Monday, September 30, 2013

Orange is the New Black


Thanks to the Netflix series, most everyone knows that Orange is the New Black is about a middle class white woman who serves a short sentence in a women's prison. Of course, my reader OCD insisted I read the book first.

Piper Kerman recalls mostly her feelings throughout each instance in this memoir...duh, there's going to be nothing but a mess of feelings. She recalls both incidents involving her and incidents not involving her. Taken one by one, the incidents don't seem to stand out as exciting or amazing; however, as an overall piece, I believe Kerman accomplishes what she may have intended.

As each story and incident is told, they begin to layer upon each other until a picture of the American prison system comes into focus. I believe this is what Kerman wants readers to see: the humanity, struggling to stay human, behind bars. I am torn with this overall picture. The logical part of me says, "You screwed up, you're in prison, that's the way it works." But my heart aches at the various ways in which prisoners are wrongly treated, abused, and taken advantage of by those looking after them. 

Kerman also echoes that of another nonfiction book I reviewed in April called Shakespeare Saved My Life, by Laura Bates. (Bates teaches Shakespeare to hard core inmates and watches their lives turn around before her eyes.) In both books, the authors talk about the usefulness (or lack thereof) of prison activity. If a woman couriers drugs because she has no other way to make a living, you lock her up for a term of so many years, then release her, what do you think she will do once out? She's gotta eat somehow and she has no more skills now than she did before she was locked up. Why is the time spent in prison not being used to give the inmates skills and abilities to make an honest living on the outside? Why are the programs nonexistent or half-assed? This is a point upon which I can whole heartedly agree with both authors and have softened on my view of free education/college in prisons.

While the book was not a page turner in my opinion, I think Kerman asks the reader to observe these basic human needs through her experience and realize there are definite problems with the system, which are hurting very human people, cons or not. Sometimes her logic and stats are questionable...such as the fact that 435,000 people a year die from cigarettes in the US, while the toll for illicit drugs (which these prisoners are mostly in for) is 17,000. I would bet many more people are smoking cigarettes than shooting heroin throughout the nation, which skews the numbers in heroin's favor. Regardless, she does paint a picture that makes you think. 

Now on to watch the Netflix series! Anyone watch it? Anyone know how many seasons there are?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Mr. Literary - a B&N production

A co-worker and fellow biblioholic found these videos today on one of the Barnes and Noble channels. The main character, Mr. Literary, only answers in quotes, much to the chagrin of those around him. I wish I had the ability to memorize quotes like nobody's business! Can you identify any of the quotes in the following videos? Click on the links and take a look. (I tried my best to post the videos here, but, the links would not read in the video placement tool...sorry!)

Mr. Literary Goes on a Blind Date

Mr. Literary Attends the Reading of a Will

Mr. Literary Tries Out for a Job. (The one quote I could identify was in this video!)

Mr. Literary Tangles With the Law

Mr. Literary Goes for a Check-up

Hope you enjoyed those! My co worker said she thought of me when she saw them. I only wish I could be so socially inept due to my ability to memorize awesome quotes ;)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Life After Life


When you know the title and premise of a book well simply because the praise forthcoming from other readers is in overwhelming abundance, you know you have to take a chance. Yes, hype sometimes ruins a story, but there's a chance you'll find the next best thing. Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson, is that next best thing.

Within the first two pages, Ursula Todd is born, dies, and is born again and lives. Desperately hooked within those two pages and wanting to figure out how this story was going to work, I devoured the 522 page book in record time (especially for a school year read). I actually read half the book in one lazy afternoon and evening.

The story is well written - just the right amount of description and detail are given to help the reader picture settings and characters. Characters are well drawn, both like-able and not. I sincerely cared for every step of Ursula's journey, which by the way starts over at least 12 times with her birth on a snowy night in 1910. Each birth brings the same choices with the opportunity for different decisions, which lead to both the same and different paths taken in her life. The butterfly effect at its best and an opportunity some of us may cringe upon, a chance to relive life until "practice makes perfect."

If you haven't already read Life After Life, or if you've put it off, pick it up now and read it. You won't be disappointed. The twists and turns of Ursula's fates, as they run parallel, overlap, meld, and separate with each other will keep you in a trance. All leading up to one important event that can save a generation of nationalities from heartache and the scars of suffering.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Good Choices for Boys

A Boy's Guide to Making Really Good Choices, by Jim George
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Publication date: October 1, 2013
Category: Christian, Parenting
Source: from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Raising boys...different from girls, that's for sure. And don't tell me having a tomboy or a girl who eats a lot is the same, because I have one of those too and it's still not the same. Like girls, the choices boys make in life can be detrimental. There are basic, habit forming choices boys can make that will form a solid foundation for their adult life. A Boy's Guide to Making Really Good Choices, by Jim George, details these "choice opportunities." 

Chapter by chapter, this book discusses topics in which boys must realize they have choices. All discussion is backed by examples, stories, and Bible verses. The chapters are titled as:

1. You have a Choice. Many times we do or don't do things thinking it was all we could or couldn't do, when really, we had a choice. This chapter establishes that just about everything we do is a choice.

2. Choosing to Obey. A smart piece of this chapter is that George talks about how bad choices don't always look like bad choices, so sometimes we have to think things through and trust that our parents have a good reason for the rules they make.

3. Choosing to Pray. Talks to boys about how prayer is communication with God, which is detrimental to Christian life. This chapter also speaks to the promises God gives about prayer and the purposes of prayer in life.

4. Choosing to Read My Bible. This should be fairly obvious...talking about why Bible reading is important to daily life (closeness to God and direction for life) and how making the choice to read or not will affect a boy in various ways. 

5. Choosing to Get Up. Kids' lives center around getting a good start to the day. This chapter talks about choosing the right things to start the day at its best. George gives seven steps for boys to follow to make this happen every day.

6. Choosing Your Friends. The topic here concerns itself with the misstep of following certain crowds and what to look for in friends. What I liked here was that the author encourages boys to involve their parents in discussing friendships and tells boys to be themselves. Trying to be someone you're not will only leave you lonely in the end and possibly with some worse consequences than others, depending on the path down which you follow those friends.

7. Choosing What to Say. Another good topic and hardship of teenhood...controlling your mouth. Things touched on here are saying hurtful words, your words as a view of your heart, and speaking the truth.

8. Choosing to be Patient. George gives and discusses a series of steps for boys to follow to keep their patience. Learn to wait, ask for patience, take ten, ignore insults, learn endurance, never try to get even, carry Jesus' example, even out your temper. 

9. Choosing a Happy Heart. I like that this chapter differentiates between "happiness" and "joy," pointing out that things can wreck your happiness, but you have the choice to remain joyful. The example used is of a boy named Justin whose parents are throwing a Christmas party and he is asked to help clean and set up. Of course, he doesn't want to help....the chapter works the information through this scenario as an example, showing how choosing an attitude of joy can change us as opposed to attitudes of anger.

10. Choosing to Trust God. Even in the midst of bad decision making, we can go back to God for help. This chapter shows boys how to seek God to straighten these things out and make changes in their choices for the future.

This book was pretty much the same as the version written for girls. There is only one topic that is different between the two books. The only other difference is the scenarios used to explain bad and good choices. The scenarios in this book seem a little more severe than those used in the girls' book, although my son is only eight, so I guess I wouldn't know if they truly are severe or not.

Boys ages 8-11 would do well with this book I think.  I would also recommend flipping through a physical copy before purchasing it to make sure it seems like something you'd want to use. Seeing it can make all the difference in deciding how it may work with your boy or if you can utilize it in some way. I am finding many of these books written toward sons and daughters to be more useful if I read them and then interject the information into conversation at opportune times.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Raising Daughters

Image Source:

What Every Woman Wishes Her Father Had Told Her, Byron & Robin Yawn
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Publication date: October 1, 2013
Category: Christian
Source: received from publisher via NetGalley for a fair and honest review.

Byron Yawn is the pastor of Community Bible Church in Nashville, TN. He and his wife Robin have a daughter, to whom this book is dedicated. What Every Woman Wishes Her Father Had Told Her seems to begin as advice to fathers about raising daughters (although the author makes it clear he is writing for women, I think based on the title, fathers might pick it up too). Every child's life is filled with the potential and opportunity to be molded. We as parents are responsible for raising our kids in the way they should go. Ultimately, kids will make their own decisions, but that does not lessen the parents' responsibility to set the path.

This book speaks to many relevant topics for raising daughters. Yawn describes what a good man looks like and setting those expectations for your daughter. As expected, there is a chapter on sex and purity. (The discussion centering on how the the world views sex as casual and the church ignores it, both sides as opposed to sex's intended purpose.) 

The middle chapters seem to break off into discussion of womanhood and marriage. Some of these are written by Robin Yawn and the chapters are valid and informative...actually they were my favorite chapters because they made several great statements that clarified cliche terms I've heard spoken in Christian circles. However, while reading, I felt like the topic of daughters had been dropped for a moment. Yes, daughters become women and need someone to lead them through to womanhood, but the connection to doing this with and helping daughters wasn't clear. I felt like I was reading a book on marriage alone. Although, if a woman was reading this book in hopes of gleaning wisdom she'd missed, these chapters would benefit her. I read on assuming the book has a dual purpose/audience - fathers and grown women.

The book definitely has a chapter about appearance/beauty - the world's unfair double standard between male and females, as well as the importance placed n "normalcy." Then comes a chapter on women's struggle to change men and the fact that it cannot be done. Last, but not least, is a chapter that puts straight a verse we often hear misused/misinterpreted. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" is from Philippians 4:13 and we often take it to mean we can do anything we set our minds to or that we pray about, etc. This isn't the case and is not what the scripture means, which this chapter does a good job of explaining.

Overall, the book took some turns that didn't always seem to mesh together with what I expected from the title. I would say it is an okay read, but isn't the first book I'd pick up for advice on raising daughters.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fall Books TBR

Reading through all of the goodies in my email today, I found three blogs I follow posting about top ten of their Fall TBR list. Nothing better than a list of books, for whatever reason you want! So I've decided to join in on today's Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish.

Although I like fall (I prefer snuggly warm clothing and blankets), the fact that I will soon endure really cold weather puts a damper on it...well more than a damper I guess. And this year we have a pool to close down, which hasn't been used more than twice in the past month...because it has been Fall weather here in Ohio since early August (or at least, definitely not swimming weather). So, I am a little disgruntled that Fall has decided to take up more than its fair share of the allotted season.

Yet, I am enjoying the abundant apple cider and the prospect of heading over to Whitehouse Farms, a nearby farm market that is open year round, but makes me think of Fall. It's the only season I ever head over there. And Fall and I can get along since there are some good books coming out and others I have set aside to read!

1. One Summer: America, 1927 - by Bill Bryson. I've read quite a few nonfiction and fiction books set in the 1920s in the past months. Plus, teaching the Great Gatsby, I end up reviewing historical aspects of the decade with students. This book captures a tumultuous summer of firsts and records in everything from flight to murder. So, when I saw a first edition signed copy was up for pre-order on B&N's website, I called my local store.  My Barnes and Noble didn't know if they would be getting signed copies, but their site was selling them, so they reserved one to come to their store for me! Release date is October 1st.

2. We Are Water - by Wally Lamb. I also have a signed, first edition of this book coming to me October 22nd! My local B&N is so helpful! I honestly don't know what the book is's Wally Lamb and it's signed. End of story.

3. Life After Life - Kate Atkinson. I've read so much praise on this book that I have to read it. The premise is intriguing...Ursula Todd dies at birth, but is reborn (I presume to someone else). At every death she is reborn, until she "gets it right." That's all I know and all I want to know. I am captured by the idea, but any detail will ruin the actual reading.

4. Watership Down - Richard Adams. This has been on my shelf for years! And it has been on my 2013 Reading List since January. A friend recently read it for the first time and really liked it, so I'm renewing my intent to read it! I know there are animals and I'm thinking something parallel - akin to an Animal Farm of sorts. (Once again, I don't want to know too much before I read!)

5. The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien. I've come across quotes from this book that really caught my attention, particularly the use of the title, "They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried." Also, it's kind of like a set of short stories that are connected, which I like better than just sets of short stories.

6. The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards. This one too has been on the 2013 list all year long. I'm determined to get to it!

7. The Book of Secrets - Elizabeth Joy Arnold. This one was big among the blogs a few months ago and I read raving reviews on Goodreads. I placed it on my paperbackswap wish list and have been waiting patiently ever since. Well, I received a copy in the mail recently and can't wait to dig in. The story seems to be a mystery and it entails the storylines of other beloved classics as clues to figure out the character's actions. Books about books = awesome.

8. Orange is the New Black - Piper Kerman. This one shouldn't need much explanation. A woman spends a year in a women's prison and lives to tell about it. I want to watch the Netflix series so, of course, I have to read this first! Unfortunately, I glanced a Goodreads friend's update that it's a drag for at least the first 50 pages. 

9. The Light Between the Oceans - M.L. Stedman. I was proud of my find with this one...on the reduced table at B&N for $4.98, in hardcover! A couple who has suffered multiple miscarriages finds an infant washed on their lighthouse shore, along with a dead body. What to do? Keep the baby, of course. And without reading too much more of the summary, I already know this is going to come back to bite them.

10. The Paris Wife - Paula McLain. Hmmm...after reading so much about the Fitzgeralds, I'm not too keen on what I've seen of Hemingway. But, this one received good reviews and I'm all about American Lit, since I live and breath it in a classroom for nine months. It always helps me teach when I can plan using background knowledge of the authors or historical period.

What about you? Any good reads on the chilly horizon?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Birthday Books/Rants

A reader's birthday is not complete unless she gets books. (Oh dear God, I originally wrote that sentence with "they" in place of "she" and then realized I had just taught my seventh graders this past week not to mix up numbers when using pronouns. You cannot have the singular "reader" and use "they" as the pronoun. Wow...the years I teach grammar, it haunts me. The years I don't, I forget everything I know.)

Anyway, September 7th was my birthday and my mother-in-law gave me a Barnes & Noble gift card. She knows if she gives me money, I'll pay bills or put gas in my car, which drives her nuts. She is all about the fun, surprise, and getting a nice present of birthdays and Christmas. I'm the opposite, practical-to-a-fault type. However, she knows and I know, that there is no way I will turn down or be unhappy with a Barnes & Noble gift card! It's a win-win present!

In between all the events and errands of the day I was able to stop by B&N and spend my gift card. It wasn't difficult. Well, the actual buying wasn't difficult. I spent free time throughout the week pouring over my wishlist on paperbackswap and the top titles of my TBR list. THAT was difficult! But here's what I ended up with:

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison, by Piper Kerman. It's a memoir and the basis for the Netflix original series. I had been thinking of taking up the series on Netflix and when I found it was a book, of course, I had to read it first. Luckily, B&N had the original cover...I loathe movie covers. Although movie covers probably draw otherwise uninterested people to a book, I am all about the book first and always buy the original cover (or a redone cover from later editions). So, you can sympathize with me when I got home, took a good look at the book, and found a red square at the top right of the cover that reads "Now a Netflix Original Series." Gahhhhh! What the hell! This is NOT the series cover! Save that crap for the series cover. Leave the original unblemished. I'm debating emailing the publishers...really. Is nothing sacred?

City of Fallen Angels, by Cassandra Clare. This is #4 in the Mortal Instruments series, now well known because of the movie of the first book, City of Bones. I read the first four of the series at least three and four years ago...way before a movie was considered. When I bought a boxed set of the first three, I was unaware that three more books and a trilogy of prequels were on the way. That's six more! Why do they sell a boxed set of anything when they know darn well more books are coming? What a waste! (Don't get any ideas Suzanne Collins!) So I've read this one, but needed it on my shelf. I have students interested in the series, so this one will go straight to my classroom library. And I'll reread it and the first three as soon as the last book comes out in 2014.

Crossed, by Ally Condi. This is another one that will go straight to my classroom shelf. I have Matched there already and figured it's about time I got the next book in the trilogy. (I'm in the middle of collecting at least five different series of books for my classroom, my main source being paperbackswap. Can't beat $3 a book for just shipping!) However, I realized this could possibly be a problem! I have Matched because it was a book list choice for the reading festival my school's gifted program attends. They give me the books afterwards to put in my classroom. A trend I'm noticing is that if they have the first book one year, they use the second book the next. For example, I have Divergent from last year and will get Insurgent this year. Oh please, no double copies! I'm emailing the gifted teacher to make sure!

The World's Strongest Librarian, by Josh Hanagarne. This was a splurge, even with the gift card, because it's hardback, but it's just a nice book. It has an unusual shape (long as a big hardback, but narrower) and the cover has an unusual roughish texture. I've heard this one praised over and over, especially among the blogs I follow. So, no rant here...not yet ;)

Oh and watching The Great Gatsby for the fourth time, I realized all the monograms around Jay Gatsby's mansion could be mine! We have the same initials! So I've printed and laminated a few of these and hung them around my classroom! They're also the screens on my iPad, personal computer, and laptop at work too!

Ahhh, despite the busyness of the day and the many rants of a bibliophile, nothing says Happy Birthday like a quick stop at B&N and a salted caramel mocha frap. Any fun bookstore trips lately?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Getting My Asian On...

This week I read two books that had recently been re-recommended to me through blog discussions on Asian stories. The recommendations, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See, were both conveniently waiting on my shelf.

And waiting seemed to be the theme of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I've heard much praise for this book and it was a good story. The characters drew me in and I wanted to see how they had reached the present condition of their story, which is 1986, forty years after the fact. That's some wait.

Henry and Keiko have an unlikely friendship in 1940s America. He is Chinese, allies of America during WWII and she is Japanese, enemy of both countries. However, both are American born and soon overcome any differences their cultures naturally hold over them. They are the only Asian students in an all white school and find solace in each other. If you know anything about the fate of the American Japanese during WWII, you can guess quickly where this story is headed. Because the story is told in flashbacks from the Henry of 1986, pieces of present happenings meld with stories of the past to finally bring an ending to Henry and Keiko's story.

I enjoyed this story. I read it in two days, usually hard to do with school beginning, but it was a good story and easy to read. The characters were like-able and I truly wanted to see where the journey would take them. Also, the one criticism I'd read in many reviews was that Ford used many anachronisms (references to things that didn't exist or were not in major use in the 1980s). I noticed a couple things, like CDs taking over records, use of the Internet to find someone, and the term "cakewalk" used by 12-year-old Henry of 1942. But, they were small and didn't stand out too much, nor did they ruin the story as some claimed.

My second read of the week, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, takes place in China starting in 1824, over one hundred years before Henry's story in Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I loved this book, but I have to ask forgiveness for my ignorance. There was so much about the Chinese culture that I didn't know, which is what made the story amazing...I learned so much. I know much of it is/was Chinese tradition and ways, but it is hard for me to grasp, being an American woman who grew up and lives in a liberated time period.

The opening chapters focus on the art of footbinding! "Art" being an applicable word because foot binding was a difficult task that needed patience and precision over a long period of time to be done correctly and gain the most benefit. It was horrifying to read about. I've heard of it before, but the detailed process that Lily gives sent shudders through me. A woman's future as wife and mother depends upon it. And after her tiny feet secure her position with a husband, her life's value depends upon having sons, as opposed to daughters.

The first half of the book focuses on a girl's preparation for marriage, as the two main characters journey through. Marriage is a years long process in which you secure a match, prepare the dowry, trade gifts between families, and schedule the ceremonies that marriage entails. Lily is lucky to share this time with her closest companion, Snow Flower. Lily and Snow Flower's special relationship is called laotong. This means they are the most intimate of friends, as close as sisters, for the rest of their lives. A laotong relationship is only given to the most worthy of girls, so this is special for Lily, whose family is rather poor. It is Lily's tiny feet that make her eligible for the honor of a laotong. And in turn having a laotong, along with tiny feet, bring a wealthy and honorable husband for Lily.

However, after Lily's marriage, she finds out secrets that have surrounded Snow Flower the entire decade they have been laotongs. I don't want to spoil the story, but the secrets begin to unravel much of what Lily thought she knew about her life, her family, and herself. And it seems I haven't said so much about the story itself, but really much of the book is about how Lily and Snow Flower's lives intertwine. And their lives are wrapped in these customs, so discussion of the customs is definitely a big piece of the book. Really liked this book!

Now that I've read these two pieces of Asian literature together, I'm noticing even more on my shelves I haven't read yet, like Memoirs of a Geisha and China Run. Any other good Asian lit you've read?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Gatsby Guest Post

Well, I watched The Great Gatsby again and again over the holiday weekend and love it even more! Especially the sound track! However, I also know I am completely sentimental about the book and love the character of Gatsby (it will be the name of my next dog). So, I thought I'd bring you a guest post from a movie critic friend of mine, Joe. He knows sooooo much about movies aside from the storyline, which is all I care about! So here is his take on the newest rendition of The Great Gatsby:

    The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton
Directed by Baz Luhrmann

Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is in a sanitarium for alcoholism, and tells his doctor the story of a great man he met in the past - a man named Gatsby.

Encouraged to write his story, Nick begins the tale in 1922, when he moves to New York from the midwest to work as a bond salesman.  His house is situated near a mansion owned by the mysterious Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), a man who throws lavish parties yet remains elusive.  Nick doesn't feel like he fits in with the high society crowd, since he himself is rather penniless.  He reunites with his cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and her husband Tom (Joel Edgerton), who is a very well-known and wealthy socialite.

Tom takes Nick to the slums of New York, where he confesses his several infidelities, and treats Nick to a party thrown by one of Tom's mistresses, Myrtle (Isla Fisher).  Nick gets a taste of the high life, and it intoxicates him.  Returning home, he receives a surprise invitation to a party thrown by Gatsby.

Nick attends the party and finds that he's the only one who received an actual invitation, and is the first to meet the mysterious Gatsby.  The two become friends and Gatsby asks Nick to bring Daisy to him.  In the past, Gatsby and Daisy were a couple, but then Gatsby went off to war, and disappeared for five years.  His hopes of reconciling with Daisy seems to be fulfilled as the two begin an affair.

Tom finds out and uses information he uses against Gatsby, which leads to death, despair and a realization to Nick that being rich isn't all it's cracked up to be.

"The Great Gatsby" is a classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and this is one of several films based off that novel.  Director Baz Luhrmann seems to have taken the source material and hidden it in the background of simply dazzling cinematography, awe-inspiring costume designs and a fantastic soundtrack done by Jay-Z.  All three of those technical aspects should earn the film some Oscar nominations, but I'm sure it won't receive any for the big six - Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, Supporting Actor or Supporting Actress.  While the picture is visually stunning, it drowns out the heart of the story, as you're more impressed with how the film was shot rather than the story itself.  The acting was decent, but I expected more from such talented actors, especially from DiCaprio and Mulligan - two Oscar-nominated actors.  If you took out the visual aspects, you'd have nothing more than some college-rate production of a classic novel.

My Rating: B+

Gatsby salutes you Old Sport....err...Joe.

Click here to view the post on Joe's blog (and see what other good stuff he's got going on there).

Monday, September 2, 2013

Grace Filled Marriage

Grace Filled Marriage, by Dr. Tim Kimmel with Darcy Kimmel
Publisher: Worthy Publishing
Publication date: September 10, 2013
Category: Christian, Self-help
Source: from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for a fair/honest review.

Grace - undeserved, but much needed. Usually easy to receive, makes life better for everyone involved and yet, it's hard to give. As I began to close out (for the most part) my year long reading journey of relationship building, Grace Filled Marriage had me at Grace. I know I need grace and appreciate it for myself, but I fight against giving it at times, if I think of giving it at all.

Kimmel, along with his wife, lays out the need for and workings of grace in our lives for the first quarter of the book. Kimmel then talks about the three things spouses (and people in general) need and that grace can help provide: secure love, significant purpose, and strong hope. Each topic has a chapter that speaks to the ways in which you can begin using grace to build a better relationship. For example, security is built through showing acceptance, affiliation, and affection. Significance is built up in a spouse through affirmation, attention, and (gentle) admonition. And strength encourages abilities, accomplishments, and adventure. All of these subtopics are discussed at length along with examples.

Beyond the need for security, significance, and strength, this book speaks to grace's allowance for candidness, vulnerability, differences, and mistakes. Kimmel asks you to look at graceful honesty and the little things within the bigger picture. 

He also gives pointers for what it takes to sustain a marriage...he calls these points the six character muscles and compares the practice of using them to training for the running of a race. The six muscles are Faith, Integrity, Poise, Discipline, Endurance and Courage. Working on these six things allows a couple to produce the security, significance, and strength discussed earlier in the book.

Last, but not least, it takes a humble, grateful, generous, and serving heart to make a marriage work. I have to say that I really liked this book. The points were well drawn and supported. Also, I think the author was truthful without sugar coating. An example (and an ouch moment for me) was when he talked about why we shouldn't yell and scream. I'm a yeller...first thing I do when mad or frustrated is I raise my voice. When Kimmel spoke of how yelling affects others and how it makes you look and feel, it was like a punch in the stomach. I appreciate it though, because sometimes that is what it takes to change. He has many other books, including one about grace in parenting, which I'm sure I'll take a look at. I would imagine it falls along the same lines as this book.