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Tag: book review (page 1 of 3)

Currently Reading: Where the Wind Leads


That is what I would say if I were asked to sum up Where the Wind Leads in one word.

It is “a refugee family’s miraculous story of loss, rescue, and redemption” written from the perspective of the son, Vihn Chung with Tim Downs.

Chung begins by laying out his family’s history in their homeland of Vietnam.  The story is tumultuous as the family survives various coups and wars.  Each time they are uprooted and upset, yet they press on.

Eventually they decide that they cannot live this way any longer and in 1979 they become “boat people” who sail away from Vietnam in hopes of finding a better life.

Intertwined with the Chung’s story is the story of Stan Mooneyham, the second president of World Vision.  When a friend challenged Stan to learn more about the boat people and find a way to help them, Stan resisted at first.  Soon, however, he was convinced that his Christian organization should be helping these refugees who were fleeing their country for safety, yet unable to find a country to welcome them.

Chung’s description of their time on the boat and as new refugees is agonizing.  Eventually they are rescued and, with World Vision’s help, are allowed to enter the United States.  There are still difficulties once the family is settled in Arkansas, but they work hard and persevere.  Chung fulfills his father’s dream when he graduates from Harvard Medical School.  Chung now lives and works in Colorado Springs, Colorado and serves on the board of World Vision.

This is an excellent book.  Chung (and Downs) told a gripping, riveting story and appropriately interwove both humor and history.  I am more familiar with stories of immigrants, but this book opened my eyes to the experience of refugees.

I was a bit worried about the ending.  In the last chapter, Chung asks questions about why his family was rescued and why others were not.  I was afraid that the book might turn the corner to preaching a prosperity gospel (e.g. “They called upon God and therefore all their problems were taken away”).  But it didn’t.  I was impressed the way Chung turned the question around, explaining that why they were the ones rescued isn’t the correct question.  Instead he says that he should ask the question, “What does He expect me to do now?”

Chung answers the question with this: “Now that I am safely ashore, He expects me to send the boat back for someone else.”  

I was left with a renewed realization of how much I had been given in this life and, as Chung says, “I believe that blessing is something I am expected to pass on to other people in any way I can.”

Please note that all the author royalties from this book are donated to World Vision.

** I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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currently reading: Bittersweet

Try Grammarly’s plagiarism checker free of charge because when your mother told you that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” she wasn’t giving you a free pass to plagiarize! (Plus, she was quoting someone herself!)

My book review in fewer than 10 words: 


My book review in more than 10 words:

If you’ve read my review of Shauna Niequest’s book Bread & Wine, it will probably come as no surprise that I loved this book as well.  Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way is Shauna’s second book, which she wrote in between Cold Tangerines and Bread & Wine.  I am just now starting Cold Tangerines, which means that I have read her books exactly opposite as to how she wrote them.

As the title suggests, Bittersweet is written out of a season of loss and frustration in Shauna’s life that will later yield good lessons.  This is a book that not everyone will understand.  But if you, too, have had a season where it feels like you are just bracing yourself for the next blow, for whatever disaster God or fate could send you next, this may be the book you need to read.

Bittersweet is a collection of essays that cover all sorts of things: the loss of a job and the loss of a baby.  Moving away from loved ones and making new ones.  Cooking and gatherings round tables.  Grace, grace, and more grace.  Friendships, families, motherhood and more.

In “Grace is the New Math,” she writes of keeping a tally of the good and the bad of a person’s life and calculating up their worth.  “Grace is smashing the calculator, and using all the broken buttons and pieces to make a mosaic.”

This book came at the perfect time in my life.  I am, just now, slowly, calling myself a writer.  I haven’t been able to say it aloud to someone, but I’m working on that.  In “Love Song for the Fall” Shauna writes about writing.  She says, “…it’s hard work, fraught with fear and self-consciousness…”  It is silly, of course, but I assume that fantastic writers sit down at the computer and the correct words flow out with no effort.  When I read that she had to force herself to sit down and work, suddenly writing was normalized for me.  This is difficult for everyone.  This is not always enjoyable.  This takes time.  This. is. difficult.

Multiple essays are on the subject of miscarriage.  Although I would never be bold enough to say that I understand miscarriage, her words gave me a window into what mothers must be feeling after the loss of a baby.  She writes of remembering the due date and thinking about “what might have been.”  She tells readers to “say something” after a tragedy, even if it is awkward and you are not sure what to say.  I told my husband that if we know someone who miscarries, I’d like to buy them this book in addition to being there for them.  What I meant was that I wanted to give them words when they might not know how to express what they are feeling and, since I can’t relate to that experience at this point in my life, I want to hand them a reminder that they are not alone.  

Earlier I said, “Go buy this book immediately!”  I was serious.  

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currently reading: Notes from a Blue Bike

Do you ever read a book and find yourself thinking (or shouting), “yes! yes!!” the whole time?  Or, if you’re an annotator like me, you keep writing it in the margins, accompanied by a mixture of stars and underlining and brackets and arrows?  When I like a book, you can tell just by flipping through because it will be embellished with my pencil markings.  And if you were to pick up this book, I think you’d realize pretty quickly that I liked it.  It resonated with me in a deep way.  

Tsh Oxenreider is the founder of, a website inspiring people to live simply.  Her latest book is Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World.  In this book, Tsh shares about the journey her family has taken to duplicate the slower lifestyle they enjoyed overseas as they have transitioned back to the States.

The book is divided into seven sections.  With an introduction and a conclusion as bookends, Tsh writes about the five areas in which they have chosen to be intentional: food, work, education, travel, and entertainment.  Notes from a Blue Bike is a collection of essays with tips for simple living sprinkled throughout, instead of a “how-to” book.

I hadn’t heard of Tsh before this book or seen her website, so this was truly my first introduction to her writing.  And I loved the book!  I loved the essay format and hearing how their family decided upon these intentional steps and reading how it actually worked within the family.  I appreciated all the sections (really!), but, at this point in life, the work and education sections held the most meaning to me.

In the work section, Tsh talks about managing a business from her home with her husband.  She writes about finding time to write in the midst of being a busy mom with little ones at home.  It was a message I needed to hear: that it’s okay for me to take time to do something I love.  She writes of slowing down and setting limits, but also of valuing your work and treating it like it is “worthy of my dedication, practice, focus, and excellence. (Because it is).”  I was interested to hear how she and her husband manage the business together, but I also appreciated that she included examples of many other families with different work schedules who have made adjustments in order to find what works for them.  In other words, Tsh isn’t expecting that what works for her family is what will work best for mine.    

I also appreciated the chapter on education as Tsh shares their journey to find the right fit educationally for each child, each year.  After swearing that she would never homeschool her children, Tsh spends a year homeschooling and falls in love with parts of it.  But later they decide that the best decision for their family is to send their children to public school.  She writes about the value of exposing your children to books and of giving them room to be creative.

Other reviewers have mentioned that Tsh’s life doesn’t seem simple and I understand where they are coming from.  Her life certainly isn’t straightforward – she’s lived all over, she works strange hours, and her children have had multiple schooling options within a few years.  Her life is complicated.  But I believe she wants to live a full life and is choosing to do so as simply as possible.  If you’re looking for a practical, step-by-step guide to simple living, you will probably be disappointed.

Notes from a Blue Bike is balanced, which is what I like about it.  The main message is to find what is important to you and then adjust your life to reflect that.  Tsh doesn’t write expecting that every reader will move to a farm and live off the land.  She writes for ordinary people and ordinary families looking to make small changes.  And I like that because I am an ordinary person with an ordinary family.  I hope that you read it and, if you do, let me know what you think of it!

I was given a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

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