As Long as Good Books Exist…

books vs. broom

Welcome, Modern Mrs. Darcy readers! I’m so glad you came to visit. If you stood at my actual front door, I’d invite you in (it’s cold out there!) – but I’d also cringe as you caught sight of my So Very Dirty floors.

I’d say it’s not always like that but, well, IT IS.

Since you’re here now and we’ve gotten that awkward conversation out of the way, I’ll also tell you not to bother looking around for my bookshelves. If I had any (other than the kids’) in the house, I’d be happy to let you sneak a peek at their contents. But sadly, bookshelves were a casualty in the Deep Cleaning & Decluttering Extravaganze of ’13. Oh, how I miss them, though. Anne’s bookshelf posts have left me with SERIOUS bookshelf envy!

You’re welcome to flip open my Kindle Fire, though – or rifle through the piles of books on my nightstand or in my dresser or the backseat of my car or in the garage on top of the deep freeze.

I’m about as good at staying decluttered as I am at cleaning my floors.

If you’re simply looking for more info about this blog, check out my About Page. Or, if you’d prefer, enjoy these posts about reading, books, libraries and other wonderful things of life:

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Also…are you planning a Superbowl party? (Or book club kickoff or Valentine’s Day class party?) If so, you might like my ebook, Plan a Fabulous Party {without losing your mind}. And in case you need a cheesy, spicy appetizer to take to one of those parties, don’t miss my Jalapeno Popper Dip!

P.S. If you missed my post on Modern Mrs. Darcy, click over and read about my not-so-secret love affair with “fluffy” fiction!

What I’m Into :: September 2013

Is it possible? Have I truly not taken a SINGLE PHOTO in the last month? Um, yeah. It is. It’s possible and it’s horrible!

Apparently, in the stress and busy-ness that’s been our summer and early fall, I’ve completely abandoned my camera. What am I going to put in my annual photobook? What will I put on our Christmas cards? How will I start my What I’m Into posts?!

Well, I guess that last one’s simple. I’ll just use a fall-ish pic from last year. As Annalyn has taken to saying, easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

But apparently what I’m going to be into moving forward is picking up my camera again!! (You wait here while I go searching for a Photo a Day schedule…) (I kid. Of course. I already found one. Here you go.)

ANYWAY. Let’s talk about what we read, watched, ate and listened to this month! I don’t have a long list for any category, but I’ll share what I have. Then, please, tell us what YOU’ve been up to this month in the comments!

What I’m Reading

Opening the Door to Your God-Sized Dream: 40 Days of Encouragement for Your Heart by Holley Gerth: This devotional is based on Holley’s latest book about God-sized dreams, and it’s fantastic. I haven’t read it as it’s designed (40 days in a row), but every few days I pick it up as I eat breakfast. And reading the sweet, challenging encouragement from Holley is just what I need to keep plugging along on the baby steps I’m taking toward my own God-sized dreams.

Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung: He’s not kidding. This book is really short, which I love. And which makes sense! If you’re so busy you need to read a book about it, you might not have time for 300 pages! But 117? I think we can all do that. I love how DeYoung shared his own struggles with busyness as a sin (of pride and misplaced priorities), as well as reminding us that doing ministry and loving people takes time – and sometimes makes for a busy life.

Boundless by Cynthia Hand: I can’t believe I hadn’t read this book yet. The Unearthly series by Hand is one of my favorite YA series, but you know what? Keeping track of when the next book in a series – or twelve – comes out is hard! And this one slipped by me. The good news is that meant I didn’t have to wait long when I reserved it at the library last month.

As for the book, I thought it was great – just like the others. It wrapped up the story of angels (or half-angels, half-humans if you want to get technical about it) – including the family stuff, the friend stuff, the [unavoidable] love triangle stuff and the evil angels are trying to destroy the world stuff. I highly recommend this series to anyone who likes fantasy stories, especially of the young adult variety.

Everneath series by Brodi Ashton: I started this series after reading about it in the acknowledgements of Boundless. (Yes, I love books so much that I read every inch – cover copy, copyright, acknowledgements – all of it!) I’d seen the book around but it never sounded good to me. A teenage girl gets trapped in hell – or some mythical version of hell – and then comes back to earth but just for six months? What?! I know. It doesn’t sound good.

But . . . even though the myths the book is based on aren’t my favorite, the series is just written so well that I couldn’t stop reading! I read the first two novels of the series (and a novella, which is apparently the new thing for authors to do), and now I have to wait for the third and final book. And, OF COURSE, the second book ended with a huge surprise and cliffhanger. Not awesome. [So, OF COURSE, I'm counting down the days until I get my hands on that last book!]

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith: This book is actually written by J.K. Rowling, and Galbraith is her pen name. This book is very well-written and based in London, but do not be fooled. It is NOT Harry Potter! It’s very adult in that it’s a gritty detective novel (“gritty” being the imperative word here, and by “gritty” I mean a lot of foul language that I wasn’t expecting).

I enjoyed the book, though it felt like an extra-long episode of Castle or another detective show – which just reminded me of how long it’s been since reading an “old-fashioned” detective story! The novel is set up as the beginning of a series, and I’m intrigued enough to read the next one, for sure. [Oh, hey! I just saw that this book is only $5.99 on Kindle - a great deal!]

Duchess by Susan May Warren: Another final book in a trilogy, Duchess had been waiting on my Kindle for several weeks. I don’t know why I put off reading it. I’ve loved the other two book sin the Daughters of Fortune series, despite my claim to not normally loving historical fiction. And, what do you know, once I finally opened up this book, I couldn’t put it down. It wrapped up all the remaining threads in the multi-generational story that had been woven through the previous two books while still telling a full story of its own. I really loved this look into the lives of women living in the early 1900s – their family dynamics, their loves and losses, and even their careers.

I might have to stop saying I don’t really like historical fiction.

What I’m Watching

Warm Bodies: You guys. Smitty made me watch a zombie movie. A MOVIE ABOUT ZOMBIES. Now, I know zombies are all the rage right now, but I do not get it nor do I support it. Out of all the monsters, zombies are probably my least favorite. But, I’d heard that this movie was good. And we were in the mood for a movie. So – zombie movie it was.

And . . . it was okay. It was definitely funny. And if I could get past the brain-eating part of it (I CAN’T.), I might think the love story is cute (I DON’T.). But if you like zombie stuff (WHY?), you will probably like this movie.

Now You See Me: I’d like to give this movie a more enthusiastic recommendation. I hate to be Debbie Downer Movie Reviewer. But, well, this movie was a huge disappointment. I’d been looking forward to watching it since seeing the review, and at one point we even thought about seeing it in the theater.

I’m glad we didn’t. The movie is about four magicians who, among other things, “magically” rob a bank and then get investigated by the FBI. And you know what? It was BORING AS ALL GET OUT. Yeah. Boring. I didn’t care about the characters. I wasn’t hugely surprised by the ending (or maybe I just didn’t care by that point). And now I know that playing the same cutesy heist music as an Oceans 11 movie does not make an Oceans 11 movie.

Good thing we’ve got new shows to watch on TV, right?

What I’m Eating/Cooking

Well, look. I am pregnant, so telling you about what I’m eating – as in, for real what I’m eating – is just not going to happen.

But I can tell you that fall HAS finally arrived at my house because I made my first batch of Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread last week. (If you haven’t tried it, DO IT NOW. It’s like Christmas in your mouth. SO GOOD.) And I also bought myself a bag of frozen sweet potato fries. Because, see, the crazy people I live with don’t like them and cutting up a sweet potato just for myself seems a bit excessive these days. So, as it turns out, a bag of frozen ones works perfectly for me.

What I’m Listening to

I am not cool. If you’ve been coming here (or know me in real life) for any amount of time, you know this. So you will surely not be shocked to learn that all I’ve been listening to lately is my Africa station on Pandora. As in, Toto’s Africa. And it plays my favorite kind of 80s music. And it just makes me happy. So that’s what I’ve been listening to.

P.S. If you’re looking for good, new music to listen to, try my friend Annie’s suggestions. She’s a billion times cooler than me and has great taste in tunes!

Best of This Blog

Best of Last Week’s Links (to other blogs)

And finally, another gem from Jimmy Fallon: a lip synch battle with him, Stephen Merchant (writer of The Office) and Joseph Gordon Levitt. I’ll admit that I still like the one with John Krasinski more, but this one is pretty darned hilarious, too! Enjoy! [Click here if you can’t see the video.]

That’s what I’ve been up to and into. WHAT ABOUT YOU? Tell me how your August went and what you’ve been into!

I’m linking up with my friend Leigh. And this post includes affiliate links. In addition I did receive some of the books mentioned for free, but as always, opinions are my own.

Donkey photo by Marco Raaphorst

Love to Stay :: Book Review

Wait, what? No perfect spouses? But what about all those gooey Facebook status updates my friends share?

No perfect spouses, no not one, huh? Well, don’t tell them.

I’m kidding, of course!! I’m the one who needs a reminder that I’m not perfect and I can’t possibly expect Mark to be either.

I’m publishing an extra weekend post to tell you about a book I just read. (And, full disclosure, my hurry to tell you is partly due to the fact that I received a copy of the book to review AGES AGO and am uber-late sharing what I thought about it! Yikes!)

Love to Stay: Sex, Grace, and Commitment is a book by Adam Hamilton, lead pastor of a megachurch here in Kansas City. (Technically it’s in Leawood, Kansas, but just take my word for it. It’s part of the metro. And technically, I have no clue what makes a church mega, but take my word for it. It’s big and growing fast.)

In the book Hamilton explores how, with God’s help, we can make love last. Drawing upon a survey of thousands of couples and singles, interviews with relationship and marriage therapists, the latest research in the field, and wisdom from the Bible, Hamilton looks at what it takes to create and sustain healthy, meaningful romantic relationships across the course of a lifetime. {- Amazon}

Here’s what I liked about this book: Lots of stats about pretty much every aspect of love and marriage. I loved all the info! Hamilton gave a survey to about 5,000 men and women, and the book is mainly his research report.

Each chapter focuses on part of the research results, complemented by a few stories and typical pastor jokes, as well as commentary from Hamilton about those results. Hamilton also shared several stories from his own marriage and a pragmatic approach to marriage that takes into account the “real world” and “today’s society” while still telling the Truth about God’s plans for us.

What I respect most about Hamilton’s interpretation of the data is that he’s careful throughout the book to acknowledge many of the trends we see are correlations and not necessarily cause and effect.

Lots of charts and graphs are balanced out with a section at the end of every chapter encouraging readers to apply the cold, hard facts to their relationships in real life. Discussion questions, prayer prompts and exercises for couples and singles attempt to turn a straightforward reporting of the survey results into growth opportunities for marriages.

I believe that the beauty of non-fiction (bad as I am about reading it on a regular basis – or a timely basis) is that readers can take bits and pieces, different parts that speak to their lives in the moment. So even if a whole book doesn’t apply, something might – and that something might just make a huge difference in your life. I’ll get to my main takeaway in just a bit.

Here’s what I didn’t love about the book: While Hamilton was careful to avoid attributing cause and effect to correlations and acknowledging that, for example, frequency of sex and reported happiness are related but we’re not sure which causes the other or if they are truly related at all…I wish he’d also acknowledged that self-reported surveys aren’t always completely reliable. Especially when you’re taking a survey about sex (among other things) for your church, I’d expect that some responses – even with promised anonymity – might be inflated, biased or otherwise less than accurate.

THEN AGAIN, it’s been quite a while since I took a class with a research component, so I’m not an expert by any means!

Also, the book is very short (which I loved, honestly) and, like I mentioned, mainly a straightforward report of the survey results with a little bit of commentary and encouragement on the side. So if you’re looking for a how-to book about love, sex and marriage, this isn’t it. But like I mentioned earlier, there’s still plenty to learn and lots of options for takeaways, no matter where you are in love and marriage.

What did I take away from this book, then? In the chapter about the differences between what men and women want from relationships, Hamilton says that if he weren’t married to his wife, he’d want to be the kind of man she would fall in love with.

It made me think about that. If Mark and I weren’t married today, would I be the kind of woman he’d fall in love with? I don’t mean that I need to change what kind of person I am. Not at all! What I mean is that nearly 20 years after we met, the way I ACT toward my husband is sometimes WAY different than how I treated him when we were first dating. So those things that made him fall in love with me – both the person I was and how I acted – aren’t always present these days.

So that’s my takeaway and what I’m thinking about this weekend (and probably much longer than that!). It’s short but, I think, full of potential impact on my marriage. And THAT is worth the price of the book and the few hours I spent reading it.

[It’s also encouraging to read statistics about how often people fight…or have sex…and to be assured that we are, in fact, pretty normal.]

If you’re interested in what about 5,000 people have to say about love, sex and marriage – and how you can put that knowledge to work in your own relationship – then I highly recommend Adam Hamilton’s book, Love to Stay!

Disclosure: I was provided a copy of this book to review. All opinions are my own.

Nancy Drew: The Gateway Book?

This was the conversation we had last night at dinner:

“Annalyn, put your phone down.”
“But, Mom, it’s beeping. I need to check it.”
“Annalyn, do you see your mom and I staring at our phones during dinner? No.”
“Dad! My friends are on their way! I need to give them directions!”
“That. Is. Enough. No phones during dinner!”

The phone in question? NOT A WORKING PHONE. It’s my old flip phone, from about three plans ago, battery long dead and decorated with red heart stickers. But don’t tell Annalyn. She’s convinced it’s real, hip and connected to the internet.

Oh, and the friends who were joining us for dinner? You know, just Nancy Drew and Madison, Annalyn’s BFF.

(Strangely enough, Nancy and Madison never made it to dinner as far as I know. Then again, given their fictional status, I suppose they could’ve been sitting right next to me and I wouldn’t have known it.)

A few weeks ago, we finished the required number of books to qualify for a free book through our library’s summer reading program. As we stood in front of the stand, agonizing over this Very Important Decision, I asked the librarian if perhaps there was a rule that when listeners (as opposed to readers) earned free books, the person actually doing the reading (you know…ME) should get to pick out the prize book.

She didn’t even pretend to play along and simply said, “No.” Thanks for nothing.

Thankfully, at the very last second, Annalyn chose the Nancy Drew chapter book over the bland picture book we had just read the week before. I could not have been more excited.

NANCY DREW, you guys!

Now, before you tear up your nomination forms for my Mom of the Year award, I’m talking about an age-appropriate version of everyone’s favorite girl detective. The Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew books are about eight-year-old Nancy, George and Bess as they solve their first cases in elementary school.

IT’S ADORABLE.

And even better? Annalyn LOVED the first one we read and is just dying for us to get the next books in the series. She can’t wait and has decided that Nancy is actually her friend in real [pretend] life.

Because, of course.

As my imaginative little girl asked me for the thirty-seventh time WHEN her next Nancy Drew book will be in at the library (and why can’t we buy it to keep forever, like the first one??), I realized that I’m probably creating a reading monster.

After all, it wasn’t long ago that I begged my mom over and over to go to our tiny little library to see if today was the day they had a new book – preferably Nancy Drew, but I’d take Trixie Belden or the Bobbsey Twins, too. (Of course, I was also obsessed with the Sweet Valley Twins and the Babysitters Club. But our town’s library didn’t carry them. Mainly because they kicked it old-school and under-funded.)

And I haven’t changed much in the 20+ years since then. Just this weekend I was checking my library account online, seeing if I was any closer to the top of the reserve list for the next books in my favorite series!

Just like Harry Potter opened the door to YA fantasy novels a few years ago, those yellow-spined Nancy Drew books (and the Hardy Boys and the others) were my gateway books to my mystery series addiction.

What about you? What book or series got you hooked on a certain genre (or reading in general)?

Photo credit

What if You Were the Mean Girl?

I wish today’s post was about that time I got made fun of for being too nice. But it’s not. Today’s post is about that time I was a mean girl.

A few years ago I wrote about frenemies and how I spent a lot of time in sixth grade trying to get and stay in good graces with the four popular girls in my class. I wrote about the day all four of those girls handed me hate notes and broke my adolescent heart. The main reason I wrote about that was to share about how I’d neglected a good friend in my pursuit of popularity.

But when a friend of mine – one of those popular girls I’d written about – found my blog (and that post) several months later, she focused on the hate note part of the post. She was appalled and apologetic – and admitted that she didn’t remember the incident at all.

I felt about two inches tall when I received her email – and wished so badly that I’d never written about the whole thing. It had hurt me, but nearly two decades later, I was obviously over it. To me, it was just a story. Granted, one that affected me deeply at the time and shaped me, but I hadn’t been upset about it in a very, very long time.

Three of those four girls became my true friends later on in high school, and I never thought about how they’d feel if they read my interpretation of that morning in middle school.

If only that were the end of the story. If only that blog post that maybe shouldn’t have been written were my only mistake.

Almost a year after my friend emailed me and said she was so sorry (and didn’t remember it, but was so sorry anyway), she emailed me again. She had remembered.

It turns out that my memory wasn’t exactly complete, and she told me the rest of the story.

The day before the hate note delivery, I had teased my friend about hair on her legs – something we were both sensitive about. It hurt her feelings, and her friends joined her in putting me in my place the next day.

I knew she was telling me the truth, because I’m sarcastic and I tease people – and sometimes I go too far. (Sadly, I could tell you more stories than this one to back up that confession.)

I don’t remember that first exchange at all, and she didn’t remember (at first) the next day’s confrontation. Neither of us were what you’d traditionally consider mean girls – not at all. But both of us deeply hurt the other with our words anyway.

My friend and I so deeply regretted our parts in the whole thing! It’s likely we regretted them immediately, but certainly as adults (and long-time friends), we so wished we could take it all back.

But that’s the thing about words, isn’t it? We can’t take them back, no matter how nice we normally are or how much we didn’t mean them after all.

My friend Annie Downs has written a book about making our words matter – for good. And I’m giving away three copies today.

Speak Love: Making Your Words Matter is about the power of our words. The book’s description says:

Through very funny stories, Scripture, and a real understanding of the good, bad, and ugly ways we can use our words, Annie Downs explores the difference you can make when you speak love to others, to God, and even to yourself. Because when you speak love, you speak life. And that’s what matters.

Speak Love is written for teen and college-aged girls. But even though my teen years were a long time ago, I’m looking forward to reading my copy (and hoping it’s in the mail today!) before passing it on to a teenaged friend. Today I’m giving away Speak Love to three readers – and you might want to read it, too . . . before giving it to someone in the book’s “real” demographic, of course!

To enter this giveaway, leave a comment telling me about a time when your words mattered. The giveaway will close at midnight on Monday, August 26.

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt. This post contains affiliate links.