fixes in life.  But at the same time, a story arch has to fit within a certain page structure.  Then too, there are two more in the series, so who knows what will occur in the next segment of their journey?

This is a highly recommended novel, because of how it causes one to examine their heart with God at the helm. If this scares you, I encourage you to give it a try in small parts anyway.  A book won’t bite, and it gives the brain something to chew on.

Did you love this book? Why or why not?

I would also recommend:

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2018 in Book Reviews

 

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Miss Midday? New Book Club!

If you’re like me, you’ve been continuing to miss the Dr. Rosalie de Rosset classic book club on the former Moody program Midday Connection, along with the book club that hosts Anita Lustrea and Lori Neff began.  I keep coming in contact with other people on social media who long for it back again as well.  I have good news!  Anita and Lori have begun a new book club again on Anita’s podcast, “Faith Conversations.”  Lori Neff is now in the publishing industry with IVP, and a great one for book suggestions.  I am so pleased to have a new program to listen to!  Their first book club pick is: “When Mockingbirds Sing,” by Billy Coffey.  They will be discussing the read in a later podcast.  Check it out!

 
 

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Book Review: “Misery Loves Company,” by Rene Gutteridge

16923852Genre: Christian Inspirational fiction; contemporary; mystery

Plot Summary: Jules Belleno has lived alone since the shooting of her police officer husband two years ago.  Shut off from everyone and everything, her only involvement with the outer world is her through her social media where she posts book reviews, especially of books by her favorite author Patrick Reagan.  But then Jules goes missing, and no one seems to know where or why.  Does Reagan have anything to do with it?  Who will care enough to search for her before it’s too late?

My Book Review: I don’t usually read mysteries, but this one wasn’t a typical brooding murder and the plot sounded original.  Plus, the book cover art was so enticing I couldn’t pass it up!  It was the type of book you’d want to ‘curl up with,’ especially since Jules is held hostage at an idyllic mountain cabin getaway.

It’s hard to write a book review of a mystery that’s about a book review blogger who is kidnapped because of an unfavorable review of a mystery.  ????  (So if I go missing…  Just sayin’…:) )

The story started off well and really gripped me.  “Don’t tell me it’s terrifying.  Terrify me,” Jules writes in her book review post of Patrick Reagan’s latest work of fiction.  It looks like she gets exactly what she wished for.  But I started feeling too sympathetic with the kidnapper too quickly, and right away the story lost its tension.  I wasn’t scared anymore.  Trust me to develop Stockholm Syndrome.  By the way, was I the only one who felt a little romantic tension going on between Reagan and Jules?  Or was that sick?

I’m not sure I understood crucial parts of it, like why Jules was kidnapped in the first place (which is sort of disappointing when that’s the whole story right there).  I mean, I was told several different reasons, but none of them seemed to make sense to me and I felt confused.  Was it a writing lesson, insanity, a man going through the process of grief, or was it all for her own protection?

Don’t get me wrong, the book made for some good entertainment and I’m sure there are many who will enjoy it if they love mysteries all the way around.  I don’t like gorey, brooding, intense murders, so this was a much easier mystery for me to handle.  I felt the descriptions were very good, as I was easily able to picture the settings and people in vivid detail in my mind.  The character of Reagan especially looked so real to me in my imagination…  He was a dead ringer for Alan Rickman!

Alan Rickman as Patrick Reagan??

Alan Rickman as Patrick Reagan?

You can listen to the complete first chapter of “Misery Loves Company” below:

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2015 in Book Reviews

 

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Missing Midday Connection…

b0d4dfced73409aed97fc65214ee2f06Today I was shocked to learn that my favorite Moody Radio program, Midday Connection, is being cancelled and will air for the last time on Friday, Sept. 18. I certainly am one of the many listeners who I’m sure are grieving right now. It might sound sort of funny to grieve over the loss of a radio show. Midday Connection has been around for 20+ years, and I know that it has been a major player in shaping how I think about life and all things spiritual.

Midday, through their hosts Melinda Schmidt, Anita Lustrea, and Lori Neff, along with their many wonderful guests over the years have taught me so many things. Through listening to their in-depth, intellectual conversations, I’ve learned to look at things from a different angle, get perspective, grow spiritually, learn to love God more, learn to think critically, and form my own theologies in living daily life. I know God has used this show to teach me so many spiritual skills that I don’t know where I’d be without today. I’ve often felt their programs were like a college course or therapy session I could always use.

9382abe23d27b8a2752dec0eab9ae1d3Through the magic of audio, one has a sense of being in close relationship with another, even though they’d never met. When I sat down at my computer with my headphones and listened to Anita or Melinda, I felt like they were familiar friends.  I’ve also had the honor of Lori Neff commenting on this blog! 🙂

I know the YouPick and WePick book clubs will be greatly missed on booklearned, along with Dr. Rosalie de Rosset’s great talks that always hit the mark. Many’s the time I’ve pumped my fist in the air and cheered to hear someone say something so right with such certainty and passion. (Love her! She needs her own podcast.)

You can listen to the original announcement made by Collin Lambert on the show last Thursday by clicking here.  Rosalie de Rosset was a guest on that program, talking about the book, “East of Eden,” by John Steinbeck, literature in general, plus several other good books she recommended.

 

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2015 in Midday Connection Book Club

 

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Midday Book Club: “Christy”

91128d2f2cdf519bc50da694b3aaaf06Hi there!  Hope you’re all having a wonderful summer!  If you’re looking for a perfect summer read, I’ll suggest one of my top all-time favorites: “Christy,” by Catherine Marshall.  This is one of the few books I’ve re-read and got more out of the second time around.  Many people have been impacted by the semi-biographical story of Christy Huddleston (based on the author’s mother), who travels to the Great Smoky Mountains pre-WWI era to teach school to the poverty-stricken community of Cutter Gap.

This is a rerun episode of the Midday Connection WePick Book Club, but I don’t believe I’ve ever posted it on here, so you can listen for a limited time (up to a year post air-date) by clicking here.  Enjoy!

 
 

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Lookin’ for a Book?

158ec7a29da520fabd9b3a58075b7099What are you reading?  That was the discussion of the day on Midday Connection’s program of Jul 20.  I listened to it under past programs (which you can do as well by clicking here and listening for free for up to a year after airdate).  Excited readers phoned in to talk about their current books,– fiction or non fiction, good or bad.  If you’re looking for your next summer read, you may just pick up some good titles to jot down on for your next trip to the library!

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Midday Book Club: “How Sweet the Sound”

17623511The new YouPick Book Club aired today and will be available for free for up to a year after airdate.  This time around, the discussion is on the fiction novel, “How Sweet the Sound,” by Amy Sorrells. It sounds like it’s on some heavy topics but Midday always has good, deep conversations!

There is no poll to vote for the next book club book, only some summer recommendations from the hosts of Midday Connection:

 

 
 

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