Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts

The Simplest Way To Change The World

If you are a Christian, read this book!

You might remember that the main goal I have chosen for this year is to reach out to those around me more.  So when I say that a book on hospitality was up for review a couple months ago, I requested it immediately.

The Simplest Way To Change The World (affiliate link) discusses biblical hospitality, both in terms of biblical teachings on hospitality and in terms of practical way we can become hospitable people.  I got so much out of this book.

What I really liked about this book was the way the authers discussed theological topics relating to hospitality, and alternated those chapters with practical suggestions.  

On the theological side, they framed the gospel in terms of hospitality in one chapter, writing about how in Scripture God is a hospitable God, and I found that really interesting.  They discussed the truth of the Gospel and what Jesus did in dying to save us, and expressed how that is what motivates us to reach out to those around us with biblical hospitality.

Some of the best chapters were definitely on the practical suggestions though.  The authors know that opening your home and lives to those around you is hard in this culture, in which it is more normal to lock yourself behind closed doors to "relax" than to open the doors and invite people in.  They gave so many practical and fun suggestions for starting to open your homes to other people.  I loved how they encouraged you to incorporate hospitality into the regular rhythms of your life, and how they made it seem easy and desirable to become more hospitable (even while acknowledging the parts that are hard and sharing their own mistakes).  

The end of the book includes a group study guide - I think this would make an amazing small group study.

Everything the authors had to say on how hospitality can be the most effective way to reach other people for Christ was spot-on.  You don't have to preach from the sidewalk, give a "gospel presentation", travel to foreign countries, or do something "radical" to reach other for the Lord.  Through simply being hospitable, we "share our lives" with people and naturally let them see how important Jesus is in our lives through words and actions - and God can use that to stir their hearts to know more.

Highly, highly recommend this book!  Easy and enjoyable to read, convicting and motivating!

Note: I received a digital copy of this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Behind The Scenes Review

When I was a teenager, my sister and I had a couple groups of friends who like dot write stories.  We would labor over those stories when we got together or between seeing each other, and then we'd read them to each other and laugh and laugh.

(Affiliate links below - you know, so I can buy more books.)

Behind The Scenes by Jen Turano reminded me of those stories, in the best possible way.

In this book, the main character, Permillia, is an official wallflower, relegated to the edges of all the exciting society events.  However, that's just fine with her since she writes an anonymous society column for a local newspaper and is more interested in business than marrying well. However, on the night of a certain ball she not only makes better acquaintance with a gentlemen named Asher Rutherford, but she also learns of a murder plot with him as the target.  She is determined to either figure out who is trying to murder Asher, or at the least make him take the threat seriously.

What I Liked

This is one of those books with over-the-top characters and situations, but done in a really fun and comical way - and I loved that!  I love light-hearted historical fiction that avoids that "tragedy" formula and takes a comedy route instead.  That was the part that reminded me of the stories I used to write with my friends, because I have always loved a story or book that can make me laugh, and this one delivered!

The ending of this book was nearly perfect too, with almost every loose end tied up in a nice bow.  Some people don't appreciate that because they like their fiction to be more true to real life...I am not one of those people, and if you are, this is probably not your book!  I loved everything that was slightly over-the-top, and I loved that everything came out alright in the end.  It was just fun!

What I Didn't Like

Permillia's character was a little too ambitious for me at times, and it seemed she expected everyone else to recognize her value.  She came off as lecturing other people when she really wasn't in a position to be lecturing.  All this was framed within the context of the women's suffrage movement, since this story takes place during that time.  However, Permillia did not come off as pursuing a good cause (like women's right to vote, etc.), but instead she just seemed arrogant, which is a character flaw not really addressed in this book.  She seemed like a know-it-all in places.  Despite that, I still liked her character overall.

The only other thing that I had a problem with was in the scene where Permillia learns her father and stepmother were really only married because they were using each other.  Her stepmother used her father to escape financial ruin, and her father used her stepmother to help Permillia become more accepted in society.  When this all officially comes out, there are tons of accusations and very hurtful words hurled between the parents, and between Permillia and her stepsister, with a couple of side characters even joining in with the verbal thrashing.  It was probably meant to be amusing, but I did not find this scene funny.  Even though this book wasn't meant to be realistic, even over-the-top fictional characters would have a hard time coming back from that.  

In the end, this sad conflict with Permillia's family was the one loose end that wasn't tied up well.  I wanted relationships to be repaired, especially in the marriage of Permillia's father and stepmother, because the careless words they flung at each other really seemed to bring down the whole view of marriage itself within this book.  So I'm taking off a star for that.


Even though those last two books sound fairly bad when they're all typed out, just take my word for it that the book overall was fun and funny and lighthearted!  Despite my couple of bones to pick, I really enjoyed reading it, and I'd still recommend it if you want some not-too-serious reading!  It comes out in April if you want to check it out, or preorder here!

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.  

Speaking Of "Spring"...

From Winter To Spring

In one way or another springtime here always disappoints me.

I used to truly hate springtime, mostly because where I live the season inevitably means one thing - mud. Lots and lots of mud.  However, springtime in the mountains has started to surprise me.  The last couple springs have been unseasonably warm, with blue skies and flowers that have started to sprout early.

This last week I thought we may be in for another uncharacteristically nice spring, but I'm still on guard because the air as I type this on Saturday has a bit of chill sneaking back in.  So even during "nice" springs, you just never know when we will be right back to winter.  I'm dubbing it the springtime blues.  You are happy that the weather is so beautiful, but you are sad because you know it's not going to last that long.

It's an emotional roller coaster, I tell you.

In-Between Seasons Clothing

Regardless, I thought I'd just talk today about transitioning from winter to spring, in more ways than one!  First clothing, and in particular, shoes.  I am so happy that laced suede flats are a trend right now, because I think they are perfect for those transition seasons, when you don't really know what to wear.

Floral Tank: Papaya
Drapey Utility-Inspired Jacket: TJ Maxx
Jeans: JustFab (my referral links here)
Shoes: JustFab

All About Birding

For the uninitiated, "birding" is the modern term for "bird-watching".  Don't let a birder catch you saying "bird-watching", because I hear it's a major faux-pas.  I've mentioned before that one of my favorite movies is The Big Year, and every time I watch it I get in the mood to break out my binoculars and find some birds.  Last year when we went to Yellowstone was when it started, because there were so many varieties of birds there.  I saw an American White Pelican!  I don't think I've seen a pelican in my life before that.

As if I needed another reason to just give birding a try, I saw in one of my homeschool Facebook groups that the Great Backyard Bird Count is starting right now.  This is a citizen-study put on by Cornell every year.  It helps them gather information on bird migration patterns, and it helps citizens (like me) get outside and identify some birds.  I decided we would participate and incorporate it into our school days.  

Our first day out was not overly successful.  I heard a chickadee and saw a Dark-eyed Janko.  But to be honest, I was just guessing as to what bird it was.  I poured over websites and books for almost an hour trying to figure out what it was that I saw.  It was a 7-9 inch bird with a chestnut-colored back, and blackish and white tail feathers.  I settled on the Janko, because it's very common and also the only bird that even vaguely fit that description.  

I'm sure I'll get better at this whole thing eventually and won't have to spend an hour identifying each bird, right?

The Book-Buying Urge

Even though I wouldn't say spring has officially started at all, this spring-like weather is conjuring spring-like thoughts.  Spring makes me think about saving money for the homeschool conference, and preparing for next school year (oh, the life of a homeschool mom), which makes me think about picking curriculum for first grade (even though we are still in the midst of kindergarten).  And since I am an eclectic homeschooler with an emphasis on "living books", it makes me want to buy books for the kids.

My Usborne party was a declared success, and I have a big 'ole batch of books coming my way from them soon (more on that when they arrive!).  Last Saturday I also took a shopping trip by myself, and there is a local thrift store that has a particularly good selection of books.  Seriously, every time I go there I find a bunch of classic children's books.  I am baffled.  Who is giving away all these good books?  I must be in a sweet-spot, surrounded by parents with kids just a little older than mine who give all their good children's books away to this one thrift store.  This is my haul (excuse the fact that I'm talking so fast, Derek was waiting for me and I was in a rush!).

I may have gone a little overboard.  It's hard not to do when you can get each book for $1.50 each! This batch of books would have cost me at least $160 on Amazon, and that's if I bought each one of them used.

Old School Blogger Shout-Out

Just one today, for the sake of time!  Alex from Inspiration Clothesline is a long-time blog friend.  Go check out her most recent post where she announced being pregnant with her FOURTH baby!  So cute!

What I'm Drinking: Still to be determined.  Coffee?  Peppermint tea?  Something that will wake me up and give me energy for our homeschool playdate this morning.

Of Stillness And Storm

2/5 stars

So I just finished this book, and I'm sitting here with my mind whirling, trying to decide how to describe it.  I'm torn between knowing what the author's aim was and thinking she accomplished her goal really well, and also thinking that I am not completely thrilled with the final tone of this book.

I was going to try to keep this spoiler-free, but then I realized that if it were me reading this review, I would want enough spoilers to decide if it was going to be a book that was worth reading to me personally.  So there are some slight spoilers below.  You've been warned.

What I Liked

The best way to describe this book is a cautionary tale, on three fronts, and I guess what I liked about the book was that the author got her points across in a really powerful way.  

1. The first is a cautionary tale about what can happen when Christians put a supposed call to ministry ahead of their families.  This book follows Lauren and Sam as they meet, fall in love, and have a baby...then as they proceed onto the mission field.  However, it becomes clear pretty early on that "the call" is really Sam's exhaustive drive to bring about his own vision of what he wants to do with his life - and to bring his family along without regard to whether they are also feeling the same "call".  The results are disastrous and heartbreaking.  We watch Ryan, a happy six year old, slowly descend into a sullen teenager who feels rejected by his father in favor of Nepali villagers, and consequently rejected by God.  This brings him to a very dark place, and he attempts suicide.  This was especially hard for me to read, since I currently have a happy six year old.  However, I thought this is where the author made her point so well. The first ministry that we are given by God is to our own family, and any other ministry comes second to that...and mixing up the order can destroy lives and even faith.  This book is a sobering story, even chilling.

2. The second cautionary tale was about how easily one can slip into an emotional affair if they aren't careful.  In the process of the story, Lauren starts communicating with a childhood friend, and eventually becomes so infatuated or in love with him that it has negative effects on her marriage and family.

3. The third caution seems to be about submission, and how a wrong understanding of it can lead wives to submit to things that they know in their hearts go against God's plan.  This happened when Lauren kept submitting to Sam's missionary plans instead of listening to the Holy Spirit's still small voice that told her this wasn't right.  Unfortunately, Sam's character in this book is pretty single-minded in the worst way when it comes to the getting on the mission field (and though the book doesn't say it, I think it's for his own glory, not God's), and if Lauren stood up to him he would have gone without her.

What I Didn't Like

Appropriately, what I didn't like about this book can also be separated under those three points the author was trying to make.

1. First, with regards to priorities in ministry - I felt that in the process of making this point, the author didn't do a satisfactory enough job (to me) in clarifying that God does not call us to sacrifice our families for the sake of ministry.  The book talked about how Lauren and Sam neglected Ryan, but I thought the author could have done a better job explaining how Sam's "call" really wasn't from God if Sam was willing to sacrifice his family for his own idea of what mission work should look like.  Phoenix attempts to show this in the end when she writes about how Lauren turns back to "her God", the God who loves His children and is grieved by all they excused in His name, as opposed to "Sam's God".  But it wasn't quite good enough for me, because it wasn't God at all who "called" Sam to abandon his family, and I wish that was shown more clearly.

2. Second, on emotional affairs - I felt that what Lauren did was never really presented as wrong.  Sure, Sam was totally neglecting and disregarding his family for his own glory, but I still think Lauren should have been more on guard, and at least recognized what she did wrong with regards to getting so involved with Aidan.  I don't feel like she ever did.  We as the reader are just left to our own devices on the morality of her emotional affair (note: it's not okay).  The consequences are seen, but the repentance is not.

3. Third, I kind of hate how this book threw in phrases like "the tyranny of submission", without really explaining more about biblical submission.  It makes submission the bad guy, when really I think it was a misapplication of submission.  I don't think the command for wives to submit to their husbands involves standing by and doing nothing while your child is neglected and goes down a dangerous path because of his parents' poor choices.  Lauren's character acted like she was helpless because of "submission", when really she just didn't want the conflict that would result if she stood up for what God was showing her about the effects of Sam's plan on their family.  And instead of seeking God about her struggle, she just distracts herself with her emotional affair (see above).  Not a great example of biblical submission at all, and maybe that was the point, but again, I wish it was clarified more.


I'd also just like to note that while there was a lot of talk of "reaching" people, there wasn't a lot of talk about what the characters were trying to reach them with.  Only passing references to the Gospel and Christ, but the characters themselves didn't seem to personally recognize what Christ did in dying to take away our sins and rising again, not in a way that impacted their lives - they were just going through the motions of "ministry", either to keep the peace (Lauren) or to do something "great" (Sam).  

Once again, maybe that was the point, but the bottom line is, I wouldn't recommend this to someone who didn't already know what it means to believe in Jesus to take away our sins, or have a strong foundation in their knowledge of what it means to be saved.  I appreciated what the author was trying to do here in presenting us with the perils of jumping recklessly into missions, but only because I am grounded in my faith.  For someone who doesn't really know what Christianity is about, this book presents a very negative view of "Christian" intentions gone amuck.  

I wish the salvation message had been presented more clearly through the ending in this story in case any non-believers pick it up, because without that this book lacked a shot of the Truth that I felt it desperately needed.  I wouldn't necessarily recommend it because of that.  I would recommend it with caution to believers in Jesus if they want a book that gets them thinking about the kind of struggles missionaries may face, and a book that gives a good shot in the arm about the importance of ministering to your own family - but don't expect to leave this book feeling encouraged, because you will be disappointed.

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Silent Songbird Review (It Wasn't Great)

2/5 stars.

I picked The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson because I love a good fairytale retelling, and I had never read one of Dickerson's before. However, I have to admit, I skimmed the second half of the book because it just didn't grab me and I found myself getting annoyed at a few things.


I really liked the idea of this story, which was somewhat of a fairytale retelling...the main character was like a mix of Ariel from The Little Mermaid and Merida from Brave (let's just ignore the fact that both of those are at the bottom of my list of favorite Disney Princesses).  The bones of the plot had a lot of potential.  The part I liked best about this book was that I thought the author did a pretty good job of incorporating faith into this book in a really natural way, including a brief presentation of the Gospel.  A lot of times this feels forced into Christian fiction, but I thought it was done pretty well in this book.


There are a few reasons I wouldn't recommend this book.

(One) - I didn't like the way this book represented men.  For the most part, all the male characters were either villians, had questionable character, or were made to look ridiculous or unreasonable at some point. This was also reflected in the way some of the female characters talked about men.  The only man who was not portrayed negatively was Westley, and even he was made to look occasionally clueless. 

They also made him apologize to Eva a little excessively, in my opinion.  Why does he have to apologize for not unquestioningly accepting her word?  He didn't even know her!

(Two) - I also found many (really, a lot) of the situations in this book really not believable.  If Westley was supposed to be some sort of a noblemen, I just don't think he would be fraternizing so much with the servants in his house.  Whenever anything happened to Eva, he was always right there.

One particular scene stood out as a little ridiculous to me.  Eva is practicing her archery (and of course Westley happens to be there), and a friend of Westley (who Eva saw trying to kill Wesley earlier in the book), comes up and greets them in a friendly way.  Eva swings her arrow around and points it at the man, to "protect" Westley, and accuses and threatens the other man. 

Let's go over why this bugged me: 1) In the real world during this time, I'm pretty sure she would have been fired on the spot for the way she handled that, even if she was right about the man. 2) I hate how this situation made Wesley seem clueless and helpless.  Once again, it felt like a negative view of men being reflected in this scene.  3) I have a HUGE pet peeve about women "protecting" men in fiction or film, with the clueless man standing there doing nothing.  This always seems to me like a cheap ploy to make the heroine seem strong and "empowering", and it just really irks me.  It's a lazy way of making a woman seem "strong".  And I don't know what's particularly strong anyway about foolishly threatening to shoot a nobleman and accusing him without any proof!

And finally, I just have to mention how at one point the characters end up walking, eating food at a festival, and laughing together about how they just fended off the bad guys who almost murdered them.  Like they had just finished watching a movie instead of fighting for their lives! Oh boy.

(Three) - On top of all that, the writing in this book left much to be desired.  The characters felt really one-dimensional, and the plot didn't have a lot of internal tension, it was mostly driven by external situations.  It felt like the author just thought of a bunch of characters and events, and wrote it all out linearly without taking time to paint the scene or develop the characters or relationships.  Many of the scene-shifts were jarring (like the above scene for an example - one minute we're practicing archery, the next we are threatening to shoot somebody, with no real transition or glimpse into Eva's thought process for this rather foolish move).  It also felt like there was a lack of historical research for a book that was supposed to be set in 1300's England.  Dickerson threw in a couple nods to history and a few old English words, and seemed to think that was good enough, but I think even the intended audience of teenagers appreciates a well-researched and well-thought-out book.

Bottom Line - Though this book had the potential to be a cute story, the writing was not great, and the portrayal of men was troubling to me.  I wouldn't recommend this book to adult women because of the lack of depth, and I wouldn't recommend it to the intended audience (preteen/teen girls) because of the (in my opinion) generally negative portrayal of men.

Note: I received a digital copy of this book for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion. 

A Homeschool Usborne Book Wishlist (First Grade)

One of the most fun things about homeschooling so far has been researching and trying to decide on different curricula.  For Kindergarten we haven't really done a curriculum per se, we've just been working our way through a bunch of different books, doing crafts, and working on reading and math skills.  I haven't quite made up my mind what curriculum we will use for first grade this next year, but I've been searching through different options, and I've come to a conclusion - whatever we pick, I want to use (or build) a curriculum that uses real books.

We got Wyatt the Usborne Children's Encyclopedia for Christmas, and he poured over it for two days.  He asked me questions about all the pictures, and I told him what the words on the page said, and he was just fascinated.  It was so fun to watch him learning just for the joy of it.  While I think we will follow some sort of curriculum, I want to make sure we have plenty of interesting books around that fit in with what we are learning, to make the whole year more fun.

I've been making book lists galore, but today I wanted to focus on Usborne books!  A friend of mine, Brittney, asked me if I would host an Usborne Facebook party, and it sounded like a lot of fun - so I've been going through their thousands of books and making a list of the ones I'd like to get for school next year.  I'll share the ones I'm thinking about getting, but first, let's talk quickly about the ones I have, shall we?

Usborne Books We Already Have

The Children's Encyclopedia - Like I said above, this one has been a hit.  I think it's the full-page gorgeous illustrations that have really sucked Wyatt in.  I'm not going to lie, there were a few pages I felt the required more explanation (like the world religions or aliens pages), but they are easy enough to skip if you don't agree with or your child isn't ready for some of it.

How Things Work - This book is just so cool.  It's a flap book, and under each flap it gives pictures and descriptions about how the different things in this book work. 

Horses & Ponies and Weather - I bunch these together because they are the same type of book.  These books have fun illustrations and less text because they are meant for younger readers - but I love it because the few words are used really well, and these books get a lot deeper into the topics than you would expect them to.  They have a bunch of these on different topics, and I'm hoping to get more!

Birds Pocket Book - Have I mentioned that our family is really into birds?  We don't know a lot about distinguishing birds, but we would like to learn more.  All of my kids love flipping through the Audubon bird app on my phone, and this is like the book form!

Starting Chess (not pictured) - I forgot I had this one until I sat down to start typing!  Derek is very good at chess, and I picked this up as a supplement for when Wyatt is ready to start learning (which probably is sooner than I think).

So those are the books I have, now on to the books I want.

Usborne Books On My Homeschool To-Buy List

These are the books that I would love to have as we introduce different subjects over the next few years, in addition to the ones I already have.

Science And Nature

The Outdoor Book - I think we would love this for ideas of activities to do outside and nature study!

Human Body Reference Book and Shine-A-Light Human Body Book - This is my area of interest (biology), so I think this looks fun.  And the shine-a-light book adds an interesting element!

Poisonous Animals (etc.) - This is one of those great books for young readers!

How Things Grow - I think I need this book to help my black thumb.

Astronomy And Space Reference Book - I don't know if I even need to explain this. Yay for space!

100 Science Experiments - Someone told me I need this, and I think I do!


Big Picture Atlas - I think this will be good for context with different historical events.

Living Long Ago - I'm still not sure my kids grasp how different life was 200 years ago, so this looks great!

Christopher Columbus - One of the few American history books.  Usborne, I know you are British, but more on the American History front please!

See Inside Exploration And Discovery and The Story Of Inventions - These looked really interesting to me.

Reading and Writing

Illustrated Grammar And Punctuation - We are a way off from needing this yet, but my grammar nerd is coming out!  I love this idea!

Illustrated Classics: Huckleberry Finn And Other Stories - This is one of a few classics collections that are condensed and rewritten for young readers, and I am really curious about them.

Miscellaneous (aka. Just For Fun)

Over 50 Secret Codes - I would have loved this as a kid.

Fingerprint Activities: Animals - This just looks adorable, and would be so fun for everyone, including the little two!

First Book About The Orchestra - The kids love Maestro Classics (#affiliate), and I think this book would be a great visual to understand the different instruments.

Big Keyboard Book - We are still hoping to teach our kids how to play the piano, and this looks useful!

I could go on, but you get the idea! There are just a lot of really fun books.  Clearly it's probably going to take me longer than the next year to collect all these!  Maybe I should retitle this post "Usborne Books For Early Elementary", because I think all of these will last well beyond first grade!

Now for a little plug - the Facebook party is tomorrow night at 8 PM EST, and Brittney has a bunch of fun things planned - including a drawing for a book prize!  So if you want to check Usborne out, this is a good chance! If you comment below saying you want to join, I'll send you an email to add you to the party!  Or if you have your eye on something and want to buy without attending the party...can you purchase through any of these links and select my eShow on the left before checkout? Because then I can earn discounts on books! (Shameless plug, I know.)  Party is open until next Monday!

Do any of you have some Usborne books?  What would you recommend to me for the elementary school years?  

I'd love to hear!

P.S. Brittany also made me this handy graphic for Usborne books that go with different curricula!  Pin this!

I Suffered Through This One

1/5 stars.

I snagged this book because I have been listening to a lot more audiobooks over the last year while I work on other things.  This one peaked my interest because I like a good food-related fiction book every now and then.

Bottom line - I kind of suffered through this book.  Not for any one reason, but for a bunch of things, and I honestly found myself skipping chunks toward the end of the book just to get through it quicker.  Read below if you must know why.

Language: Several uses of the f-word, other curse words, and Jesus' name in vain (which I never appreciate as a Christian).

Sexual Content: From the very start of the book we learn that the main character is having an affair with a married man, and generally sleeps around a lot.  That kind of soured the book for me right from the start.  No lesson ever seemed to be learned related to this relationship either, even though I think people generally agree that having an affair with a married man is not a good thing.  Other sexual references. An extended and pretty explicit sex scene that I skipped past.  Another almost sex scene.  I honestly started skipping through the book after this because for other reasons I list below, I was just so tired of this book.

Politics:  Spoiler Alert - near the end of this book the main character finds out she's pregnant, and the doctor presents her with her "options".  Then we have an extended debate about whether she'll abort or not, including an older lady who suggests some herbs that could "take care of it" (an older lady who had an abortion earlier in her life and regrets not having children, so it felt like a weird character to have giving her this talk).  I am strongly pro-life and know that abortion ends the life of an unborn child, so I just cannot stomach casual abortion talk like this in my books.  Thankfully the character decides to keep her baby, but the serious abortion consideration put a sour taste in my mouth.

Plot:  This was my main problem with the book - there was really just no plot to speak of for most of the book.  I kept waiting for something big to happen, but there was just nothing until the character found out she was pregnant, and you already know I wasn't thrilled with all the abortion talk.  Even after that one big plot point, the book seemed to move slowly.  I guess you could say this book was more character-driven, but I typically don't like audiobooks that are character driven.  I need a clear plot to drive the book forward when I am listening on audio, or I have a hard time paying attention.

Characters: The second prong of my disappointment was that I liked none of the main characters in this character-driven book.  From the start I felt like the protagonist was unlikable.  I felt like her personality kept changing, and I couldn't decide if it was the author's fault or the narrator's fault (I'm thinking a little bit of both).  Was she supposed to be high-spirited and sarcastic, or introverted and reflective?  I guess she could be both, but I felt like it was hard to see her growth in the book because I couldn't figure out who she was to begin with.

My second beef with the characters - the two main characters were so immature (once again, was this the author's fault or the narrator's fault?  I don't know!).  If I had read the book without any ages being mentioned, I would have guessed early twenties...but no, the girl was 32, and the guy was almost forty.  This was a big pet peeve of mine in this book.  I felt like both of them should have had their lives together, or at least had a direction, at this age.  Maybe almost-forty-year-olds aren't really expected to have their life together in this culture anymore?  But in fiction, I like my characters to be a little more age-appropriate.

Narrator:  I don't think I would have liked this book much even if I had read it on paper, but to me the narrator didn't do a lot for this book.  And I think that is honestly just a personal thing.  I didn't like the way she read certain lines (I think she added more sarcasm than I would have gotten from print, and her dictation made the main character feel more stuck up).  Her voice for the male characters came off as creepy to me as well (in all fairness, I think a lot of female narrators have this problem though, at least to me).

What I Liked: The positive about this book was definitely all the food descriptions.  Whenever I listened to it I would start to get hungry, and nothing I ate seemed quite up to snuff after hearing about all the food in this book! Books like this make me want to bake and cook more, which is a good thing because sometimes I need that extra motivation.

The ending was sweet, as it seemed like the main character finally found a place where she belonged and got the guy, so it all worked out.  I do love a happy ending.  However, this book was just really not for me.

Note: I received a copy of this audiobook for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Remember How I Started A Literary Society?

(Those specks in the picture are crumbs on the table.  I didn't clean it before I staged this pic, and it's too late now. It's been that kind of morning.)

I have no idea where the phrase originated, but I'll go ahead and say that I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.  I opened my eyes with a scowl on my face, shuffled into the bathroom to fix my makeup, and shuffled upstairs for some coffee.  I would like to say that I am feeling slightly better now, but as I sit here assessing, I'm not sure if that's accurate.  On a day like this, you break out every item that normally makes you smile (light the candles - check), snuggle a couple children, and just make it through.

3rd Literary Society Meeting

You also go the path of least resistance when writing an old-fashioned blog post, and share what you did yesterday - which for me, was our third literary society meeting! In case you missed it, last fall I started a literary society, not to be confused with a book club.  Book clubs have everyone reading the same book - literary societies get together and talk about books in general.  Books that are our favorites, books we are reading lately, recommendations - anything goes.

Our society meets every other month, and last night was our largest meeting with eleven people!  I was hoping we could get a circular table, but instead we were seated at a long table, so I floated between sides to make sure to talk with everyone.  As usual, it was so fun!  We talk about a myriad of books, but these are the ones that made it onto my to-read shelf on Goodreads.

Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman
The Power Of One by Bryce Courtenay
The Story Of The World - Vol. One

Have you read any of these?

My Non-Goalish Reading Goal

Now I'll go ahead and just tell you what I am currently reading, though I first want to step back and remind you how last year I set goals to be more purposeful about what I was reading.  

Yeah, that didn't go so well.  

I didn't stick to my categories at all through the year, and I swiftly decided that no such goals would be made for 2017.  Along with my growing annoyance with words like "purposeful" and "intentional" (because they are so overused these days), 2016 led me to a conclusion - not everything has to be intentional.  Why are we wearing ourselves out by having a plan for every little area of our lives?  Doesn't that suck some of the fun out of it?  For me, it does.  I am perfectly fine not being intentional with certain areas of my life and just going with the flow.  I'll save my intentionality stress for things that matter more than what books I read.

This year I've decided to read things that are currently interesting to me, and forget about categories.  I think I will get more out of my reading if it's something that's currently relevant in my life, and I'll probably read more books this way as well because I won't be forcing myself through something I'm not enjoying.  No intentional reading here this year.

However, all that is not to say that I won't still have some sort of theme to my reading, based on my interests, and one of my unofficial, interest-based goals is to read more about the Cold War.  I've always found the idea of the Cold War fascinating, and last year when we saw Bridge of Spies, it sparked my interest to learn more.  I know the basics of what the tension was about, but I don't know many specifics.  How did it start?  How and when did we realize that we were in a Cold War with Russia? What did people think about it?  What was it like living during the Cold War?

So what I'm currently reading: A Brief History Of The Cold War by Lee Edwards.  The title makes it sound terribly dry, but it's well done in my opinion.  It's a straight-up history, but written in an engaging way, and I'm learning a lot.

Next up in the Cold War queue:

Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy 
The Tunnels by Greg Mitchell
Deep Undercover by Jack Barsky
Killing Reagan by Bill O'Reilly

I've asked around, and most people have no suggestion for me - but hey, there is no harm in trying again!  Do you have any recommendations for books that have to do with the Cold War?  I'd love to add more fiction to the list.

So what are you all reading lately?  

On the queue for the rest of my day?  I'm off to finish my coffee, read between taking care of children, eat my chocolate croissant (are you aware that yesterday was croissant day?), and fold a ton of laundry for the pregnancy resource center.  Oh yes, and Derek and I have a long overdue date tonight (I think I'm going to try to talk him into bowling)!

Old School Blogger Shoutout

I'm not sure if these bloggers would technically describe themselves as "old school" - but I am, because I feel like they have a spirit of the old school about them.  Their posts, though sometimes more on the professional side of blogging, are not cold and impersonal, and through reading their blogs I feel like I have gotten to know them!  They are two of my favorites to read, and these ladies are so sweet and always respond to comments via email, if not by reciprocating the commenting on my blog.

Rebecca from Caravan Sonnet - Rebecca is just a sweetheart, and has so many insights into walking with the Lord through the trials of life.  She is also having an anniversary giveaway that ends TODAY, so get yourself over there and scroll down to find that post!

Elizabeth from Teaching Sam And Scout - Elizabeth used to blog at E, Myself, And I, but switched to Teaching Sam And Scout a couple years ago...her blog is focused on her job as a teacher, but I feel that she has done a good job of keeping the personal touch too.  Her links and likes posts are my go-to for keeping up on whatever is popular in blogland.  She does the leg work so I don't have to.

What I'm Drinking: Coffee.  Just coffee.  With whipped cream.  I'm hoping it's enough to break me out of my funk.

Unlocking The Bible (A Review)

(Affiliate link below.)

Finally, a great book I can recommend!  I requested Unlocking The Bible by Jeff Lasseigne a couple months ago. The name "Unlocking The Bible" is a little misleading, because it almost presents the Bible as inaccessible without "unlocking" - but on the contrary, this book is a wonderful resource to help readers realize that anyone can read and understand God's Word.

The first couple chapters talk about the way the Bible was put together, and what qualified different books to be included in the Bible.  I thought this was really interesting.  I think there has been a lot of confusion and misinformation about how we came to have the Bible we can hold today, and these chapters explained why we can have confidence in the Bible as the inspired word of God.

The next two chapters give a timeline of the Bible, from Genesis to the writing of Revelation.  I've read through the Bible several times, but I really liked this condensed version of the story to give a bigger picture.  The part I liked best was the historical details that the author included, placing biblical event sin historical context.

Finally Lasseigne gives tips on how to study the Bible, and how to teach the Bible, along with an entire section with a summary and quotes about each book of the Bible.  I thought these sections were a great encouragement and resource!

This book is sound, and the author holds the Bible in high esteem - and I think this is something we need more of, even within the church today.  I highly recommend this book!  It was readable, but full of information and encouragement to dig into God's Word!

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Sick Day - Books, Music, And Projects

I know this has been said a multitude of times in a multitude of ways, but when it happens to you it warrants being lamented again - it just really stinks to get sick as a mom.

It started Sunday afternoon, and I thought it would just be a mild case of the sniffles (like it was for Derek), but no.  By Monday morning the sniffles had erupted into a full-blown, sinus-pressuring head cold.  

I had to cancel a meeting with a fellow MOPS table leader to plan out some playdates for the spring, but we also had lunch scheduled with Derek's mom. I really didn't want to cancel lunch, and I naively thought my cold was probably mild enough to make it through one meal. 

We had a nice lunch with Derek's mom, but poor little Clarice started throwing up, and by the time I got home my nose was raw from all the baby wipes and still dripping like an icicle (I think I now understand why a lot of people buy the "sensitive" wipes).  I felt as if I could nap for a week, but I still had to supervise a round on the potty chair (oh, potty training) and get all the kids settled before I could lay on the couch and wallow in my misery.

My dad was here when I got home though, taking a look at our furnace (which had been making an awful scraping noise), and I got to give him a hug before he left.  No matter how old I get, a hug from my dad will always make me feel better.

My Birthday Card Project

I was hoping to start school back up with Wyatt this week after our nice break for Christmas, but I may postpone it since we are sick again.  This has been a particularly bad winter so far for sickness, and it is really bumming me out.  Before this winter I could count on one hand the times we had really been sick in the last five years.  I used to think maybe our immune systems were especially hardy, but maybe we were just lucky, and I'm afraid our lack of illness in recent years has made me a bit of a baby about it now.  We'll see how I feel tomorrow, and how rowdy the kids are.  We may be able to sneak in a read-aloud at least.

If I'm feeling good enough though, my nap time plan for the week was to finish a birthday card protect I've started!  I have been wanting for years to create a birthday calendar and send out cards to all my family and friends on their birthday month.  Since my focus for the year is to really see those around me, I thought this would be a great year to finally make my birthday card vision a reality.  I've made it through April so far, but I was hoping to already have January's cards out by now, so I need to get moving.  

Though part of me also thinks maybe this week I just need to rest.  Ever since New Year's Eve I have been exhausted.  It's been almost on par with first-trimester level exhaustion, only without the sweet baby to make it worth it.  I can't seem to catch up on my sleep (the furnace-scraping and can't-breath-through-my-nose-head-cold issues may be contributing to this), and I'm thinking maybe birthday cards and schooling may just have to wait a few days instead. I have trouble slowing down, and maybe this cold is the Lord's reminder that this week is my last chance for rest for a while, and I should take it.

Sick Day Books

I have a couple books I'm reading right now, and I'm hoping to make a little headway on them while I recover.  I'm planning on snuggling on the couch in my fleece-lined leggings, sniffing essential oils on my homemade diffuser-tassel bracelet, drinking tea, and reading.  You know, in between changing diapers, picking up toys, and feeding the children.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton - A couple different people have recommended Kate Morton to me, so I thought I'd give one of her books a go.  I am only a little way in this one, but I'm really enjoying it.  The book is really clean so far, and also quite intriguing.

Conform by Glenn Beck - This book is about the public school system.  I was especially interested in it for the information on Common Core, but he covers a whole bunch of topics related to public schools and I'm finding it really interesting.  Even though I am homeschooling our kids, I am a taxpayer after all, and I want to be informed about how all that tax money is being used.

New Music

The other day I put it out there on Instagram that I was looking for some new music to listen to this January.  For several years after we got married I asked for Taylor Swift's new CD so I would have something to listen to after it was time to put away the Christmas music.  But Taylor Swift doesn't have anything new out (I don't think), and if we are to go off of her last album, I think she is going in a direction that I can't relate to anymore.  But I still like having new music to listen to in January!  I got a bunch of good recommendations on Instagram and Facebook, and I've had so much fun working through them over the last couple days!

I thought I'd ask here too in case any of you missed my Instagram post...any new music recommendations for me?

For secular music, I like country, light rock, pop, indie - almost anything as long as the lyrics aren't trashy or inappropriate.  For Christian music - I don't have anything against the worship music stand-by's, but I do find that after a while it all starts to sound the same to me.  I most enjoy Christian music with unique sounds and/or rich, meaningful lyrics.

What do you got for me?  What is your favorite January music?  Fire Away!  I'll check them out while I'm laying on the couch and blowing my nose today.

Old-School Blogger Shout-outs

I am hoping to get in some blog reading and commenting this week too (this is where I was going to tell you about why I quit using Disqus, but I posted that yesterday instead - if you use Disqus, you might want to read that post).   Though I can't guarantee that I won't fall asleep while the kids nap this afternoon instead of reading blogs.  As of last night I can finally lay down and breathe through my nose at the same time!  Which means I can actually nap instead of merely tossing and turning and feeling miserable.  I must be on the mend.

If you have time for some old-fashioned blog reading too, here are a couple blogs to check out!

Hannah at Wonder-Filled Life - Hannah is one of my favorite old-school bloggers.  I love reading about what her and her boys have been up to, and she responds to every comment!  She is a long-time blogging friend, and so sweet.

Meghan at My Beautiful Life - Meghan had her first boy around the same time that I had Wyatt, and she has kept up on her blogging really well!  She writes about being a mama to her two sweet kids...and now is a great time to start reading her blog because her third is due pretty soon!

Remember to read AND comment, because blog commenting is what makes this old-school thing go 'round!

Okay, I'm signing out, friends.  Off to eat some oatmeal for breakfast, drink some tea, and watch Dr. Phil while the kids play trucks and dress-up in their rooms (I feel totally silly admitting that I sometimes watch that show - it's almost as bad as admitting to watching a soap opera...)

What I'm Drinking: Celestial Seasonings Fireside Vanilla Spice tea.  I LOVE this tea, because I am still rather bitter that Celestial Seasonings got rid of so many of their unique tea flavors a few years ago, and this tea feels like a throwback.  It's sweet vanilla, but with just a hint of "woodsy".  That sounds really weird, but it's so good.

2016 Was A Weird Reading Year

Another year, another bunch of books!  Let's talk about the favorites from 2016, shall we?  Unlike publishers or crazy book blogs, I am not constrained to what was published this year.  No, this is a list of the favorite books that I've personally read this year.

My reading was kind of all over the place in 2016, partially because I unofficially decided somewhere along the way to try reading some books that I normally would not pick up, especially in fiction.  I'm not sure it was a success.  While I enjoyed exploring a little, it left me with less books that I am actually comfortable recommending, and definitely less on the favorites list.

A Quick Side Tangent On Books And Politics

(You may skip this section if we are not of the same political persuasion, and it won't hurt my feelings! *wink*)

Let me just go on a little side-tangent real quick, because if there is one thing I've learned this year through all my book exploring, it's that if you are going to be a responsible reader, you have to go into each book looking for the worldview that is being communicated through that book.  I was shocked at how many of the more current general fiction books that I picked up insisted upon including subtle political or moral statements - and if I wasn't looking for them, I would have totally missed them, or been influenced by them without realizing it.

I think in 2016 there was a lot of backlash related to how biased the media generally is toward a certain political viewpoint.  For me personally, I realized how biased a lot of the general fiction that so many people in this country are reading is too - but the trick about fiction is that you usually don't notice it without looking for it.  Most people read fiction to relax and their guard is down.  It was all actually a little scary and discouraging to me.

A really good example is the way abortion is addressed in books these days.  You know I am strongly pro-life and have started volunteering at a pregnancy center, so I especially noticed this in my 2016 reading.  I was surprised at how it some of these more liberal authors can't seem to help themselves when it comes to supporting abortion.  The plot demands that the character keep their baby, and yet the author insists on making the character reference abortion as if that is what they should have done, but you know, "it was too late".  Why can't they just leave that out altogether?  Why do these authors have to try to subtly foist their own political viewpoint on us, as if a character choosing not to have an abortion is a moral choice the author doesn't agree with, so some sort of disclaimer is needed? I abandoned several books this year for this reason.

And book podcasts!  I tried listening to several different book podcasts this year, but I've abandoned almost all of them because I can't stand how they impose their own political viewpoints upon their listeners (some more obviously than others).  I basically can't even trust their recommendations anymore.  Some of these hosts even describe books that should be mostly neutral in political terms but they impose their own controversial viewpoints onto the book when they talk about them, and I'm just sick of it.  They do realize that there is another half of the country that doesn't necessarily share their political persuasion, right?  I'm looking at you, Book Riot.

On To The Books

So yes, 2016 was kind of a black hole of reading for me, I abandoned almost as many books as I finished, and I don't have a lot of great ones to recommend from my little reading experiment.  I've got eight that stood out to me, and as for 2017...I think I'm going to stick closer to authors I already like or classics.  You can't really go wrong that way.

So here we go, in no particular order.  If you do end up picking one of these up, please read my full reviews on Goodreads (the titles link to my reviews) for a more detailed breakdown of some of the content that may have required more commentary.

I'm Happy For You (Sort Of...Not Really) By Kay Wills Wyma - This was probably my #1 favorite of the books I read this year.  I read it at just the right time and got so much out of this book, and it really made me rethink ways that I am still comparing too much on social media.  I thought I was getting better at not comparing so much (and I have improved), but this book opened my eyes even more to the kind of person I want to be.  I've been telling a lot of my friends and family about it because it was so good.  I highly recommend it.

The Age Of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker - The disclaimer is that this book does have some profanity and taking Jesus's name in vain, which I hate.  But other than that, I really liked this one.  The whole premise of the book is that the Earth has started a "slowing" of it's rotation...which lengthens the days and wreaks all kinds of havoc.  Obviously not biblically-based since we know this is not how the world will end - this book is purely secular.  But the underlying theme is one of a coming-of-age story, and I've just kind of realized that I am a sucker for a coming-of-age story.  Something about it resonated with me, and the overall plot of the earth slowing was just so interesting.  I think that's the science nerd in me coming out.

Brain On Fire: My Month Of Madness by Susannah Cahalan - Did any of you ever watch Diagnosis: Mystery when it was on TLC?  I LOVED that show, and this is basically that show in book form.  A lady starts to go crazy and they are trying to figure out why.  It's a true story that's written more like a novel, and I listened to it on audio.  It was really fascinating.  Some language in this one too.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty - Some language and the Lord's name in vain in this one too, and I hated how it included the "clump of tissue" myth when it comes to unborn children.  So I hesitate to say I "recommend" this one.  I include it here because I have never gotten so much out of a fictional story and it really made me think about where I spend my time and energy.  If you have ever felt like you can't relate to people in other stages of life or wondered what your ten-years-younger self would think about the you of today, you might get something out of this book too (but please read my disclaimers first).

Adam And Eve After The Pill: Paradoxes Of The Sexual Revolution by Mary Eberstadt - I picked this book up because ever since I quit the pill all those years ago, I have been interested in the effects birth control (and the sexual revolution) has had on society.  This book was fascinating.  It's published by a Catholic publisher, but the book itself isn't geared toward Catholics but toward anyone who is interested in this topic.  I had heard a lot of the data before, but the author had so many insights into our current culture.  I generally think we need to think a bit more deeply about what we are doing to ourselves in this department, and I highly recommend this one.

Flirtation Walk by Siri Mitchell - I just really like Mitchell's historical fiction - I feel like it's usually really well researched, and I generally like her characters.  This wasn't my favorite of hers because I felt like it took about a quarter of the book to get into it, but I still enjoyed it.  And the short story you can get if you sign up for her newsletter relates to this story and was so fun!

Larger Than Life Lara by Dandi Daley Mackall - I wrote a full review on this book a couple months ago, so I won't go into too much detail here, but I really liked this one.  It's a middle-grade novel, but I enjoyed it as an adult.  It's a quick read, and the characters have stuck with me.

So what did you read in 2016 that stood out?  Do you keep an eye out for the different worldviews in your fiction?

I hope you had a more joyous reading year than me.  Here's to 2017!

My Thoughts On Another Children's Bible

(Some affiliate links below.)

You know I love my children's Bibles, and I definitely have my favorites, but I am always looking for more good ones - so I was excited to check out Bedtime Read And Rhyme Bible Stories!

The illustrations in this book are adorable, and I love how every story is told in a rhyme.  I used to love rhymes as a kid, and I can still recite a few Bible rhymes I learned in Kindergarten.  I love the idea of teach kids Bible stories in rhymes, and this book is full of rhymes that will help kids remember Bible stories.

I did not read every line of this book, but I went through a good portion of the poems, and there was one thing I wasn't as thrilled with.  I feel like children's Bibles tend to be too surface-level, and avoid talking about the hard parts of the Bible, like sin and the fact that not every person will be saved.  This Bible seemed to fall into that.  The rhyme about the Fall seemed pretty concerned with reassuring kids that everything would be okay because Jesus would save us from sin later, but it almost blamed Adam and Eve's sin on the Serpent instead of them.  As far as our sin, the sin of people reading this Story Bible, it really wasn't addressed at all in a personal way.  Throughout the rest of the book sin is talked about in a passing way, not as a big problem that separates us from God.  

A couple rhymes mentioned believing in Jesus, but it was presented more in the vein of "Jesus saved you, and we just want to tell you that", instead of acknowledging that we are sinners, and we must put our faith in Jesus and ask Him to forgive our sins.  Not every person who lives will do that.  It may be hard to explain that to a child, but I think it's important for them to know that everyone isn't just saved by default, and this book almost implied that by omitting the jailer's question of "What must I do to be saved?"  At some point that question must be asked and fully answered in order for anyone to come to a knowledge of Jesus that will save them.

Thankfully parents are able to fill in these gaps for their children (if they fully understand the Gospel themselves), so I am not totally discounting this Bible, but I have to admit it was a bit disappointing.  I think it's an excellent book for helping kids remember Bible stories, and there is value in that.  I probably will read my favorite poems from this book to my kids.  However, my primary concern is less about helping them remember Bible stories (they will remember them by the time their childhood is over because they will have heard them so many times) - I'm more concerned with making sure they understand the truth.  I think this book falls short in helping children understand the Gospel, which is the most important thing to me, personally.  There are other books that are better jumping off points for parents to explain the Gospel to their kids (this one is a favorite of mine).

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from Tommy Nelson in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

What Is Reformed Theology? (A Book Review, And A Brief Discussion By Me On Calvinism)

(Note: Affiliate links below.)

One of my book goals of the year was to read more books that will help me grow spiritually - and I realized in recent months that I have kind of neglected theological books in my reading plan this year.  Time to catch up!  I saw "What Is Reformed Theology?" by R.C. Sproul up for review, and I decided to request it.  I have some friends who go to a Reformed Theology church, and I generally agree with them on doctrine, but I really didn't know what was meant by "reformed theology".  I was hoping to learn more from this book.

It did not disappoint! The first half of this book goes through points of sound biblical doctrine that I think all Christians agree on, but the part I liked is that it also included the church history that involved each point - including past heresies, and biblically why some of the great theologians came to the conclusions they did.  

A Few Negatives

This book got a little sticky here and there.  The section on the different views of communion, while educational for distinguishing between different denominations, made the whole subject pretty confusing to me.  

I feel like the author had a habit of lumping people together in groups, perhaps not always fairly. He used the term "dispensationalist" in a way that I have not heard before, and I don't agree with how he characterized this group.  I have generally agreed with the (traditional) dispensationalist view of how to interpret Scripture, etc, but Sproul seemed to be picking on dispensationalism and contrasted dispensationalism with covenant theology.  I have never heard these two terms put at odds with one another like this, and I don't think dispensationalism and covenant theology are mutually exclusive, as he seems to imply.  He even says later that dispensationalists think that a person can be completely carnal and still a Christian because a new nature isn't necessarily given (in direct contradiction to Scripture) - I have never heard that and totally disagree.  I may have to research more, but I grew up around people who described themselves as dispensationalists and I never heard anyone claim that, so I feel like he was being too rigid by lumping everyone together here.  I have always just viewed dispensationalism as a way of interpreting Scripture literally that takes into account historical time periods; not as a complete theological system.

I also felt in reading this book that the author focused too much on intellectual arguments and quotes from the reformers - which were excellent - but I would have appreciated a greater focus on the Scriptures that back up these points as well.  There was plenty of Scripture in this book, but I just wished he had connected some of the points he was making to Scripture a little more clearly.

A Brief Digression On Calvinism And Evangelism

The second part of the book focuses on the five points of Calvinism, which is where the distinguishing feature of Reformed Theology lies.  This is where a lot of you may stop reading, but let me just say, I think Calvinism gets a little bit of a bad rap in Christian culture today.  This book explains the five points of Calvinism very well, I thought.  The truth is, I tend to agree with Calvinism, because the underlying concepts are firmly rooted in Scripture.  Even the doctrine of election, the one everyone likes to argue about, is really about who enables us to believe.  Is it from our own virtue and intelligence, or is it because God has stirred our hearts and given us the ability, even to believe?  I think the latter is what is in line with Scripture.  But I still hesitate to call myself a Calvinist, not because I disagree with any of their points necessarily, but because I think Calvinism gets a little too hung up on the intellectual and neglects the practical.  There is one point that I've never heard a Calvinist explain to my satisfaction, and I wish this book would have addressed it more clearly too - and that is the matter of evangelism.  

This book addressed evangelism in a cursory way by referring to the "external call", and then focusing on the Spirit's "internal call" that leads someone to salvation, but I wish it would have focused a little more on what we, as Christians, are to do as far as evangelism goes.  In Scripture there is a clear call to evangelism, for Christians to tell others about the "good news" of Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins.  This is a pretty vital piece to the puzzle in how someone comes to know Jesus, and Scripture doesn't minimize it's importance. 

"How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”" Romans 10:14-15  

I feel like Calvinism in practical terms seems to minimize the importance of evangelism, when it is clearly something we are called to in Scripture.  The focus seems to always be on the point of election (which to be fair, is forced upon Calvinists because other Christians are always attacking them on this point), and I wish we could all just chill out a little and remember that God's ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.  His actions do not have to make perfect sense to our little human brains, but He is always righteous and good, and He owes explanations to no one. 

God told us what He needs us to know in His Word, which is truth, and it's just our job as Christians to believe His Word and do what He says, and pray and ask for clarity when something is confusing.  I think there are some on the anti-Calvinist side who would do well to get back to a focus on and understanding of Scripture instead of rejecting the (biblical) concept of election outright because it doesn't jive with their own sense of justice.  Our focus should ever be on Scripture because that is where the truth lies, and Christian culture today seems to be poorly lacking here.  And I think there are some on the Calvinist side who would do well to stop hitting others over the head intellectually with the election concept and instead point other Christians to Scripture and pray for the Holy Spirit to make His truth clear.  And we all need to recognize and remember that the concept of election has no bearing either way on the call to evangelism toward those who are still lost in their sin.  Scripture makes it very clear that we are to proclaim the truth of the Gospel.

So there you go, a little opinion on the Calvinism debate.  Back to the book.


This book addressed the "justice" concern of some who don't agree with Calvinism very well, better than any other piece I've read on the subject.  I like this quote:

"The concept of justice incorporates all that is just.  The concept of non-justice includes everything outside the concept of justice: injustice, which violates justice and is evil; and mercy, which does not violate justice and is not evil.  God gives his mercy (non-justice) to some and leaves the rest to His justice. No one is treated with injustice.  No one can charge that there is unrighteousness in God." pg. 187-188

I thought that explained really well why it is not correct to say God is not just when He chooses to save only some.  Like I said, this book overall explains Calvinism (and Reformed Theology) better than any other book I've read.  Whether you are a Calvinist, or have just been confused by any points of Calvinism in the past, I think this is a great resource if you really want to understand the beliefs of Calvinism clearly.

And as for Reformed Theology, the defining point touches on something I mentioned earlier - the distinction between unconditional election, and conditional election. Conditional election says that God calls those who He foresees will accept Him, and this is where that point gets sticky: who gives those people the ability to accept Jesus?  Is it something good in themselves that allows people to accept Jesus?  I'd have to say no - based on Scripture (many of the supporting Scriptures are shared in this book), it is the Holy Spirit who calls the believer and enables them to believe, and without the Holy Spirit working in us, none of us would believe.  We'd go on choosing our sin.  Unconditional election (which is what distinguishes Reformed Theology) says that it is nothing in ourselves that enables us to be saved, but it is by God's grace in working in us to enable us to seek Him and find Him.

In case you think that is a nit-picky distinction, you should be aware that this book is very intellectual and breaks each doctrine down to its elements, which I found very interesting, and very well done (though it perhaps falls into debating things that aren't as important here and there as well).  If you have ever wanted to know more about the basics of Christian doctrine and how we get those basics, and what the Reformation was all about, pick up this book for the first half.  If/when you want to learn more about where Calvinism gets it's five points, dive into the second half of this book.

I think I'll just wrap up this review with my favorite quote from this book:

"I cannot adequately explain why I came to faith in Christ, and some of my friends did not.  I can only look to the glory of God's grace toward me, a grace I did not deserve then and do not deserve now." pg. 177

That's the bottom line, isn't it?  For me, this book was a great reminder that it is not through any virtue of mine but only through His power and grace that I am saved, and that is a strikingly beautiful thing.

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

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