Summer Fun: Recent Reads and To-Be-Read (Plus a GIVEAWAY)

I've seen a lot of discussion in the blogosphere lately about summer reading. As a devoted and lifelong bookworm, I confess that I've never distinguished summer reading from any other type of reading, except back when I was in elementary school and summers meant participating in the local library's summer reading program. Remember that? You'd keep track of the books you read and perhaps earn a sticker for each book or some prize at the end of the summer.


No such program for . . . ahem . . . women of a certain age. But I read year-round and my reading list is eclectic, to say the least. If you're a summer reader and are looking for suggestions, here are a few of the books I've read and enjoyed recently. In addition, I'll list a couple of the titles in my to-be-read pile. You can click on any of the titles to go either to the page for that book or to the author's website to find out more. Be sure to read all the way to the end of this post for information about how to enter for a chance to win a free copy of a recent Christian fiction title.

Recent Reads

  1.  Desert Gift, by Sally John (Tyndale): I can't summarize it any better than the back-cover copy does: “A nationally known marriage expert, Jillian Galloway is at the pinnacle of success. Her syndicated talk radio show is a hit and her first book is about to release. But just as she's leaving for her West Coast publicity tour, Jill's faithful husband of twenty-four years drops a bombshell: he wants a divorce. . . . From best-selling author Sally John comes an insightful and inspiring story about the unexpected detours our lives can take, the lies we sometimes tell ourselves, and the hope that God is always at work, even in the desert.” I recommend this one highly.
  2. Presentation Zen, by Garr Reynolds (New Riders): Subtitled “Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery,” this is a fascinating and informative look at how speakers and teachers can better reach their audiences through simplicity and storytelling, rather than following the conventional approach of bullet-point PowerPoint slide shows. Loaded with examples of good, great, and terrible slides, this book is an easy read that I strongly recommend to anyone who might be called upon to give a public presentation, whether using PowerPoint or not.
  3. Bandit's Hope, by Marcia Gruver (Barbour): When her father dies in the night, Mariah Bell must conceal his death until she finds a weak and spineless husband so she can keep her ancestral lands and the inn she loves. Tiller McRae is neither weak nor spineless, so when he shows up at her door she quickly dismisses him as not the man she's looking for. Unfortunately, her heart has other ideas. Although not a genre I normally would have picked up, this novel caught me from the first sentence, where the author's masterfully chosen words pretty much forced me to keep reading. One of the best-written books I've read this year. Gruver has an artist's touch with dialog and creates characters you believe and care about.
  4. Paperless, by David Sparks (self-published): Are you ready to wage war on the piles of paper in your home and/or office? This book will give you the tools to become, as the author calls it, a “paperless ninja.” Sparks, a lawyer, outlines an approach to capturing paper into electronic form and setting up a simple system for storing it electronically in such a way as to easily be able to find any piece of information you need within moments. Paperless is an ebook with embedded videos and all sorts of cool interactive features that let you easily see and understand how to use the tools and processes that Sparks recommends. Love this book, and just started reading it a second time. As far as I know this is available only through the Apple iBookstore or on Sparks's website (click on the title above). It's meant to be read on a Mac or iPad to take full advantage of the interactive features, but if you don't have an iPad, you can order a PDF version of the book and still get the benefit of the great information. 
  5. You Are A Writer, by Jeff Goins (self-published): Another ebook, this one is by one of my favorite bloggers (I've written before about Jeff's blog). A quick read, this is full of Jeff's encouraging words for those who dream of being a writer but perhaps have been waiting for somebody else to give them “permission” to call themselves one.
  6. Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster): I listened to this one as an audiobook over the course of a couple of weeks during my long daily commute. Really a fascinating inside look at a man whose brilliance–and temper–were legendary. Love him or hate him, most who pay attention to these things acknowledge that Steve Jobs changed the world through the companies he founded (Apple, NeXt, and Pixar) and the products they created. The book goes beyond just talking about the man and gives a really interesting chronicle of the science, technology, and artistry that have gone into the products of those companies.

 To Be Read

My to-be-read pile is always huge, but here are just a few that are next on the list:

  1. Platform (Get Noticed in a Noisy World), by Michael Hyatt (Thomas Nelson): If you've read my blog for awhile, you've heard me mention Hyatt before. Chairman and former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, Hyatt is a nationally known speaker and writer. In Platform, he writes that book that he's spent years field-testing. He shares the “secrets” to building a platform that will help you get your message heard — whatever your message might happen to be. I'm looking forward to this one; Hyatt definitely knows whereof he speaks.
  2. Love in Disguise, by Carol Cox (Bethany House): This one was offered to me in exchange for my agreement to write a review of it. I was intrigued by the description: Set in the 1880s, an aspiring actress, out of work and desperate, decides to exercise her acting skills working with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Disguised as Lavinia Stewart, a middle-aged widow, Ellie travels to Arizona to begin her investigation. When the need arises, she also transforms into the dazzling Jessie Monroe, whose vivacious personality encourages people to talk. But when thieves come after both Lavinia and Jessie, Ellie isn't safe no matter which character she plays. Should she give up and reveal her true identity? And what will happen when the man who's courting her finds out the woman he's falling in love with doesn't really exist? Set in the 1880s, this one promises a blend of romance, humor, and mystery that should make the perfect summer read. I'll let you know what I think!
  3. Plot Versus Character, by Jeff Gerke (Writer's Digest Books): This has been on my shelf for a couple of months, and I'm looking forward to digging into it. It comes highly recommended by several writers I admire and promises “a balanced approach to writing great fiction.” 
  4. How to De-Stress Your Life, by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD (Spire): The title says it all, right? Not a new book, but I haven't read it before, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity when the Kindle version was available for free.
What are you reading this summer? Any recent reads that you recommend we should check out? Leave a comment below with your recommendations.
Fiction Giveaway: If you (a) subscribe to this blog via email (easy signup box at the top right of the home page – but be sure to confirm the subscription when you receive the confirmation email) and (b) leave a comment with both a recommendation AND your email address and a note that you've subscribed to this blog, I'll enter you in a drawing to receive a free copy of one of the following books. Don't wait, though. I'll do the drawing and announce the winners at the end of June. Be sure to check back to see who won.
  • Bandit's Hope, Marcia Gruver
  • Desert Gift, Sally John
  • Love Amid the Ashes, Mesu Andrews
  • Out of Control, Mary Connealy
  • White Pearls, Shannon Taylor Vannatter
  • Among the Magnolias, Diane T. Ashley & Aaron McCarver
  • A Necessary Deception, Laurie Alice Eakes
  • Who Is My Shelter?, Neta Jackson
  • Love Finds You in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, Melanie Dobson

Happy reading!
Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
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