Book Review (and giveaway): ALL THE NEWS by Amy Young

Today’s book review has a bonus – a short interview with the author and a giveaway.

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Title: All the News That’s Fit to Tell and How to Tell it: How to Write Christian Newsletters

Author: Amy Young

Review: ALL THE NEWS is written for those who write newsletters. Amy has taken her skills as a writer and applied them to newsletter writing. This short book is divided up into these four sections:

  1. The Unseen Battle
  2. Newsletter-Specific Writing
  3. Simple Ways to Improve your Writing
  4. Developing as a Writer

Amy doesn’t tell you how, but shows you how to write a newsletter that is “better than an insurance report”. She explains and gives examples on how to weave your story with your explanations. The overall point of this book is to help you build, or rebuild, relationships with those that read your newsletters.

My Take: As a writer, I felt like “duh” – why haven’t I connected these dots over to my newsletter writing before now? I found her tips to be helpful and inspiring. So many times I want to make sure I “report” about everything – but Amy has given me permission to pick and choose, to save some stories for the next letter. And, she reminded me that it is all about relationship building. So, I honestly believe that if you write newsletters, even if you love to write them, this book is worth it. We can always improve in our writing skills, no matter our level – right?

I’m so glad that Amy agreed to answer a few fun questions about herself. Amy is originally from the US and worked in China for about 20 years. After 16 years of newsletter writing she started her blog The Messy Middle. She’s author of two other books, Looming Transition and Love, Amy.

Now for the questions…

1. What is the best airport you’ve traveled through?
I have spent the most time in the San Francisco airport over the years. So, for sentimental reasons it is the best :). They have a bookstore I love browsing through and a great walking area with traveling exhibits—okay, I guess it isn’t really a walking area now that I think of it. Most people probably don’t use it to do laps as they wait for their flight, but I do. 
2. During the flight, do you A) read a book  B) movie marathon  C) sleep
I always have a book, but I tend to watch a movie through the meal service and then do my best to sleep with some Tylenol-PM :). 
3. List one destination you wish to still see?
Israel, Italy, all of Africa, Australia, the North East in the US during Fall, and a train trip across Canada. Okay, so I couldn’t pick just one!
4. In your book LOVE, AMY you mentioned that while living in China you killed rats with a frying pan. How many did you kill total?
Well, this is a bit tricky because how I killed them changed over the years, but in total, probably 15. I will say, the one that haunts me isn’t one I actually killed. We kept used ribbon in a zip-lock bag so either my teammate or I could reuse it. I went to get a piece of ribbon and as I took out the tangled mess it started moving and, shrieking, I realized I had a mouse in my hand. I threw it down and as it scampered off I kept screaming. No one came. How could I have such a traumatic experience and no one heard me screaming?! So, I did what any rational person would do. I kept screaming and went down the hall to my teammates apartment, knocked, entered, and got myself a witness! 
5. You are now living in the beautiful state of Colorado. What do you like best to do in the winter months  A) snowboarding   B) skiing  C) hiking  D) other…and please do tell.
D) other. My two favorite winter activities are snowshoeing (I cannot stand the feeling of going fast downhill, so people do not like to ski with me, nor I with them) and shoveling. Warmly Welcome you all to Colorado! 
Anyone else laughing about the rat? (sorry Amy, it was just too funny!) Amy is a great story teller. If you haven’t gotten a chance to read her other books, I highly recommend them. All three books are on sale at Amazon for $2.99 on Kindle now until April 28th.
Thanks Amy for taking the time to share with us today and for offering a free copy of your book ALL THE NEWS.
One lucky reader will receive a physical copy (US only) or a digital copy (anywhere in the world). To enter comment below telling us why you would like this book, then click on the link below to officially enter. There are more ways to enter. So, what are you waiting for?
Giveaway ends May 7th.

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Book Review: HOMESICK by Jean Fritz

HOMESICK: My Own Story  homesick

by Jean Fritz

Genre: Middle Grade Memoir/Fiction

Summary:

Jean Fritz shares her life as a child growing up in the middle of China during the mid-twenties. She longs to go “home”. To a place she has only read about in letters from her grandmother, a place where she can feed chickens. And though this desire grows stronger as the date for departure gets closer, Jean shares her love for the Chinese people, especially her dear Lin Nai Nai. As with any good story, there is trouble and heartache. Through the eyes of a ten year old girl, Jean shares about the unrest that was developing in China towards the foreigners. Jean also shares her confusion of how her parents reacted to the death of her baby sister. We get a glimpse into the heart and mind of a young child who experienced so much.  At the beginning Jean informs her readers that most of the stories are true, that all of the people were real, but the events are not in chronological order. As a NF writer, this was very important to her to clarify. 

My Take:

Jean Fritz is a TCK. If you want to see examples of grief, frustration, and raw emotions from a TCK, sprinkled with humor and wit, get this book. Yes, it’s written for a middle grade child, but it really is a beautifully written memoir of a young TCK. If I write too much more, I’ll have to write a spoiler alert. I cried and I laughed – maybe partly due to the fact that we used to live in Wuhan, which is now a large city that includes Hankou and Wuchang, two cities that play a huge part in this book. Or maybe just the pain of saying “good-bye“. Either way, it’s good.

*****

Next week I will be starting the series on “The Art of Letting Go“. If you would like to write a guest post you can go back to the original post for the details.

Book Review: OF STILLNESS AND STORM by Michèle Phoenix

OF STILLNESS AND STORM29492092-_sr1200630_

by Michèle Phoenix

Summary:

Sam and Lauren sell everything they own in the US to move to Nepal. It has been their dream to share the gospel to the distant tribes of the world. But, it wasn’t their son’s dream. Sam trek’s the mountains for weeks at a time. He comes home tired and smelly, but doesn’t want any luxuries because many in Nepal live in worse conditions. Lauren’s sense of adventure soon flattens after their move as she daily bumps along to work at job she doesn’t like, fights a losing battle with the electricity, and watches her son slowly change from the fun and happy kid to a teen who just exists and resents her for everything. As things tense up on the home front, Lauren has an online encounter with a friend from her past. Her isolation leads to disillusionment and soon things come crashing around her.

My Thoughts:

One of the reviews I read compared this book to THE POISONWOOD BIBLE, and I would have to agree. It brought out many of the same emotions I had as I read that book. Michèle Phoenix is a MK (missionary kid) and has worked with MK’s for many years. Her expertise and I’m sure personal experience gives this story the raw emotions that many who work overseas do not want to face. It asks the hard questions indirectly through watching this family try to survive while doing what they believe the Lord has called them to do.

I know that not everyone who reads this blog is a Christian, but I believe that the issues/themes in this book can be related to by anyone who is trying raise their family in a different culture than their own.

*I received my copy from a giveaway on another site.

Book Review & Give Away: LOVE, AMY: A MEMOIR TOLD IN NEWSLETTERS FROM CHINA

LOVE, AMY: AN ACCIDENTAL MEMOIR TOLD IN NEWSLETTERS FROM CHINA41ayswdy0ul

by Amy Young

Summary

Amy Young shares her life as a single English as a Second Language teacher in China. Her early years in China (mid-nineties) were spent at the Sichuan College of Education. This memoir is shared through her monthly newsletters to her supporters in the United States. This was an interesting time to be in China as the country was changing drastically from a poor quiet country who opened it’s gates wider to “foreigners” allowing more “western” influences to try to take root. The reader has the chance to “see” China during those transition years. Amy’s letters are fun and humorous as she relates the cultural differences in a loving way. She shares her traumatic experience of almost dying in a Chinese hospital and how she recovered and then chose to return afterwards. But, this book isn’t just a memoir, it’s a ‘how to’ book on writing newsletters. Amy shares how to write a better newsletter from what she has learned and from others who have read/written countless newsletters written by others.

My Thoughts

When I first heard about Amy’ health issues in China, I wanted to know more. Here was someone who also experienced trauma in China and not just survived to tell about it, but thrived and returned. Someone I could relate to. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that it wasn’t just a memoir – though I do love reading memoirs of people who have lived overseas. I felt that her addition of a ‘how-to’ manual for writing newsletters was a brilliant idea. After reading her book, I still think it’s brilliant, but also I’ll add inspiring. I vowed to never write another newsletter again – but instead to write heartfelt letters, with stories and fun unique ideas for interaction –  not facts and a report.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is in a position of writing newsletters. You’ll be inspired and challenged to write them in a different way. And, who knows, maybe you’ll even like writing them.

The Give Away:

Amy has graciously offered to give away one copy of her book, LOVE AMY, AN ACCIDENTAL MEMOIR TOLD IN NEWSLETTERS FROM CHINA.

OPEN TO ALL READERS! If you live in the US, she’ll send a physical copy of the book, but if you live overseas she’ll send a digital copy. 

DETAILS:  Just simply leave a comment about why you’d like to read this book and your email address. I’m still “old school” in many ways, so I’ll just put names in a hat on July 7th and have one of my daughters pick out a name. I’ll make the announcement later that day and contact you via email to let you know.

DEADLINE:  July 7th at 10PM (let’s do US Eastern Time, as it is exactly 12 hours difference for me. So, easy to remember.)

Now, go comment and share this post with others. =)

Book Review: MARRIED IN MISSION

MARRIED IN MISSION: A Handbook for Couples in Cross-Cultural Service

20170531_154049by Alexis C. Kenny

 

Summary:

MARRIED IN MISSION is a handbook based on a blend of psychology and Catholic-Christian theology. As the title suggests, it is to help couples who work (or plan to work) in cross-cultural settings. After Kenny and her husband returned from working overseas, she realized that there was little to no help for couples. This resulted in her focus area for graduate school. In her extensive research, Kenny identified seven phases: discernment, preparation, realization, finalization, re-entry, and integration. These phases begin with the pre-departure stage and end with returning home. Each chapter offers insight and activities for the couple to learn and apply to their own marriages. This book is her thesis compiled into an easy to use book for any couple who plans to live overseas, are living overseas, or have returned home.

My thoughts:

I felt that the book and activities are very relevant to any couple living cross-culturally. Although I am not Catholic, I believe she explained clearly the terminology to those not familiar with the Catholic religion. I understood the concepts she presented. I liked that the reader could skip to the phase that was directly needed and not have to read the entire book to understand or gain personal insight. She also included many quotes from other couples interviewed, which helped to grasp the issues better.

The only complaint I had is towards the publishing house, and I think I know why they did it (to save money), but I feel the font is small. It made it hard to read. This is only a small complaint, but one to point out so you won’t be surprised (and for those of you like me,
have your reading glasses ready).

I do believe that this book could be used for any couple working cross-culturally, whether of the Catholic faith or not. There are some real gems that will help strengthen your marriage – and that is something, I believe, we all want in married life. Strong and happy marriages.

Book Review: LOOMING TRANSITIONS Amy Young

LOOMING TRANSITIONS: Starting and Finishing Well in Cross-Cultural Service

by Amy 28256660Young

Summary: LOOMING TRANSITIONS is a navigational book to help those who are in the process of transitioning in a cross-cultural setting. It does not tell you what to pack or not to pack, but rather the emotional process that goes with big moves. Amy has lived this cross-cultural life and repatriated to her home country of the United States, so she understands all the ups and downs. She has also written a workbook for individuals to accompany the book, as well as, an activity book for families to help their children work through the transition.

My Thoughts: I bought this book last spring and just finished right before Christmas. It isn’t a long book, nor is it boring. In fact, I enjoyed Amy’s candid transparent voice as I read. It took me over seven months because my mind could only handle chunks at a time. I needed to process some areas from many moves ago. Reading this book brought to mind thoughts and feelings I had regarding those moves. I’ll be honest, I haven’t read the workbook or the activity book all the way through – but by just glancing at it I know that I will be using them both when we make our next move (which I pray isn’t too soon).

And as I was writing this review, I found out that it is the one year anniversary for this book. If you’d like to read more about how this book came about and receive some coupons for the book (one being a free audio download!), visit Amy at her website The Messy Middle.

Book Review: THE HAPPY ROOM by Catherine Palmer

THE HAPPY ROOM

by Catherine Palmer

Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Genre: Novel

Summary: The Mossman family went to Africa to be missionaries. The three children all had different experiences that affected their adult lives. Peter turned away from God. Julia embraced the faith. The youngest Mossman brings them altogether when she is hospitalized due to an illness. It is during this time in the hospital that each of the children, now grown and with family of their own, remember and retell their story of Africa and of boarding school. As pain is revealed, healing begins – and the characters learn more about each other and the God who never left them.

My Take: I’d heard of this book from a few of my friends and finally got my turn to read it. My curiosity led to a background check on the author and discovered that she and I are alumni of the same university, which I find cool. But, what my investigative work uncovered was that she is also an MK from Africa. Catherine knows a bit about this life overseas and it truly comes alive through the characters in this book.

I love that the three siblings all had different opinions about being raised overseas. I loved that they each told virtually the same story, but with a different twist as to their perspective. I found the book to be a fairly quick read, meaning I had a hard time putting it down. After finishing it, I talked to my friends who were MKs and some had even boarded at the school mentioned in this book. They confirmed the feelings they had compared to their siblings to be very similar to the characters.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is moving overseas, who has lived overseas, especially if you were a MK – not as a self-help book, but possibly an enjoyable walk down memory lane. It would be a great airplane book.

Your Turn: Have you read this book? What did you think about it? Share your comments below.

Book Review: Pack-N-Go Girls Series

I was asked by Multicultural Kids Blog to read and write a review for a fairly new book series called Pack-N-Go Girls by Lisa Travis and Janelle Diller. My interest was peaked, of course, by just the name of the series. As I read the background of how this series began, I was curious to see how well these books might be suited for kids who live overseas, TCKs. At the moment they have six books that explore three countries: Austria, Mexico, and Thailand. They will be starting the research this year for the next two books that will be located in Brazil.

I decided to read the first book in the series, Mystery of the Ballerina Ghost. 

Summary:

Brooke is from Colorado. She has the opportunity to travel to Austria with her mother, who has a short term job assignment at a castle. In Austria she meets Eva a girl not only her age, but who also lives in the castle with her grandfather. Though they become friends quickly, Brooke soon discovers that the castle may possibly be haunted by a ballerina ghost. She and Eva spend their free time to uncover this mystery.

My Take: 

What child doesn’t like a mystery? I felt the mystery was intriguing enough to cause the young reader to keep reading. I did feel that the reader would learn a little bit about Austria without feeling like it was a geography lesson. I liked that at the end of the book there are a few pages with learning simple German phrases, as well as some important facts about Austria. Overall, I thought it was a good early chapter book for children ages 6-8.

As for TCKs, knowing that Brooke was not staying, but only there for a few months at the most, I felt it didn’t really deal with many of the issues that TCKs deal with. So in that respect, I can’t recommend it as a book dealing with transition. BUT, I would definitely recommend it for those who are going to Austria (or any of the other countries they write about) on a vacation or a short visit. I do think it was well written and had some great facts about the country.

 

Book Review: ARRIVALS, DEPARTURES, AND THE ADVENTURES IN-BETWEEN

ARRIVALS, DEPARTURES, AND THE ADVENTURES IN-BETWEEN

by Christopher O’Shaughnessy

Published by Summertime Publishing, 2014

Here’s a book that is truly one of a kind on the subject matter of third culture kids. As a military kid, Christopher O’Shaughnessy understands living between worlds and cultures, while trying to figure out the identity as a third culture kid. He has a gift to write in a way that words on the page seem to just come to life. His memorable stories are hilarious, and yet at the same time they drive a point that will be remembered well after the book is put down.

To read the rest of this review at CLEW, click here.

If you’d like to read a different review, click here to read the one on Goodreads.

 

Book Review: SAFE PASSAGE by Douglas W. Ota

SAFE PASSAGE LowRES COVER
SAFE PASSAGE
by Douglas W. Ota
Summertime Publishing
Regardless how long someone has been an expat, mobility issues are a major part of their life. Many expats can quickly estimate how many boxes will be needed to pack their belongings. They know the routine of good-byes and hellos. From personal experience, they know the grief that trails after them from place to place.  They recognize this grief in their children, and may long for a ‘quick-fix’ to help them cope with this grief.
A new book by Douglas W Ota, Safe Passages:  How Mobility Affects People and What International Schools Should Do About It, might just be the essential resource needed for expats.
If you’d like to read more about this book, check out my review at ExpatArrivals.