Sunday, November 29, 2009

Finding God's Purpose in Our Pain

Finding Purpose Beyond our pain is a very balanced and helpful look at why God allows pain in the world. When we are in the midst of a difficult life situation, we are often tempted to ask the question: Why me, God? This book gives an answer.

Pain is an opportunity to grow and to find a better relationship with Jesus. I found the book quite balanced. It provides a framework to look at your life situation and try to see the lessons behind your present troubles. The authors have chosen to deal with several of the most difficult life situations: injustice, rejection, loneliness, loss, discipline, failure and death. In each case, they discuss their experiences with real people experiencing these problems and finding in them an opportunity for growth.

I don't believe this book is the perfect antidote to suffering, but I do think that it has a positive message that can help the sufferer bear his trials and learn from them. I found it a very hopeful book. I'm sure that people can argue with the theology, but the underlying message is clear: Don't wallow in your pain; use it as an impetus to improve your outlook on life.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Engaging Fantasy – But You Need to Be a Fan

Green is promoted as the book that is both the beginning and the end of his latest four book series. Supposedly you can read this book without the other books and still understand and enjoy it. Unfortunately, if you're not familiar with the other books, including his previous books, and the characters, you can find yourself rereading passages to find out what you're missing.

Dekker's forte is in writing action scenes. The end of the book pulls you in and definitely keeps you reading as the characters race to meet their destinies. Unfortunately, much of the rest of the book drags. Some of this is due to the confusion of moving not only between worlds, but between the beginning and the end.

To add to the confusion, there are many unusual characters with specific histories. At times, I found it difficult to keep them, and their various roles in the story, straight. By the end, I felt I had figured out the inhabitants of the future world, but the middle was often rough going, particularly if you had to put the book down for any length of time.

However, if you like fantasy with a Christian background, you'll enjoy the book – and probably want to read the other books in Dekker's series.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Interview on the Author's Show

Don McCauley interviewed me for the Author's Show on my latest young adult novel, Unwelcome Guest at Fair Hill Farm. It's available on the 21st and 22nd of October.

If you're interested, come listen in.

Unwelcome Guest at Fair Hill Farm is available from Amazon.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

No Problems, Only Opportunities

Managers, leaders, and YOU should read this book. In Obstacles Welcome, Ralph de la Vega give a blueprint for success. Having worked in the aerospace industry for years, I know Ralph is right. I've seen managers who follow his principles and succeed – against the odds – and I've seen and worked for managers who couldn't think outside the box. Ralph's ideas really do work.

In addition to giving an inspirational message to managers and aspiring leaders, Ralph tells a great story. He faced challenges: hurricanes in Florida, political unrest in South America, and the daunting task of merging two giant telecommunications companies. Each time, the obstacles led to major successes because of Ralph's attitude. I very much enjoyed being a spectator on the journey.

I also found his emphasis on helping the younger generation of leaders excellent. No matter what kind of a business you work in, if you're a manager, people are watching you to model their behavior on yours. It's important to remember that if you want your company to succeed you must walk the image you want to project. Young people and lower level managers will try to follow your example. Embrace Ralph's guidelines and make it a good one.

Monday, September 28, 2009

One Person Can Make a Difference

In this heart warming sequel to “Same Kind of Different as Me.” Ron Hall and Denver Moore tell us what happened after the book was published. The stories of ordinary people suddenly realizing that they can do something to create change were remarkable. God does work miracles if you give him a little opening.

The story of Jose the stone mason was one of the most moving and important in the book. Ron looked at the man and saw a drunk. In an area populated by homeless people, addicts, and the mentally ill, that was what he was programmed to see. The lesson from the story is simple: in order to help people, we have to look beyond the surface and see the real person. However, as with all lessons there is a caution. Safety is an important issue. Few sane people would walk into a cage with a tiger without taking any safety precautions. It's important to help the homeless, but in doing so, it's equally important to remember that these are damaged people. Taming wild animals takes time. Likewise it takes time, patience and understanding to make a difference to a homeless person. I'm glad Ron and Denver made this point. I hope people reading the book who want to give of themselves to help the homeless realize that it's not a “catch and release” program. Consistency and commitment are critical.

What a marvelous book. I hope it continues to encourage people to give more than a few dollars and a quick handshake when they try to make a difference.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fans of Diamond Rio Will Love This Story

The story of Diamond Rio is one of teamwork and commitment. When lead singer Marty Roe had vocal difficulties, the band didn't drop him. They worked as a team to solve the problem and won. This is a heart warming and inspiring story. Fans of the band and anyone looking for an inspirational story will enjoy the book.

Although I appreciated the message in the book, I felt the story line got lost in the middle chapters. It was interesting to learn about the background of each band member, and in the end, it did contribute to understanding how the group was able to stay together and help Marty. However, unless you are a serious fan, it's easy to stop reading during the extensive biography section.

For me, the end of the book was most interesting. When you read so much about sex and drugs in the music industry, it's wonderful to read about a band whose members are not only committed to each other, but to helping other people through organizations like Big Brothers, Big Sisters. The book is worth reading for that insight, if for no other reason.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Life Without Fear

The world is so full of things to fear sometimes it's hard to see anyplace where fear doesn't reside. We fear street violence, losing our possessions and home, losing our jobs, that our children will be hurt, and most of all we fear death. What wouldn't we give for the secret of how to live without fear? Max Lucado's book Fearless contains this secret. In each of the scenarios I mentioned, Max takes time to examine what we fear and show us that God is the answer. Believe that Jesus Christ was sent by God to give us the message that He is looking after us and we need not be afraid. Prayer and belief are the antidotes to fear.

This is a wonderful book. Each chapter tackles a major source of fear in our lives. Max presents the problems gives us examples of people who let fear rule their lives and then tells us how we can rise above our fears. Prayer is one way we can rise above our fears, but we also need to take action. God often points out paths that in our fear we cannot see, so we remain is bad and debilitating situations. This book can help you rise out of the pit of your own fears. It's well worth the time it takes to read it.

Here's a message from Max:

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Strange, But Intriguing Novel

Faces in the Fire traces the intertwined lives of four characters. Each has a serious problem: amnesia, drug addiction, lymphoma, and assassination, and each, in his or her own way, is withdrawn from contact with others, until a mysterious catfish symbol and a string of numbers enter their lives.

I found the section about Corrine, the spammer with lymphoma, to be particularly poignant. Hines made her character come to life. The other characters, however, were not as believable. I enjoyed Kurt Marlowe, the truck driver turned artist, but felt his character was almost a rehash of the lead character in Hines book, The Unseen. The assassin and the tattoo artist, while interesting characters, came across as more two dimensional.

The story is told out of sequence, which, at first, is disconcerting, but I got used to it. The major problem I found with the technique was the repetition caused by using almost identical passages when presenting the same scene from a slightly different point of view, as the lives of the characters cross. However, the intertwining was skilfully done and made the rather strange story more believable. The story twists and turns until in a surprise ending all the threads come together.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Reviews for Moving Through All Seven Days by Kathy Stemke

Moving Through All Seven Days is finally available for purchase on Lulu! Just click on this link:

This book inspires movement as children learn about the days of the week. The lyrical rhymes also teach them how to spell each day! The 14 pages of activities at the end of the book are designed to reinforce the concepts as well as give impetus to movement exploration.
Kathy Stemke’s Moving through All Seven Days offers a multifaceted approach to movement in the classroom that also offers a healthy dose of the language arts!

Rae Pica
Education Consultant
Early Childhood Physical Activity

Move and groove along with the whimsical characters of Moving Through All Seven Days as they slip, twirl, and glide you through the days of the week. An activities resource to help reinforce the learning process of spelling the days of the week is a welcome bonus. It provides an ingenious way of getting the children up from behind their desks to experience learning through movement.

Children’s author, Kathy Ann Stemke brilliantly blends lyrical rhyme and the learning process in a fun and educational twist. Along with the vibrant illustrations created by Tony Glisson, Moving Through All Seven Days is a must have for preschool and kindergarten classrooms and no home library would be complete without it.

Reviewed by author, Donna M. McDine, for the National Writing for Children Center.
Marketing Manager at Stories for Children Magazine

Friday, July 31, 2009

Everyday Greatness: Principles Count

Inspirational, compelling, a great read for our times: these are some of the ways people describe “Everyday Greatness.” I think it's more than that. It offers a glimpse, through a series of stories and quotes of people who live by their principles. Today, I think we need these insights as much, or more than ever. If everyone worked on making their lives meaningful through the steps outlined in this book, the world would be a much better place.

I was delighted by the stories of Abraham Lincoln. He was unquestionably one of our greatest leaders. He, as we do today faced almost insurmountable problems, but his principles were strongly engraved in his heart. He acted on them. I wish I thought more people today acted on their principles. I found it extremely refreshing to read story after story about average people who have faced crises with fortitude because of their belief in doing the right thing.

For most of us, this is not a book to read straight through, like a novel. This is a book to savor. It's a book to look into for inspiration when times are tough. I cherish my copy. I will keep it to give me inspiration through all the difficult times of life.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Too Simple Game Plan for Selling to the Sexes

Contrary to some commentators, women and men are different. Elizabeth Pace presents a succinct account of how and why. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the research. The studies cited clearly point out the differences and how brain chemistry is responsible. Elizabeth takes her own advice and laces the scientific with entertaining examples from her own experience.

However, I thought the book stumbled in the second half, telling you how to sell to the sexes. The advice turned out to be very similar. Yes, women rely more on feelings and men more on action, but how do you reach the in between population. After the entertaining first section, the section on how to use the research felt flat.

I think the book is overly simple when it comes to addressing the practical aspects of marketing. We can certainly see how men and women are difference and even think of examples, but male and female come in many shades. I can think of women who would be turned off by relying on feelings and men who wouldn't. I know women in management who are much more action oriented than their male counterparts. Therefore, while the book is easy and fun to read, I don't think it offers a valid plan for selling to the sexes across the broad range of personality.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Welcome to Nancy Famolari's Writing Place

Three old books, studio shot

Visit me at Nancy Famolari's Writing Place to find out more about why I write. Why did I choose harness racing for the setting for Summer's Story? Where is Montbleu?

Let's have some fun here! Please ask questions and comment.