Book Chat

When I was in high school, I remember a teacher asking us to write down a few book genres we enjoyed reading. For one, I wrote down “self-help books.” I think back to that every now and then, mainly to smile over the teacher’s probable amusement: a 16-year-old who enjoyed reading self-help books! But to this day, I still enjoy them and pick one up occasionally.

“People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys” is a great example. We all know and interact with people we could charitably define as “crazy.” The difficulty comes when we can’t really avoid those people. Mike Bechtle helps us learn “what does love look like when someone is ruining our lives.”

I’m not sure if it’s the result of reading so many books like this, or just an innate intuition that God blessed me with, but as I read books like this I frequently realize that I already know much of what they recommend. They simply remind me to put that knowledge into action. Ah … there’s the rub. “When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves,” the book states. So true.

A Shakespeare quote from the book: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” So Bechtle challenges us to work on ourselves, as much as possible ignoring the person(s) making us crazy. He encourages us to “live lightly” — to be one of those people who sees the glass as half full and who always sees the silver lining rather than the approaching storm. “We can’t fix everyone who causes us pain,” he counsels, and this is so true.

I found myself really enjoying this book — buy it as a cheap form of therapy. Recommended.

Thanks to Revell for a review copy of this book, which is available October 2012.



The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams and the unexpected consequences they sometimes bring. It is an unforgettable story of lovers and friends, deception and passion that is told against a backdrop of events that changed the world.

That sounded like the set-up for a good read to me, and so I dug in. I’ll admit it was  a bit long for my tastes at almost 500 pages, but I kept with it and I’m glad I did. It’s well-written, with the action swinging back and forth between the current day, when five children attend their dying mother, and the early 1940s, when that mother was young and in the center of a drama whose effects have reverberated throughout the years.

The characters are well-developed, and I found myself forming a bond with Vivien, who had “learned early … that she could only ever control the life she led inside her mind … it was enough to know that what she had inside was hers alone.”

This book is worth sticking with. Although it started slow, the last hundred pages flew by as threads starting coming together to form a riveting conclusion with a huge twist I hadn’t seen coming. Recommended.

“The Secret Crown” is definitely not my usual reading genre: action-packed, all male characters (well, there is one female), gun fights, rappelling from helicopters — you get the idea. But I was compelled to pick it up because a commenter found my blog because he was searching for information on King Ludwig II, who of course is the subject of my latest book.

“Secret Crown” is based on two Indiana Jones-types who are looking for a treasure supposedly left by Ludwig. Perhaps it even was the cause of his admittedly mysterious death.

Eh, I wasn’t crazy about this book. I skimmed all the chapters (and there were many) filled with detailed fights and manhunts, middle school-type jokes about women, race, and body parts. I did read the info about Ludwig II. Some of it was accurate; some of it, surprisingly, wasn’t. For instance, several times the author refers to Ludwig’s 3 castles, and mis-names one (he leaves out Herrenchiemsee and subs in the Munich Residenz, where Ludwig did live sometimes but did not build).

As a non-fiction author, it bothered me that so much fact and fiction were mixed here — I’m wondering how many will read this book and think the info on King Ludwig is fact. Of course, maybe that wouldn’t be the end of the world :). Still …

Read, if you’re an action junkie. If you want info on King Ludwig, look elsewhere.


I began “Real Food” with real enthusiasm. I always enjoy learning more about healthy eating. Right away, Planck challenged me. She was anti-low fat foods. She advocates real butter, whole milk (and not just whole, but “raw”), lots of beef and even more fish, you name it. Her reasoning made sense to me, although I’m fully aware that an educated person on the other side of the debate could convince me of their merits as well.

However, about halfway through I began to get really discouraged with her advice. For instance: we should eat pork from pigs that are allowed to root in pastures — not, heaven forbid, those raised on concrete. Pacific cod = good. Atlantic cod = bad. The author tells us: “I often buy local seafood, but I also cook wild Alaskan salmon from small independent boats, a choice I regard as socially and environmentally sound. My red sockeye come from the boat of Rosemary McGuire, who fishes Alaska’s famous Copper River Flats. ”

Um. I’m feeling a bit inadequate here. I don’t think I have ready access to a dairy that will sell me raw milk, and her search for acceptable fish sounds almost as challenging as catching it myself. I have never heard of Rosemary McGuire, but I’m guessing I have little chance of getting some of her fish.

I enjoyed “Real Food” as an interesting conversation about food, and, if nothing else, took from it that we should be eating more “real” foods and less processed (or “industrial,” as Planck calls them) foods.

3 thoughts on “Book Chat

  1. I agree that low fat foods are more risky than their alternatives. For instance, I’ve used butter for years, rather than the alternatives. But I do use low fat milk. You’re right, I’m sure her book is good for conversation starters.

    BTW, I trust you’re not experiencing too much of a storm down there. We have wind and rain, but that’s all, so far.

  2. Personally, I have always been an advocate of REAL foods, but not to the extreme that the author of the book describes. Nothing tastes or cooks as well as real butter and real cream. My step-son, a chemist, warns against sugar substitutes of all kinds because of harmful ingredients, and he is also very much against margarine/butter substitutes because he swears that they are only about one molecule away from plastic! I totally agree with that idea. As for milk, I like 2% best because it is not “blue” in color or watery in taste. Just my opinion, that’s all. Another observation throughout my life is the fact that all of my older relatives ate pie crust made with real lard, and many other non-processed foods off the family farm, and many of them lived to ripe old ages like 83 and 92 (which was excellent in those days).

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