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

Wooing Caddie McCaffery | A Mini Review



I'm going to do something a little different for this book review today and keep it short and sweet on my actual blog.  If you want the long version of what I thought about this book, head on over to Goodreads for my full breakdown.

I haven't read a Christian "chick-lit" type book in a long time, but I was at a point in my reading life when I really wanted something light and fun, so I requested Wooing Cadie McCaffery by Bethany Turner. The description said that in this book, Will and Cadie have been in a relationship for a while, and Cadie decides it's going nowhere and calls things off.  Then Will tries to win her back through emulating famous romantic comedy movies.

Sounds cute and fun, right?  I started reading the book and I initially loved it.  The characters were quirky, the writing was fun and light, just like I needed.

Then suddenly the two characters who were supposed to be Christians committed to purity before marriage slept together.  And now this book is dealing with a pretty serious situation where these characters have to deal with how this sin has affected their relationship, and it's all a mess and just not a fun, light book anymore.

I was particularly annoyed with this book because it did not fit my expectations, and it was not the light read I was needing.  I felt like it promised something that it did not deliver.  I also thought the topic of what to do after falling into sin was really weakly dealt with in the book. There were some ridiculous parental characters that I just couldn't get behind.  And there were lots of examples of what I will teach my children NOT to do in a relationship.  Some of these situations and miscommunications were probably supposed to be funny, but with some of the heaviness in the plot, and also because of my frustration at this book not being what I expected, the misunderstanding tropes were just painful.

By the end I was so ready to be done with this book.  I'm disappointed because it started out so strong.

If you want more specifics, you can read my full review of Wooing Cadie McCaffery on Goodreads.

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Summer Hold List



If you don't like to read or were just living under a rock last week, you might have missed that Anne Bogel put out her annual summer reading guide.  I have to say, every year this guide does kind of kick off the summer reading season for me.  I'm fairly sure that Bogel and I do not share quite the same tastes, but she still rounds up some interesting ones each year, and I enjoy branching out and trying fiction books I wouldn't normally pick up.

This is how it usually goes - I request the books that looked interesting, and somewhere around the beginning of June they all come in at once.  Then I spend the next two weeks reading a chapter here and there to try to figure out which ones are worth committing to, and which ones I can discard.



This year I thought I'd share which books on her list caught my eye and why!  I cannot guarantee that these books are ones that I will, in fact, like or recommend.  There has been many a book from past guides that I have abandoned part-way through after I figured out that I was bored, or that it wasn't for me for some other reason.

I'll try to post updates on which ones I actually read and enjoy as they come in, but for now, these ones are the books that are on my hold list at the library!




The River by Peter Heller 
A disastrous adventure/mystery story set in the wilds of Canada?  I just rediscovered "I Shouldn't Be Alive" and binge-watched it a few weeks ago, so sign me up for this one.



Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson 
I just started a different book by this author, and her style is fun to read, plus I have a thing for southern fiction.  This one sounds like a mystery and involves a book club, so I had to give it a try.




Recursion by Blake Crouch 
I should probably read Dark Matter (by the same author) before I read this one, huh?  Since Dark Matter has been sitting on my shelf and all.  I do sometimes enjoy action books with a little bit of science fiction thrown in, and this one sounds like it involves medical science, which is usually up my alley.




Waiting For Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey 
I'm very skeptical of secular chick-lit/romance novels, but this one sounds like it stays fairly PG-13 (I will update on this).  A screenwriter works with an annoying actor, but then I'm assuming she eventually falls for him.  Cliche, but I like some light fiction in the summer.



Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald 
I suspect this book has some sort of time-travel element, which I am all there for.  I at least have to try it!




The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson 
Beauty pageants and a Jane Austen retelling?  How could I not pick this one up?




The Island Of Sea Women by Lisa See
This is about an isolated culture on a South Korean Island, where all the women go fishing to support their families.  Apparently this is based on a true place or true events.  I like reading book set in other countries and cultures, but I've had mixed luck with this type of book.  We'll see how I like it.




The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth
I don't typically like terrible mother-in-law stories, but this one sounds like it could be a little redemptive - even though I think the plot involves the mother-in-law being murdered.  Yikes!  The mystery element interested me though.  I don't know about this one, I'll report back.




Only Ever Her by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen 
I read one other book by this author a while back, and it was pretty depressing to be honest, but it was a page-turner.  It's also a mystery, which I'm typically drawn to.  So I might try this one.  Or I might not.




The Inheritance by Dani Shapiro 
The only nonfiction book I picked from the guide. I have no idea who Dani Shapiro even is, all I know is that there is some family secret she unearthed that was fairly shocking (don't tell me if you know), and this book is her memoir about it.  Sounds good to me.




The Unlikely Adventures Of The Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal
Three sisters who haven't seen each other in years travel to Punjab to scatter their mother's ashes.  Once again, I was interested because I like reading fiction books set in foreign cultures.  This is some sort of family drama.  Anne says the author keeps it light-hearted even though the sisters are keeping some serious secrets.  I'll give it a shot.




Hope And Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum
This one involves a mystery surrounding 9/11 and two of its survivors.  I believe this is YA, which I have mixed feelings about typically, but the plot sounded interesting.



Okay, that's it!  Once again, please do not take these as recommendations, because I have no idea if they are decent or not!  They just caught my eye.  I will update this post with my reactions to these books and whether I actually read them or not.

Did any of you take a look at Bogel's Summer Reading Guide yet? 
Which books piqued your interest?  
Have you found any winners from her past summer guides?




Grumpy Mom Takes A Holiday - A Review



Are you all ready for a really long review? (I'm sorry in advance, but I couldn't make it shorter.)

I saw Grumpy Mom Takes A Holiday by Valerie Woerner when a blog friend shared a few really good lines from one of the chapters.  I've developed an aversion to books written for Christian women in general, but I thought the points from the book that my friend shared were really interesting, so I decided to give it a go.  And I do have thoughts.  A lot of thoughts.

Before I start, I just want to say up front that I really agonized over this review for one main reason - I'm really hoping the author will read this review.

I'm hoping she will read it because I think she is actually really talented.  It's no small thing to write a book, and her voice is relatable and fun.   I can tell that she really has a heart for the Lord and wants to serve the Lord well, and that goes a long way in my book.  She also mentions a few times in the book the value of having a teachable spirit and being able to listen to a critique.  I do have some critiques to give that I think are really important.  I'm hoping the author reads this because I have no doubt that she will write another book in the future, and I hope she can consider these points when she does.

First, let's talk about what she did well!



Positives

This is such a great topic for a book in today's culture.  I fully agree with the author's assessment of the problems with being a grumpy mom, and how the different aspects of modern mom culture (like wearing "hot mess" like a badge and one-upping each other on how little sleep we got, for example)  are only contributing to our general grumpiness about motherhood.  Her chapter on not being constantly offended is right on the money, while also being really self-aware of her own areas of weakness when it comes to being offended.  She hit on alot of great points throughout this book, and really did a great job in pointing out some of the problems in our collective attitudes about motherhood.

As I said, her voice is also really relatable, and the writing was overall fun to read.  Alot of her personal stories reminded me of the days when my kids were a little younger, and also of some of my own struggles as a mom right now!  This book does an excellent job of letting mothers know they are not alone in their struggles, and that I think is definitely valuable.

Negatives

This is the not-so-fun part for me.  I feel like I need to preface this section with saying that to me, this book actually felt like two separate books.  I felt like the underlying focus of the advice in the first 40% of the book, and the last 3 or 4 chapters was completely different than the middle. The first part and the last few chapters were mostly focused on more secular concepts with a Christian twist (by secular concepts, I mean concepts that would apply to anyone, secular or Christian, or that you could read in many psychology or self-help books), while the middle was packed with many more Bible references and a more biblical approach to the problems.

I don't know that much about the book writing/editing process, but it felt like the first part and the last part were written at the same time, and then the section in the middle was written later during a period when she grew in her faith and biblical knowledge.  If I'm right, it's a great thing that her outlook grew to focus more on Scripture.  For the sake of the book, it was not a great thing that the book couldn't all have been written after she decided which type of advice she wanted to focus on, because like I said, it felt like two completely different books.  All that to say, some of the critiques I give below are more prominent in the first half and last few chapters.


1.The gospel is poorly presented (and even misrepresented) in this book.

I am bringing this up as someone who has made the same mistakes in my writing in the past, so I hope it can be read with that in mind.

It was clear that the author was addressing her book to an audience that are already believers in Christ. The problem is that in the current culture, you can’t assume that everyone who picks up a Christian “self-help” type book will actually be a Christian. Especially with a title like “Grumpy Mom Takes A Holiday” - all kinds of moms who struggle with grumpiness will be picking this up. As a Christian author, you have to keep this in mind.  If any nonbelievers pick this book up, it will do them absolutely no eternal good if they learn how to be less grumpy at their kids, but they still don’t know what it means to be saved.

In the first few paragraphs the author assured the reader that the Holy Spirit will help her on this journey.  She can make no such assurance though, because unbelievers do not have the Holy Spirit. 

There are two things that need to happen to explain the gospel - you need to tell WHY we need to be saved, and tell HOW we can be saved. Unfortunately, the book missed the mark on both counts.  

Just to be clear, the gospel is NOT that God will help us to be better, less grumpy people. The gospel is not about doing our best for God.  The gospel is not about God helping us live our lives more abundantly. The gospel is not about self improvement.  Some of those things can RESULT from the gospel, but it’s not how we are saved.

Unfortunately alot of this book gives the impression that this is all there is to being a Christian, because the actual gospel is never explained in full, though in some of the middle chapters it is touched on.

The author makes an attempt to explain the gospel in Chapter 9 after admitting that until fairly recently, she was relying on works to save her, until she realized she could never do enough. But I was disappointed when the only thing she described being freed from was her “guilt” (not her sin and it’s consequences). She prays “Only you can save me from my own requirements for righteousness that I put on myself.” 

The problem is not that we are guilty of not living up to our own standards. We are guilty of not living up to GOD’S standard (Romans 3:23), and His standard is perfection, because He is perfectly holy. We have earned nothing for ourselves but eternal punishment in Hell, because we have sinned against an eternal God and broken His laws (Romans 6:23Matthew 25:46).  Even our supposed good deeds are like filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6).  We cannot pay this sin-debt, we cannot make ourselves righteous.  Which is why we need Jesus, because HE is the only one who meets God’s standard (Corinthians 5:21), and He took our punishment for us. 

God loves us, and because He loves us, He didn’t leave us in our sins, but provided a way for us to be saved. God became a man, Jesus who was fully man and fully God. He lived the sinless life that we couldn’t, and then died in our place, paying the penalty for our sin. Then He rose again, defeating sin and death, proving He was God! And now all we must do to be saved is repent, meaning to be sorry for our sin and turn to Jesus, putting our faith in Him to save us and not in any work of our own (Ephesians 2:8-9). When we do that, He takes our sin and gives us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), so we can stand blameless before God. He also gives us the Holy Spirit, who then empowers us to live no longer for ourselves but for Christ.

I’m not saying the author doesn’t understand the gospel, I think she does because of different things she writes. But no one could read this book and put the gospel together unless they already knew the gospel themselves.  Elements of the full gospel are scattered in various phrases throughout the book, but it’s like a super-confusing Easter egg hunt, one that starts with the results of the gospel and works backward. But even the reason Jesus died for us is never explained, His resurrection never mentioned. 

The whole gospel is awfully hard to find in this book amidst all these disjointed and missing puzzle pieces, and perhaps an opportunity to reach unbelieving moms who pick up this book is missed. Worse, I’m afraid that because our sin problem isn’t addressed and the gospel isn’t fully explained, some may leave with a confusion about what it really even means to be a Christian. This is so important to get right in any Christian nonfiction book, in my opinion, and the lack of a clear explanation of how to be saved was my biggest problem with the book.



2. There was more of a focus on self-help than biblical advice.

A lot of the advice in this book is repackaged self-help, with a few Bible passages sprinkled in to support her points. I thought this was a shame. The Bible actually has a ton to say about complaining, selfishness, worry, grumbling, unthankfulness...all the things that make us act like grumpy moms. This book could have been so Biblically rooted if the author had started with the Bible and worked out from there, but she often starts with her own thoughts (many of which are not that different from other self-help books) and her own experiences with Christian living, and then the biblical references felt tacked on in order to support her points.

In all fairness, this critique applies more toward the beginning and last few chapters of the book. She hit a better note in the middle. 


3. She seemed afraid to address the actual root cause of being a grumpy mom. 

The truth is, we are not grumpy just because we aren’t flexible enough. We’re not grumpy because we don’t take enough time for self-care, or because we rely too much on chocolate. At the root, being grumpy at our kids is really a lingering sin struggle.

We don’t like our kids interrupting whatever we’re doing because we’ve put our interests ahead of theirs (Phil. 2:4).  We complain about all the work kids involve and how we never have time to brush our hair because we are viewing a gift from God as a burden, harboring ungratefulness.  

These are just examples from the book, but hopefully you can see my point.  These things won’t be fixed by bandaids like more flexibility and self-care. Selfishness, complaining, and ingratitude are all sins, and ones the Bible has plenty to say about, but she didn’t include any of the really relevant verses, or address them as sins at all. She didn’t explain how Jesus has freed those of us who believe in Him from the power of these sins in our lives BECAUSE He died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins. This book would have been so much more powerful and useful if she had spent more time on these things. Christians still need to be reminded of the true gospel too.  I think that’s the most effective way to overcome these struggles -when we are focused on what Christ did to save us from sins like these, they automatically lose some appeal.

I got the feeling through some of the book that the author just wanted to be positive and not address the hard truths. She seemed mostly hesitant to use the word “sin” through most of the book, mainly using euphemisms like “mess” and “brokenness”.  

There is such a thing as being too nice - and it’s when it causes us to avoid speaking the truth in love because we are worried speaking the truth clearly might cause hurt feelings. Avoiding saying hard things might be “nice”, but it’s not kind.

4. Questionable use of Bible translations.

Warning: This is just a pet peeve of mine.

I almost hate to bring this up, because a lot of you may just tune me out here, but can we all just be a little more careful with our use of the Message? This is not an actual Bible translation, and it’s not God’s Word. It’s a paraphrase. If I paraphrase something you say, I’m not spreading your words, I’m taking what you said and putting it in my own words. A paraphrase of the Bible is man’s word, not God’s Word.  There is nothing wrong with referencing it occasionally, but please, let’s not quote the Message as if it’s God’s Word. Because it’s not. 

The author did okay with qualifying that it was a paraphrase at the beginning, but she used the Message heavily throughout this book and then eventually dropped the qualification. 

Whether you like the Message or not (can you tell what I think about it? ha!), the Message should not be referenced or read as your main “Bible translation”. Because it’s not an actual translation. 

Okay, I’m off my soapbox now.

---

To sum it up, who would I recommend this book to?

Because of the problems with presenting the gospel clearly and the confusion that might result, I would absolutely not recommend this to anyone that I was not already sure was a strong Christian who really understands the gospel.  

Because of the weak beginning and end, I am hesitant to recommend the book to my Christian friends too.  There are some gems in this book, but they are buried beneath too much soft or confusing language, and a hesitancy to address these issues as sin.  I just think there are alot of other books that are more rooted in the Bible and the gospel (Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges is one).

Again, I'm sharing all this not just for people who want to know what to expect, but also because I hope the author sees this.  Valerie, if you are reading, please know that I tried my best to approach this review in love, as a sister in Christ.  I've been praying over this review, and hope you can see my heart and give some thought to these issues.

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

Stuff I Like | April 2019



It's May 1st!  It snowed yesterday, and there is frost dusting my porch as I write this, but I can hear the birds chirping from the tree just outside my window, and golden rays are busy melting the ice.  So  it's a typical start to the month.  May there be more golden rays, more rain and dew, and less snow this month!

On to what I enjoyed in the month of April.


Bible.is App.  

Derek randomly decided to search for audio bibles one day, and he found this great app!  You can get the ESV version of the Bible for free to listen to through the app.  But my favorite part is that they have a normal reading and a dramatic reading.  The dramatic reading has music in the background, and the actor does different voices.  It's so fun to listen to!  Different sections of the text are linked to well-done videos too.  It's just cool!


Skylar's Scent Club

(The link is a referral link that is supposed to give you 25% off? And then I get a credit if you decide to try it.)

I have a tiny weakness for subscription boxes, and in April I decided to try Skylar's Scent Club.  Skylar is a company that makes perfume that is supposedly more natural and less "toxic", which is nice...but to be honest, I just signed up because I like things that smell good.  Each month they send a rollerball with a  limited-time scent.  In April they sent one called Magic Bloom, and it was so fresh and happy-smelling.  May is going to be Vintage Rose.  I may be checking my mailbox daily until it arrives.


Spearmint Oil For Laundry. 

Speaking of things that smell good - that is also the reason I have a little essential oils stash in my cabinet.  I just don't buy alot of the claims made about essential oils, but I do know that I like nice-smelling things, so I use them for some things around the house.  In April I felt like I had a ridiculous amount of laundry, but the process was made just a tiny bit more fun by putting a few drops of spearmint oil on a dryer ball.  Each time the dryer is running my laundry room smells like a pack of gum.

It's the little things.

This is where I buy oils. (Another referral link here that is supposed to give us both a $10 discount.)  And I feel great about the company, thank you very much my oil-selling friends.  You know I still love you guys!


The New Little Women Movie.

Last year they came out with a modern movie version of Little Women.  After a very long wait in the library hold line, I finally watched it yesterday, and it is so cute. I loved it!  It stays true to the characters, and doesn't "dirty up" the story at all with modern nonsense.  It's basically the same as the old movie, but set in the present day.  It was very well done!  I honestly don't even know how it got a PG-13 rating.  Aside from a scene with some teen drinking and making out, it was pretty clean.  I'll definitely watch it with my girls when they are older.



A New Swimsuit.  

Guys, you don't understand, this has been a months long process.  After having Georgie, I knew my old swimsuits were just not going to cut it anymore.  I bought a new top last summer to tide me over, but it was time to hunt down something new and more flattering.

I've been eyeing swimsuits all winter, I ordered a couple items that I ended up returning.  I finally found these bottoms a few months ago that were a little higher waisted, so they smooth out my tummy lumps nicely.  I've been on the lookout for a top to match, and finally ordered this one.

It's a winner!  I've found it!

I may order another pair of the swim bottoms just for a different look, but I finally found something that makes me feel pretty good about visiting the pool this summer.  Victory!  A picture of the swimsuit on me is in my Instagram stories today if you want to see (I'm not sure I wanted a permanent record of that on my blog, haha!).


None Like Him by Jen Wilkin.

I'm late to the party on this one.  I've been listening to this audiobook about God's attributes after my Bible time in the morning, and it is very good.  I usually end up taking a full page of notes on each chapter, and she gives Bible verses for further study of each attribute.  Highly recommend!


Spring Flowers.

In late April, I finally found some flowering trees!





Spring is officially here now.

What new discoveries did you make in April?

What I Read | First Quarter 2019



When I set my reading goals for this year, I only had one goal.  I told myself I wouldn't buy any books this year - I would only read the books from my unread shelf.

I only have one word for how it's going: ha!

In my defense, I've bought almost all my new books with a gift card I had, so technically I am counting them as gift books and still attempting to limit the amount of books I buy.  I have not, however, been limiting library books very well, so my totals are not very satisfying this quarter.

Books I Read: 16
Books I Bought: 10 (ugh!)
Books Off My Unread Shelf: 5

I lost ground.

However, checking in here reminds me that I really need to get back to reading just the books I own, so I'm going to try!



Without further ado, here's what I've read so far in 2019.  You can click the links to read more thorough reviews on Goodreads.





Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Calahan - I am glad I read it, because it is interesting to know more about C.S. Lewis and his wife, but it didn't exactly endear Joy Davidman to my heart.  Also, too much quivering for my taste.





Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson - Enjoyed the book recommendations in this book, and decided I will not read another book by Sarah Clarkson if I can help it.  I just don't want to know what I'll do if I read about how she studied at Oxford one more time.





The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery - This book really can't be described by any word better than "delightful".  I loved it.  It was outlandish, it made me laugh, it made me love Montgomery more.  If you like broody classics, this is not one.





Three Wishes by Lianne Moriarty - Moriarty's books are like really fattening candy - not good for you, a little embarrassing, but great as an occasional mindless stress-reliever.  That's about how I felt about this one.  It's not my favorite of hers, but I needed something light.





Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown - I liked the hero, I'm glad I read it, I'm a little embarrassed to have enjoyed it so much, and I wouldn't really recommend it.  How's that for an opinion? It was just very violent and crude.  Very.






A Man Called One by Fredrik Backman - I wouldn't necessarily say I think it deserved the level of hype it received, but it was alright.  I typically like grump-character-finds-true-friendship stories, so I enjoyed it.





Micro by Michael Crighton - If it weren't for some briefly described and unnecessary nudity toward the end, I'd give this an unreserved thumbs up.  It's like a fusion of Jurassic Park and Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, and read exactly like an action movie would if it were really a book.





Dead End In Norvelt by Jack Gantos - Not a huge fan.  I did enjoy the quirky humor, but I wanted more from this book.  I think some opportunities to touch on some really meaningful themes were missed.  Also, way too much ridiculous political opining for a kids book.






The Giver by Louis Lowry - Badly miscategorized as a middle-grade novel, in my opinion.  But I thought it was great, reading as an adult.  I don't think kids, even teenagers, would get nearly as much out of this as an adult would.






Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt - I loved it so much, go read it right now!  I'm a huge Schmidt fan.  If you need an entry point to good middle grade books, you should read something by Schmidt (except not Orbiting Jupiter, because I think that one is pretty sad - start with his more quirky, fun books first).






Voyage With The Vikings (Imagination Station #1) - I read this to the kids for fun, and it is the first read-aloud we've read so far where my oldest was actually begging me to read another chapter.  Wyatt has read the next book in the series now, all by himself, so if you need something that will get your kid into chapter books, this may be a place to start.  Wyatt is such a science kid, it was fun to see him getting excited about history-related topics for once!






The Radium Girls by Kate Moore - Derek and I read half of this together on vacation last year, and then he tapped out, so I finally got around to finishing it by myself.  If you don't like medical dramas, you might not like this one, but I am all about medical and courtroom stories, so this was right up my ally.  The history and personal stories of these girls were so tragic and fascinating.






The Big Disconnect by Catherine Steiner-Adair - I picked this up for inspiration on reining in my social media habits - it worked.  But I only really liked this first half of the book.  The second half would be helpful to naive parents of teenagers, but was just disturbing to me as someone who is neither a parent of teenagers nor naive.






America's First Daughter by Stephenie Dray - This was my book club's recent pick, and it was quite good overall.  It made an amazing audiobook on 1.5x speed.  I HATED the main character's casual thought of using abortifacient herbs though, and wonder if the author was making this up (about a historical figure, no less) to make a modern pro-abortion point.  Which if she was, that actually makes me angry.

My goals for the next three months:

Read more books on my unread shelf!

Read more books that will make it in my "Top Books Of 2019" list.  I want a nice long list of strong books to recommend to you at the end of the year - the only ones from this quarter that I see making the cut would be The Blue Castle, Radium Girls, and Pay Attention, Carter Jones.

What are your favorite books from the year so far?

Stuff I Like | February 2019


Can you tell my succulents are fake in this picture?  If you remember, I asked you all to help me figure out what to do with the ledge in this post, and I found these succulent planters.  They are still pretty even if they are fake, right?



A few things I enjoyed in February!


Herman Who?

As an average person, I have never taken a class in hermenuetics (the art and science of biblical interpretation), but after watching this DVD I feel like I have!  Todd Friel put out this mini-course on hermenuetics, and it's basically a college-level course condensed and brought to the average Christian in an entertaining way.  I love the different examples he gives of why hermeneutics is important, and I basically wish I could give a copy of Herman Who? out to every single Christian I know.  If everyone understood proper hermeneutics and took it seriously, we'd have so many less Christians caught up in false teaching and silliness.  Highly, highly recommend this course.  Derek and I have been watching it together in the evenings, and we have learned so much.  You can grab a physical or digital copy here.

I also have to note that pretty much anything Todd Friel puts out is gold around here.  They have one of their resources available to watch for free right now called "What Hath Darwin Wrought?" - just click here and go through the steps (donating is optional).  If you don't know the connections between darwinism, racism, and eugenics, you'll want to check it out.

The Greatest Gift 

This is a kids' book that my dear friend and penpal from childhood, Felicia, sent me  as part of her Christmas present.  I read it to the kids yesterday, and all of us LOVED it!  The illustrations are perfect, and the story is a retelling of the story of the widow with the two copper coins, from Mark 12.  It even has discussion questions in the back, so it was perfect for our Bible time!  I kind of want the next book in the series now.  Felicia's husband illustrated this book too, and wow, I was impressed.  It wouldn't be nearly as cute without the beautiful illustrating work!  You can check it out here.  I'm basically going to share too many pictures now, because I enjoyed the illustrations so much.










Serial Reader

This app is just the thing my reading life never knew it needed.  It serializes classic books.  You pic the ones you want, "subscribe", and it sends you a 10-15 minute reading "issue" each day.  Before you know it, you've read a classic book!  I love this app for so many reasons - it makes the classics feel more attainable, and I think it's so clever since many classic books were actually originally published as serials in magazines (including one of my current picks, North And South).  I am also reading The Secret Garden, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Our Mutual Friend, and The Wind In The Willows through the app right now.  I want to tackle Democracy In America next.  Have I mentioned all this is free?

The Astronaut Wives Club

I was at the library a couple weeks ago and spotted this TV mini-series on the wives of the first astronauts.  I have been watching it and it is so interesting!  The stories of these women sucked me in.  It leans a little feminist here and there (I am not a feminist in the modern sense), but overall I have really enjoyed it!  I also started listening to the audiobook, and it's just as good as the show.

This Article On Homeschooling

I don't know how I ran across this new blog, but Jane's article on 9 Reasons Why Homeschool Is A Blessing To Our Family - well, basically I could have written it myself.  I think often families are running away from something they don't like in the public school environment when they choose to homeschool, which is entirely valid - but I also love to hear from someone who, like me, is not just running away from something but running toward something that we see in homeschooling.

The Minimalist Home 

One more book!  Full disclosure: Once upon a time I was supposed to be on the launch team for this book, and I received my free launch team copy in the mail right after we moved.  I greatly underestimated how much I would NOT want to declutter right after moving and remodeling, so I did not read this book as quickly as I wanted - out of guilt, ha!  I'm slowly getting back into gently minimizing though, and this book is the perfect inspiration!  I am enjoying it so far.  If you need some more minimalist inspiration after your "tidying up" purge (am I the only one who didn't watch that special?), I'd recommend this one!  I'm finding The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker helpful and inspiring while also being realistic.  Full review coming as soon as I finish it (I've been listening to part of it on audio as well and the audiobook is great).



Do you have any new finds from February?

Why I Read Middle Grade Books (And You Should Too)



It's Middle Grade March!

If you have never watched the bookish corner of Youtube - affectionately referred to as "Booktube" - then you might not know that March is the month to read middle grade books!  All the cool kids are doing it.

I had actually not read many middle grade books since..well, middle school, until a couple years ago. I discovered Sarah Mackenzie's podcast, Read-Aloud Revival, and was inspired for the first time in many years to pick up a middle grade book, a book written for the 8-12 age group.  The one I picked was The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt, which I read in the wee hours of the morning on my phone, when I was awake nursing Georgie after she was born.

After reading that book, I wondered why I ever stopped reading middle grade.



So I'm here today to tell you, if you haven't picked up a middle grade book in a while, you might consider finding a good one!  Here are a few things I appreciate in middle grade books as an adult.

1. They are generally clean.

If you have picked up any recently published adult fiction books that aren't Christian, you know of which I speak.  Some things I can overlook in my fiction, and some things I can't.  It's a bummer to get part way through a book and then have to put it down because they crossed the profanity/violence/sexual content line.  It's not good for my soul, as a believer in Christ, to be constantly immersed in things that are not pure, lovely, admirable, etc (Philippians 4:8).  Sometimes I just want a break from wading through smuttiness, and aside from Christian books which can generally be trusted, middle grade is a nice place to turn.

2. They deal with relevant themes (if they are good), while remaining hopeful.  

Just because a book is written for a younger age group, doesn't mean it's not going to have meaningful content.  Alot of the middle grade books that I've read have given me alot to think about.  They often deal with themes that even adults can relate to, like grief for example, but they more often retain a sense of hopefulness about them since they are written for kids.

3.  They are quick to read.

If you are struggling to get through books as an adult with a busy life (that's all of us, right?), middle grade is nice because middle grade books are quick to read.  If you are in a reading slump, middle grade is the way to go.

4.  They bring back memories!

So many middle grade books take me back to memories of a carefree stage of my life, when I was a kid figuring out who I was.  I have a weak spot for a good coming of age novel, and alot of middle-grade books have coming-of-age themes, while keeping it light and fun and inspiring (and clean).

5.  They give me a head start on screening books for my kids.

I try to write really thorough reviews of the middle-grade books that I read so I can remember any themes or content that I'll need to discuss with my kids when they eventually read these books.

All that to say, I love middle-grade, and give middle-grade a chance!  Middle Grade March is a good month to start.



Here is my reading list for Middle Grade March:

(Some affiliate links here.)

Pay Attention, Carter Jones and Lizzie And The Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt - I'm pretty much there for anything Schmidt writes after reading The Wednesday Wars.

Dead End In Norvelt by Jack Gantos - I heard this one was quirky and fun and had a Schmidt-like flair to it!

Louisianna's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo - I read Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo a couple years ago, and this book is about one of the side characters.

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall - Am I the only one who hasn't read this?  It feels like everyone has.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin - I heard this book is like the game of Clue, so I obviously have to read it.

Famous Mistakes: Nancy Drew Diaries by Carolyn Keene - I have an abiding love for anything Nancy Drew, so I obviously have to see what this new series is doing with her - they better not mess up Nancy!  I'm also reading this to screen for Gwen to potentially read it someday.

Sweep: A Story Of A Girl And Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier - I'm not really into books that have anything to do with monsters, but this is the read-along they are doing on Booktube for Middle Grade March, so I thought I'd give it a try.

Inside Out And Back Again by Thanhha Lai - The first book I'm ever going to attempt that is written in verse (also potentially my last?  I'm not sure about this).

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia - I bought this last year at a library sale and need to see what it's all about!


If I focus I think I can definitely get through all of these in March - I told you, middle grade books are quick reads!

Have you read any of these?  Do you read middle grade books as an adult?  What is your favorite middle grade book?



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