Mar 26, 2015

March: [5] book reviews




Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Novel 
Helen Simonson

Major Ernest Pettigrew is a retired man living in the small, picturesque English village of Edgecombe St. Mary. When the reader meets him, he has just heard about his brother's death. He is weak with grief and almost faints if not for the perfect timing of the town's shop owner, Mrs. Ali, coming to deliver some purchases and helping him get some rest. This encounter sets the stage for the budding friendship of the Major and Mrs. Ali, both widowed. But with her Pakistan heritage and lowly shopkeeper job, this friendship has a few bumps in store.

Everyone has an opinion in Edgecombe St. Mary, whether it's Major's adult son, who lives a glamourous life in London and contacts his dad only for financial or social gain; his deceased brother's wife, who is trying to sell a precious family heirloom to fund a cruise vacation; the village people who each have their own agenda; or the new American millionaire who is befriending Major in hopes of acquiring the much-desired family heirloom (a pair of guns). What ensues is sometimes hilarious (some of the villagers are ridiculously funny) and other times aggravating (some of the villagers are inconsiderate, selfish, and mean).

I had mixed feelings about Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. Major and Mrs. Ali are both sarcastic, witty, and wise. But they both tend to get stepped on quite often by those in the village and their own families. I wanted to say a few words to certain characters and I kept thinking, "When are you going to tell her/him off, Major/Mrs. Ali?" which may go to show my own character flaws, but in some cases I just had to put the book down because I was so annoyed with the characters. Overall, though, it was an interesting read and enjoyable to peek into the this village as if I was a passerby peering into the daily lives of the villagers.
________________________

The Total Money Makeover 
Dave Ramsey

I heard many extended family members and friends sing praises about The Total Money Makeover, but it seemed complicated and unrealistic to me. Paying large things (like cars) off in cash? What?! But when my cousin gave me the book for free (she bought several copies to give to people because she loved it so much), I accepted it. It took me me about 7 months to pick it up, but I am so glad I finally did!

The Total Money Makeover is a revolutionary way to think about finances. It is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Rather, it takes years and years to go through the seven steps presented in the book. It is practical and the principles are relatively easy to understand -- even for a financially illiterate person such as myself.

Before presenting the seven steps to financial freedom, Dave Ramsey lays some groundwork. He tackles some myths about debt and money, explains how ignorance and a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses attitude is dangerous, and explains the folly of being in denial of the devastating affects that debt can have on a person. He then introduces the steps:
  1. Save $1,000 fast (within a month, ideally) as an Emergency Fund.
  2. Tackle smallest to greatest debt with the Debt Snowball (paying the largest amount possible on the smallest debt first and then making your way up the other debt as you pay one off at a time. Other debt should be paid at the lowest amount possible so that all your attention can be focused. This step takes iron grit and intensity. Budgeting, selling things to make money, and limiting unnecessary expenses dramatically are all pivotal to paying off debt. His goal is around 2 years but may take shorter or longer for each person).
  3. Once debt is paid off, add on the Emergency Fund until you have enough to live on for 3-6 months in the event that you get fired from a job, sick, or any other unexpected life event occurs.
  4. Invest in retirement through growth-stock mutual funds that have impressive 5-10 year track records and Roth IRA (which grows tax-free). 
  5. Save for college funding with Educational Savings Accunt (ESA) that is funded in growth-stock mutual funding and averages around 12% (grows tax-free when used for college funding). Avoid prepaid college tuition, savings bonds, baby life insurance, or with a simple savings account because the percentage of return is not enough to make a difference with the growing college tuition.
  6. Pay off the mortgage on your home in 15 years (rather than the traditional 30). Avoid Adjustable Rate Mortgages and "balloon" mortgages because of increasing interest rates. 
  7. By this step, there is no debt, the Emergency Fund is funded, retirement and college funding is on its way to a great investment, and the house is totally paid off. Wow! It's not time to lose steam, but rather, to continue to build wealth as well as enjoying some fun and generously giving financially (though this should be done throughout all seven steps but will be considerably increased during this step). Enjoying and sharing the blessings you've received while not becoming entrenched in materialism. 
It sounds a bit crazy, but according to tends of real-life stories throughout the book (as well as thousands more who attest to Dave's methods), it works. And I figure, hey, if I managed to get through a book on finances and not wilt away or freeze from fear, I can get a bit more crazy and actually start the Total Money Makeover journey. It may be slower than others, but I am determined to kick debt it the boot-ay!

________________________

Mended: Pieces of A Life Made Whole
Angie Smith

Mended is a beautifully written book of redemption found in Jesus in the midst of feeling broken and shattered by fears, circumstances, and past hurt. Angie Smith writes from the depths of pain and joy, intermingled by God's grace. She uses everyday events to display Biblical truths (while also adding in a bit of her quirky wit).

Angie uses the analogy of a broken pitcher to frame her book, with the purpose of showing that God is magnified in the broken pieces and is visible in between the cracks that we often feel are useless, shameful, or disqualify us. Instead, He uses those broken areas to mend us because of His unfailing love for us.

Mended can be read as a 31- day devotional with action steps at the end of chapter. Adapted from Angie's blog, the chapters each look at different areas of brokenness that threatens to steal our joy and peace. Areas addressed include contentment, comparison, resting in God's unfailing love, the childlike joy of anticipation, surrender, God's presence and sovereignty.

Angie's honest (and witty!) style gripped my heart, especially as she shared some of the most heartbreaking seasons of her life, such as giving birth to a baby girl she knew would only survive for a few hours because she was born with severe birth defects. I will go back to this book often for encouragement and to be pointed to Jesus through the seasons from brokenness to being mended again (and every season in between!).

________________________

The House Girl
Tara Conklin

The House Girl is a fictional account of a house slave named Josephine and her journey towards freedom. Written in the voices of both Josephine (in 1852) and a modern-day New York lawyer named Lina who discovers secrets surrounding Josephine, it is full of suspense and heartbreak.

Josephine is a house slave and nurse for her invalid mistress, Lu Anne Bell, who is an artist and teaches Josephine the art of painting. The Bell household is filled with artwork by both women, though no one knows of Josephine's talent except for Lu Anne. After years of servitude and abuse, Josephine decides to run, leaving a faint trail behind her . . .

Lina is an aspiring lawyer who learns about Josephine because of a historic class-action lawsuit for financial reparations for descendent of American slaves. Her own personal life much of a mystery, Lina grapples with new discoveries about her own history at the same time as she discovers the controversy surrounding Josephine as evidence arises that well-known artwork attributed to Lu Anne Belle could actually be Josephine's masterpieces.

I enjoyed The House Girl's suspenseful narrative and thought it was well-written. Set in the backdrop of Virginia in a time brimming with racism and hate, it was heartbreaking to read of the many ways African American slaves were mistreated and abused. Conklin has obviously done a lot of research to bring lifeblood to the characters of her book and depict what life in the South was like.

________________________

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew
C.S. Lewis

One of my reading goals this year is to read all of the Narnia books. I've watched the movies and read part of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when I was younger, but never fully read any of the others. So I decided to start with The Magician's Nephew, which gave a lot of background on Narnia itself. 

Digory and Polly are new friends who are neighbors in London and find themselves hurled into another world by the scheming of Digory's uncle, a magician. What -- and who -- they find in this new land opens the door to both a scary and awe-inspiring adventure into what is eventually called Narnia. 

I LOVED the story! Even when writing to children, Lewis still maintains his wit and literary genius. The characters are masterfully created, and to top it off, I listened to the whole book in audiobook format, and the narrator was incredibly good at creating different voices. I literally laughed out loud when he narrated conversations between animals in Narnia! One animal sounded like Kermit the Frog while another had an Irish accent, and others sounded just as awesome. Hurray for libraries that carry audiobooks!


What books have you been reading this Month? Have you read any of these books before, and if so, how did you like them?

2 comments:

  1. I loved reading your reviews!!!! I've been undecided about Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, so that review was especially helpful! Now I feel like I have an idea about what it's about and also what to expect. :)

    I read The House Girl last fall and I'm still thinking about nearly six months later! It really was well done, wasn't it?

    I didn't do very much reading in March...I finished Maisie Dobbs and really enjoyed it. I'll be back for more books in that series for sure! I'm finally getting around to The Book Thief, which I'm confident will be super! Oh...I also finished By Your Side by Candace Calvert. It was a medical drama (a new genre for me) and I really enjoyed it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Victoria!! I like reading your goodreads reviews too! I really want to read All The Light We Cannot See, especially after your glowing review!
      I am glad my Major Pettigrew review helped you! I wanted to jump into the English countryside setting. So dreamy!
      Yes, The House Girl was really well done! So many twists and turns!!
      I had not heard of Maisie Dobbs until I saw it on your GR. I'll have to look into the series! The Book Thief was a pretty good movie, but I am sure the book is even better. And I used to love medical drama as a teen reading Lurlene McDaniel's teen romance-faith-medical dramas. Depressing but several of them were part of the inspiration for me to get into the medical field --- or atleast to have an interest in it.

      Delete

I love to hear your thoughts!

Elle Alice