October 27, 2013

Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits by Ilona Bray

I think it's pretty universal in that most Non-Profits suffer from a lack of money.  Sure there might be a few out there that are well funded, but those are far and few between.  For the rest, fundraising is a high priority.  But a lot of people aren't familiar with the intricacies of fundraising.  It's not all bake sales.  Nolo's guide to Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits attempts to describe all the different aspects of fundraising, and what types and how to use them for your particular nonprofit.

Obviously, since this is a reference book there is no need to read it in any particular order. You can open it up to the section you need information about and just go.  And there are several different topics. 

Chapter One:  Your Fundraising Companion.  This is a basic introduction to the book and its uses.

Chapter Two:  Fundraising Tools.  This provides a brief look at the people, skills, and equipment that can be part of your fundraising arsenal and how to effectively use them.

Chapter Three:  Developing Your Fundraising Plan.  Everyone needs a plan.  Whether it be for that bake sale or a large scale event or even a marketing scheme.  This chapter details how to set a goal, see what assets you can use to reach that goal, develop a strategy, and finalize your plans for fundraising.

Chapter Four:  Attracting Individual Supports.  Most fundraisers know that a good portion of donations come from individual supporters.  While they don't have to be large donations, they can be more consistent than grants or other forms of fundraising.

Chapter Five:  How to Keep The Giver's Giving.  This is an important section.  Just because someone gives once doesn't mean they'll do it again.  An important part of fundraising is keeping your donors happy and giving consistently. 

Chapter Six:  Midscale and Major Donors.  While small donors are important, so are the larger ones. 

Chapter Seven:  Funds From the Great Beyond.  While not a comfortable topic, many fundraisers fail to notice the value of being included in wills and trusts, and asking for this privilege. 

Chapter Eight:  Special Events.  Probably the most popular way to fundraise, there are several different types of events and several different ways to do them.  This outlines a couple of ways to have successful events and to cater to your fundraising crowd.

Chapter Nine:  Raising Money Through Business or Sales Activities.  While not viable for a lot of non-profits, having a business generate money can be a way to bring in income to support the charity.

Chapter Ten:  Seeking Grants from Foundations, Corporations, and Government.  While one of the hardest ways to fundraise, it can also be the most rewarding.

Chapter Eleven:  Creating Printed Communications Materials.  A smaller section, this gives some basic tips for creating marketing material to draw interest in the organization.

Chapter Twelve:  Designing Your Website to Draw In Donors.  Setting up a website is a must in today's technology driven world and having easy access to make donations from this site increases the chance of hooking those donators. 

Chapter Thirteen:  Outreach Via Traditional and Social Media.  Pretty self-explanatory, you have to market yourself in many ways in order to gain interest in your nonprofit and fundraise.

Appendix A:  Worksheets.  This is a section filled with fundraising worksheets from a Sample Cost Analysis to a Grant Prospect Summary.  Very helpful and set up in a way that allows for copying of the page.

Appendix B:  Using the Interactive Worksheets.  This is just a quick section on how to access the files on NOLO's website.

Overall I found this book to contain a lot of useful information.  The only downside to it was that most of it seemed geared towards larger non-profits, and of those, those that had salaried workers.  For someone volunteering at a 100% volunteer non-profit it was hard to line up some of the advice and make it apply.  However, there were still some general fundraising rules that can apply to any non-profit and which were extremely helpful.  I particularly enjoyed the section on "Funds from the Great Beyond".  Having worked in estate planning at one point, it is amazing how many people are willing to donate to charities and I don't think it's a fundraising tool that gets utilized enough. 

Additionally, I thought that the few links and access to the website tools makes this a valuable resource as well.  I definitely plan to take advantage of it and soak in all the knowledge I can.  This book not only provides that technical format, but if you're just sticking with the book there's enough information to fundraise without the internet.  It's also easy to read and structured in a logical way to make sure that most everyone can understand the tips and how to use fundraising.  While brief in some chapters, it gives you enough information to get started and where to look for more in-depth explanations of fundraising.

Is this the answer to all of your fundraising woes?  Well, it's not going to start drawing money in your door and to your cause.  Ultimately, you have to take the knowledge in here and apply it the way it fits.  But it's a great resource and may give you a few ideas you didn't already have.

**This review is part of the Amazon Vine Program**

October 26, 2013

The Valley of the Shadow by Carola Dunn

This book is the third in a series.  I haven't read the first two, but I don't feel that I missed out on all that much by not reading them.  Just a bit of back-story.

Eleanor always seems to be where the action is.  Or at least where something foul is afoot.  She doesn't mean to be, it just happens.  And when it does she feels compelled to do whatever she can to help.  Despite local authorities not enjoying that help.  So when a man is rescued from a dangerous bay, and tells of his family trapped in the nearby caves, once again, Eleanor has to find out what happens, before something terrible befalls the family.

Eleanor was not as much of a focus as I expected her to be in the book.  Her niece actually plays a slightly larger role.  They're both great characters.  They have their own personalities and are strong and independent.  I think that the men were actually a bit weaker.  They all had some kind of flaw or dis-likable quality.  But that also made them more real than the female characters.  The bad guy I didn't find very menacing.  There wasn't enough history to really understand or care about why the person was doing what they were doing.

I enjoyed the setting of the book.  Taking place a few decades ago, it examined the relationships between the English and those of Indian descent and the turmoil between the races that was present at the time.  It's actually what set the whole mystery in motion.  That being said, despite it being charming, I found the first part of the book too slow in pace while the end was too rapid and didn't have enough explanation.  It felt too quick to be real.  And it lessened my enjoyment of an otherwise good mystery because of it.

I'm not sure if I'd go back and read the first two, or even more in the series.  They were a nice cozy, but I think more ardent fans of Dunn would like them more.

The Valley of the Shadow
Copyright 2012
309 pages

October 20, 2013

The Sweethearts' Knitting Club by Lori Wilde

This was cute, but I can't say it was a fantastic romance.  I've certainly read better from Wilde before.  And I really thought there would be more knitting involved in it. 

Flynn has always taken a backseat to everyone else in her life.  Her father, with his drinking problems, her siblings, who she's raised ever since her mother was diagnosed with an incurable disease, and even her knitting club, where she only pretends to know how to knit and instead spends the time playing hostess to the ladies who come over.  The only person she hasn't put first is her boyfriend Beau, the town Sheriff, who has asked her so many times to marry him that it isn't a new thing anymore.  And she isn't certain why she doesn't want to marry him.  It can't be that she still has a crush on a boy from highschool.  A boy who went to prison and has recently returned to town.  After all, loving him would not be the responsible thing to do.

Flynn was too flighty for me.  She's supposed to be a level-headed, grounded person, and yet she flys off the handle on nearly everything that's presented to her.  She's a hard worker, but doesn't take time for herself and the martyr act is tiring after awhile and makes it hard to like her.  By contrast, Jesse is actually one of the better characters.  At least you understand his motives and he's not as far out there as Beau and his weird need to rescue damsels in distress.  Jesse may have gone to prison and had a wild youth, but at least he's more level-headed than everyone else in the book.  I really can't say there were a lot of genuinely nice characters here, they all have motives and imperfections and are a bit selfish.  Yes, that's realistic, but it's a romance novel, I need warm fuzzies too!

If it weren't for the weaker characters the plot was actually interesting.  You have a guy just out of prison who's the main love interest.  Which is unusual.  A sheriff who's the bad guy.  Ok, not so unusual, but still a good antagonist as there is a lot of power there.  And then you have your typical strong female romance protagonist who doesn't need any man.  Yet wants one because he curls her toes.  Add in a lot of people who make bad personal decisions and the book has a lot going on at least.  Although for as thick as it was, it was fast paced and the ending felt a bit rushed.  I also didn't learn anything new about knitting than I did before and having rushed into this thinking it was sort of a crafty, cozy novel, I was a bit disappointed.  Yes, the main character is in a knitting club and has aspirations to open a knitting shop, but that was mostly how the knitting was described.  No in-depth descriptions of projects, no how-to's on knitting something.  In fact, I think the sex scenes had more detail than the knitting scenes.

I would probably read the next in the series (just because it has quilting in the name) but I'll be forewarned that it probably won't have much to do about the craft.  I just hope the characters are a little more likable.

The Sweethearts' Knitting Club
Copyright 2009
384 pages

The Geek's Guide to Dating by Eric Smith

**This book was received as a Goodreads Giveaway**

This was a cute book.  And I think it hilarious that it's aimed towards boys but the majority of the readers thus far seem to be girls.  Although it can apply to girls in some aspects. And the author even has a section on how this book relates to girl geeks.

Geeks have a hard time dating.  Especially if they stay in their basements playing video games all day.  Ok,so that's stereotyping, but really, this book advises those that may be more socially aware of NPC's than they are of real people.  We start with the introduction, and then prepping for a date.  Next is plotting how to meet someone and then the actual asking of someone on a date.  Chapter 5 has how to get through the date and chapter six explains what you do depending on if it went well or not.  Finally, we end with Chapter 7 which goes on to describe further dates or a breakup.  It's all covered.

I love the way the author describes "Player 1" in this book.  The person who wants to start dating that is.  He captures all of the weaknesses and the strengths.  And he tries to capture all of the different types of nerdiness there is, from comic books to video games, to just being tech savvy or a social media follower.  And there's a handy dandy guide for determining which sort of geek you are. 

As far as methods I think there is so good advice in here.  Especially if you haven't really dated before.  And while I didn't find out why even geeks don't hit on me, that's alright, I learned how they act when they're trying to ask someone out.  I think the chapters are outlined well and go in a logical order.  My only thing I didn't agree with was on the clothing part.  The first part was alright when he was talking about normal clothes, but then he tried to say that certain characters (like Captain Kirk or Neo) are great characters to emulate for clothing.  I'm not going to lie, some of those looks are just not going to get you a second date, just a weird couple of glances.  Otherwise, there's some good stuff in this book.

I do need to comment on the pictures and layout of the book.  It uses pixelized images and makes the book very videogameish. And everything is really colorful.  So a pretty book with useful information, it should be a book single geeks should definitely check out!

The Geek's Guide to Dating
Copyright 2013
204 pages

October 18, 2013

Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody

It's hard to believe that this was non-fiction.  It was so horrific that you didn't want it to be real.  But it is, and it is a very alarming view of what can happen when culture's crash and the relative power that women have in other countries.

Betty Mahmoody had an unsuccessful first marriage that gave her two sons.  She wasn't looking for more when she met an Iranian doctor nicknamed Moody (if that isn't foreshadowing I don't know what is).  Despite herself she fell in love and they eventually married, and had a daughter named Mahtob.  All wasn't perfect in their marriage and when a proposed trip to his home country came about, Betty had to agree.  What began as a two week trip turned into a nightmare that lasted almost two years.  Once in Iran, Moody trapped Betty and Mahtob there and began trying to make them follow Islamic laws regarding women and beating them when they didn't do what he wanted.  Desperate for escape, Betty found herself in a country that required the permission of her husband before she could do anything.

Was everyone believable in this book?  I certainly think so.  When people complain that this book presents a biased view of Iran and Iranian men it's important to look at the fact that Betty did not encounter a large amount of people while she was in Iran.  And it would make sense that Moody would only allow her to interact with people who thought the same was as him.  The majority of people she met outside of his influence were ones that were willing to help her.  So I think that that shows she didn't believe all people in Iran were like Moody and his family.  Betty herself reaccounts some harrowing details which must have been very painful to share.  I find her brave and admire that she didn't take the easy way out and leave her daughter behind.  She did everything she could, and suffered much, to guarantee she and her daughter's return to America.  Moody is obviously not presented in a positive light in this book, although Betty does share all the positive things that made her fall in love with him in the first place.  He sounds like a typical abuser; wonderful until he has full control and then tyrannical.

If you're sensitive to harsh topics and violence, this is not a book for you.  Betty tells all and she suffers a number of beatings and a lot of oppression by both her husband and some of his family.  As said before, some will say this is not a fair book to Iran and its culture, but we aren't talking about what the entire country did to Betty, just a subset and most of those from one family.  With the cultural differences and the patriarchal society, it's true enough to say that this happened the way it did because of where Betty was.  She could have been abused in America, but not as easily kept prisoner.  I thought the pace of the book was done quite well and while most of it was done in a standard timeline, bits and pieces and flashbacks went back to show signs of Moody becoming unstable even while still in the States and why Betty made the choice she did to go to Iran with him.

I can't quite call this book inspiring because it is horrific.  But it shows a brave woman and the fight she had to keep her daughter.  Should this book warn away marriages to men from Islamic countries?  I don't think so, but the reader should bear in mind that other cultures have different rules, although really, it's the individual that can become an abuser regardless of what country they hail from.

Not Without My Daughter
Copyright 1987
420 pages

October 16, 2013

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran

Nefertiti is probably one of the best known Egyptian rulers.  Most people know her name at the very least.  So a historical fiction about her has to be pretty interesting right?  Right.  It is.  I don't know how accurate this book is in regards to the facts, but it is enthralling.

Nefertiti was born to become a Queen of Egypt.  And she has the ambition to see that it will actually happen.  After the death of the Prince, his younger brother is made co-regent of the realm and Nefertiti is chosen as his second wife, but first in ruling.  At first her beauty captures him, but then it's her wits and political maneuvering that will encourage him to do rash acts and build a new Egypt.  One that both he and Nefertiti hope will cause their names to be remembered for eternity.

This story is actually told through the eyes of Nefertiti's sister, Mutnodjmet (Mutny).  Not as ambitious, she is content to dream about having a family some day and tend her garden.  But Nefertiti wants her around, and her sister's selfishness consistently encroaches on Mutny's happiness.  But she is sensible an caring and the only time I ever see unfairness from her is when she is putting her family first above others.  Nefertiti is a spoiled woman.  She wants what she wants and has to have it, even if it's at the expense of other's feelings and well being.  I grew tired of her at times just because she was so predictable.  And the rest of Mutny's family was kind of like her sister, so you really did feel sorry for her.

As I said before, I don't know how historically accurate this book is.  I haven't read much about Egypt, even fiction, so it was all pretty new to me.  I did find it surprising how much freedom and power women seemed to have.  Regardless, if you treat it as fiction, it draws you in and makes it hard to put the book down.   You want to know what will happen to Mutny.  And to a lesser extent, Nefertiti.  I do think that the book could have been a little less drawn-out.  There are several times where the detail goes on about building something or other and gets kind of boring.  But luckily those areas are far and few between and the majority of the writing is quite good.  There is a sufficient amount of detail about the character and setting to make it feel well developed.

I enjoyed this book and will probably look for others from Moran.  She has a way of presenting characters that make them feel real and interesting.

Copyright 2007
457 pages

October 14, 2013

In Movement There Is Peace by Elaine Foster & Joseph Foster

**This book was received as a Free Advanced Reviewer's Copy**

I'd never heard of The Camino De Santiago before reading this book. The Appalachian Trail, yes. The Camino, no. Maybe that's because even though it is a 800 km trek, it's more of a spiritual journey than a physical one. After all, you're supposed to receive forgiveness at the end and it's considered a pilgrimage.

Elaine Foster, a Psychologist, takes an early retirement to work on her own issues. Her husband, Joe, encourages her to walk the Camino with him. So they get ready to travel and fly over to Spain to begin their journey. Aside from the brutal physical aspect of it, it proves to be an emotional journey for them. They learn things about themselves, relationships, and other people and also meet quite a few eclectic people also traveling the Camino for their own reasons.

Elaine and Joe both take turns writing this book. It's broken up into each day (or almost each day, not every single one is here) and they both tell what they experience in that day in their own sections (labeled as who is narrating). They actually must be well suited for one another as I found their "voice" to be quite similar. They both focus on the emotional aspects of the journey and the introspection they experience. Joe tends to focus a little more on the food they encounter while Elaine focuses a tad more on the people. They're both brutally honest about their feelings and own perceived shortcomings and I think it was courageous that they could talk about their weaknesses like that. Perhaps that freedom is just one of the many things they learned on the Camino. I also liked some of the people they got to meet along the way. It was such a varied group and they all seemed like good people. I can't really recall any mean person that they encountered.

The dual writing style was a bit repetitive at first, but as the book got further in they had different things to talk about. In addition to their feelings of walking the Camino, they shared a little bit about equipment, a lot about the different places they stayed every night, and there were even a couple of recipes included in the book. In fact, the only thing that didn't have a lot of description was the trail itself. I was a bit saddened at the lack of scenery and mountain trails in the writing. There was a little, but the hostels they stayed at generally got more description than the beauty of nature. I understand that it was a spiritual journey, so emotions and people were of utmost importance to write about, but surrounded by all that beauty I just can't imagine not writing chapters upon chapters about it. It was still good writing though and it kept you engaged throughout the entire book. In fact, I'm not religious at all (and religion was a theme in this book) but there were several passages that really moved me, and one most poignantly right now "No matter how prepared we try to make ourselves for the inevitable reality of death, the work of true grief will always feel raw and painful. Accepting this truth helps to separate pain from unnecessary layers of suffering (pg.161)." I have a pet that was recently diagnosed with kidney failure. And it doesn't matter that I knew she was growing old, it still hurts to know that I'll be losing her at some point when she's been the only real constant in my life. But this sentence helped me to realize that even though it hurts, I can still enjoy what time I have. Maybe not what the author intended by this lesson, but still one that helped me.

Will I be hiking the Camino any time soon myself? No, probably not. I'm not at the point yet where I can just up and go because of responsibilities that keep me tied down. But it's always a possibility in the future and I am very grateful to this book for not only showing me the emotional path it offers, but letting me know of its existence in the first place! This is an excellent read for the traveler, self-help aficionado or lover of non-fiction journeys.

In Movement There Is Peace
Copyright 2013
296 pages

October 13, 2013

In Meat We Trust by Maureen Ogle

**This review is part of the Amazon Vine program**

This is a really hard book to review. It's certainly well researched and well done (over 100 pages of notes and bibliography). But it also lacks interest at times. Which considering the amount of time that was probably spent on it, is sad.

Meat We Trust follows the history of meat production. From its humble beginnings on regular farms, to the development of factory farms, the different methods that were used to increase production, and the evolution of American's taste for meat and what type of meat. How accessible meat is to everyone regardless of income and the different laws and rules in place to keep it that way. And the sanitary laws that also came into play, along with an alternative food movement that wants to impose more regulations for how food is labeled.

There were a lot of people who developed the meat industry into the way it is today. Pioneers with technology and men out for a profit. You get to see how Tyson built his empire, and all the acquisitions he made. There are some descriptions of people in the alternative food realm who produced organics well before they became popular. And there is some talk of Ralph Nader and the movements against giant food corporations that he instigated. So an ambitious "cast of characters" in all.

This book starts at the beginning and shows how factory farms came about. Which means you got to hear about all the technology and the numbers of pounds of meat people were consuming. Each decade has its own numbers and innovations and it all points to ever increasing consumption. However, all those numbers and descriptions make the book slow moving and tedious to read. I found some of it interesting but at times it felt like there was detail thrown in just to use some of the research. And I wasn't sure how the author felt about everything. In some parts she's derisive about the organic movement while at other times the tone is admiring. Same with the factory farms. It was kind of confusing.

This is a well researched book, but it's just not attention grabbing. I think those interested in history and food politics will find it a good read though.

In Meat We Trust
Copyright 2013
367 pages

October 08, 2013

Pegasus by Robin McKinley

And this is why I like to wait until all books are out in a series before I read them. Because authors like cliffhangers and no resolution. Which is exactly what happens in this book, you're plugging along reading it and then "BAM", it ends.

Sylvi is the fourth child to the King and Queen and the last heir. Which makes her pretty unimportant in the grand scheme of things. But she's still important enough to be bonded to a Pegasus on her twelfth birthday. Of course most nobility are bound, but none have the connection that Sylvi and Ebon share. But it's a connection that threatens the alliance between humans and Pegasi and upsets quite a few people who want things to remain the same.

You'll get to know these characters really well. Because most of the book is about describing them. For instance, Ebon is black. With a shiny black mane and tail. And Sylvi is short and can talk to Pegasi like no other person can. Don't worry if you forget that, it's all there over and over. There's a large cast of characters in this book too so a new face is always lurking in another chapter. It's actually hard to keep track of sometimes, especially since a lot of the names are long and nonsensical. And the way they are written you are supposed to like the Pegasi better, which I did. So I actually have to applaud that. They were interesting creatures and much more noble than their human counterparts. Ebon especially has a wonderful sense of humor.

There's a lot of things I don't understand about this book. Which is surprising because of the amount of time and effort the author put forth into describing and world-building. I actually found the book to drag at times because there was so much description going on. And some of it was sort of disturbing as I just can't picture the hand-things she gives the Pegasi without being creeped out. But as the book moved along the pace got better until you got to the abrupt ending. Meaning that you have to read the next book if you want to know what happens. But there were still a lot of unanswered questions in this one. Like the deal with the magicians, some of the things Sylvi saw, and what exactly happened at the magical Caves Sylvi visited as that part was so fast paced the whole sense of what happened eluded me. I even tried to go back and read it again and was still a bit confused. I know it was supposed to seem alien, so maybe that was the effect it was supposed to have though. The writing, in addition to being descriptive, is easy to read. I would actually rate the level of it as a middle-school age rather than young adult. It was simplistic without being dull.

I'll read the next book of course. I want to know what happens. But I hope it's just a tad more polished than this one was. And that the numerous questions this book leaves hanging are answered.

Copyright 2010
404 pages

October 07, 2013

Living In A Foreign Language by Michael Tucker

This could have been such a beautiful book. Too bad the author turns you off in the first part of the book by alienating about 99% of the population. "There were other people--regular people--but you can't imagine how easy it is to tell the difference." And "I mean it's hard enough being a star, but when there's nobody there to worship you, it's damn near impossible." And plenty more just like that.

Michael Tucker and his wife Jill have been tv stars for awhile (LA Law I think?) and after the show ends they find themselves floating adrift. But then, at a birthday party in Italy, they discover a little villa called The Rustico that they fall in love with. They buy it and start changing it, having friends over and finding great food in the area. They also decide to go back to work and so spend their time between the States and Italy.

I've already mentioned my distaste for the author's ego. Maybe he was a really good actor, I don't know, I've never seen him in anything, but it's still not flattering to have quite that much conceit. Although at least he was impressed with his wife and you can tell that he appreciated her. I guess that's a redeeming point in his favor. She herself is only described through his eyes, but she seems like a very focused individual. And they had a ton of friends. One, Caroline, seems to be a helper/surrogate daughter and we definitely know she's Korean, as that's how Tucker described her mostly. But the rest of the people were so numerous that a really great description is never given.

Although that's completely different for the food. That's the best part of this book. I may not like Tucker but he can write about food. All his descriptions of the courses and pasta and deli that he incorporated into the book made me salivate. I wanted to hop a plane to Italy and just eat until I burst. There were stories that weren't about food, but food was definitely the focus. I was surprised by the amount of cursing in this book. It didn't start out that way, but by the end f-bombs are dropped all over the place. Which doesn't bother me but I know a lot of people don't appreciate reading it and so I thought I'd provide a warning.

I can't say that I wholly enjoyed this book. Just the descriptions of food. For those comparing it to Under the Tuscan Sun, I can see similarities, but it is definitely a different kind of book.

Living in a Foreign Language
Copyright 2007
252 pages

October 03, 2013

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Abortion, crime, sumo wrestlers and the KKK.  Sound interesting enough for you?  And what on earth do all these things have in common?  Well, a few things actually.  Which is what the premise of Freakonomics is.  It's a book that shows some interesting data on little thought of topics.

Levitt is an economist who tends to veer off the beaten track .  And Dubner is the one to write this book with him as Levitt is not much of a writer according to himself.  In this book they explore a variety of topics (but warn that there's no cohesive theme to the book) such as Schoolteachers & Sumo Wrestlers, where they compare the honesty in the professions.  Another comparison is the KKK and Real-Estate Agents.  There's a section on drug dealers and the kind of money they're making.  And perhaps one of the most controversial sections: abortion and lower crime rates.  And a few other topics.  The authors look at the numbers behind these things and bring some data in that takes a different look at economics.

The authors say that there isn't a unifying theme to this book.  But I would have to disagree.  I think both race and crime are the unifying themes.  In fact, in nearly all of the chapters there is a mention of crime and its correlations and causations.  You could argue that the parenting section didn't really include crime, but in a way it did as it showed what happened to the children in regards to different parenting methods.  And race, while not in all the chapters, was a big area of study in several of the chapters with the most significant comparison being between black and white.  There was a very tiny portion of Hispanic data thrown in but not enough to be a large area of study.  So even though it jumps around in regards to sumo wrestlers and teachers and crack dealers, it still in a way is saying something about crime and the types of people who commit various crimes.

I didn't find the book difficult to read, but I wouldn't say it was a walk in the park either.  A person could read it and take everything the authors say as the truth, but you need to think about the data that is presented.  And the type of person you are is going to cause you to look at that data differently (the authors even admit this, especially with the chapter on abortion).  Because people can be so different, what something means is subjective.  I do think that the book was a bit bland in parts.  Which is saying something considering most of the topic matter.  But especially in the listing of baby names I got a little bored and really didn't care about that focus of topics.  Now you don't have to read that chapter I suppose, but I like to read a book cover to cover so there was no avoiding it for me.

I think that this book has some interesting ideas and if you have a mild like of economics it may be a worthy read.  Certainly you'll be a little shocked at the open way some topics are being discussed but I appreciated that some new observations were shared in this book.  Now if I was just an economist I could say whether or not the data is legitimate, but it felt real enough.

Copyright 2005
242 pages

October 01, 2013

Big Sky Christmas by C.J. Carmichael

**This book was received in a Goodreads Giveaway**

I have to say, this fourth and final book in the Coffee Creek Montana series certainly improved upon the third book. The characters were written better and the plot moved along better. And because it is the fourth book, it's one of those series that would be helpful to read in order. Especially because this one relies a lot on the history from the other books.

Winnie has finally returned to Coffee Creek. In Book One, we saw her on her wedding day, about to get married to Brock Lambert, when a terrible accident killed him on his way to the church. Now, almost two years later, she returns with her son (she was pregnant with Brock's child)and finds herself trying to fit in with the Lambert family despite an overbearing almost-mother-in-law. And to make things even more complicated, she has feelings for Brock's foster brother, Jackson, who feels so much guilt over the accident that he's just not prepared to have any kind of interest in Winnie.

I was glad we got to see more of Winnie in this book. She kind of just disappears in the first book and then we only have phone conversations between characters with her in the next two. And it did seem unfair that she lost her fiance and never had another chance for love within those books. Jackson is also a well written character. But I can't say I like him. But that's probably because he just isn't my type. Regardless, he has fully developed emotions in this book and is believable. The only character I didn't really like was Olive, the matriarch of the Lambert family. She's hard to get along with anyway, but she has some unexpected changes of heart in this book that are just never fully explained.

This wasn't an exciting plot. It was more angst and emotion driven. But I thought it was well done. I really wanted to see what would happen with Jackson and Winnie. And some side plots that the author had been creating in the previous books were also resolved in this one. So that provided some closure. Maybe they weren't as dramatic as I was expecting, but they were realistic. This is a romance novel, but aside from the unsnapping of a bra, they weren't descriptive. It's a tame romance novel in that regard. So if you're looking for cowboys and love stories, this is going to be in that genre.

I'm glad the series ended on a positive note. Overall it's been pretty good and since I'm partial to cowboys and Montana, I was happy to read about Coffee Creek. I also wouldn't be adverse to this not being the final book in the series.

Big Sky Christmas
Copyright 2013
216 pages