Showing posts with label Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reviews. Show all posts

Recent Reads - Spring 2020



A while back, I decided to take a step back from Goodreads.  For a long time I enjoyed recording the books I was reading on that platform, but in the last year it's become the source of more stress than it's worth. People get nasty on there if you are critical of a book they like!  You would think readers would be a little more understanding that not everyone is going to like the same books, but not so much.

I also don't think Goodreads is a great medium for theological/political/sociological discussions, and there is a lot of that happening as well, many times in a not-so-nice way.  I've also become unsure if I really want a database of all the books I've ever read on the internet.  Do I really want all the tech giants and government having instant access to that information?  Based on how things have been going in this country for the last couple months, I think no.

Bottom line: it's just been adding too much drama to my life.  Instead of recording what I'm reading publicly on Goodreads, I've been keeping a private record of the books I'm reading in my bullet journal.  But I know alot of my blog buddies are also readers, so I wanted to share some of what I'm reading with you all too!  Here are some of the books I've been reading in the first part of this year, along with brief thoughts.



(Some affiliate links below, just to help bolster my book funds!)



I picked up this book because everyone says King is such a wonderful writer, but I'm not into horror.  This is one of his few non-horror books, so I wanted to see what all the fuss is about.  The story is about a man who stumbles across a unique way to travel back in time and tries to stop the Kennedy assassination.  I'll say this, King does know how to drive a book forward!  Once I was into this book, I could hardly put it down. However, would I recommend it?  Probably not.  Way more sexual content than I expected, which I skipped past as much as possible, but still - ugh.  Some graphic violence is described, which was disturbing.  I was not satisfied with the ending.  It could have been great if it wasn't for those things.



I already did a full review of this book here.  This book is a historical defense of Reformation doctrines and their existence before the Reformation.  If you're a Protestant whose ever wondered where the Gospel was before the Reformation, this is your book!  Short and sweet, and interesting.



This was a present from my longtime penpal Felicia!  I started this book on Christmas, and got sucked right in!  A bunch of funny Christmas short stories, with lovable, relatable characters.  I laughed out loud reading this, and might have teared up a couple times too.  I bought two more Vinyl Cafe books after reading this one, I loved it so much.  Highly recommend!



Only $2.50 on Kindle!

It's quite possible I read this as a teenager, but I didn't remember it so I read it again.  Agatha Christie is the queen of mystery, and if you've never read one of her books, you should.  In this one, a bunch of people are mysteriously summoned to an island, and one by one they start dying off.  From the author's foreword, you know they are all going to be murdered, but the question is, how?  Definitely one of Christie's more disturbing stories, but I couldn't help but appreciate how she pulled off a murder mystery where every character is murdered. If you don't know Agatha Christie already, I wouldn't start with this one though.  I like her Hercule Poirot books best.


This is actually a middle-grade graphic novel (ie. comic book), but it looked fun so I thought I'd give it a try.  It's the story of two girls - quite, shy Emmie, and popular, outgoing Katie.  Everything always works out for Katie, and not so much for Emmie.  One day an embarrassing note gets delivered to Emmie's crush, and everything comes to a head.  Interesting twist at the end!  I thought it was really cute.  I feel like there might have been one reference to a sex-ed class (?), so maybe parents just be aware of that, but nothing explicit.


I'm a big Ken Ham fan, and this book was written with his brother.  It has advice for parents interspersed with some biographical/memoir type content about the Ham family and how Ken Ham started his young-earth creation ministry.  I really enjoyed it!  Alot of the same info as some of his other books, but I liked having more of a biographical look at the Ham family.



Only $3 on Kindle!

So, I powered through this book on audio because I was trying to win a free gift card as part of a promotion on Audible - and I should have got the prize, but Audible decided I didn't qualify.  I tried calling customer service, but they refused to help me.  I was incensed and quit my Audible membership - they basically tricked me into staying a member for two more months to get a gift card I "didn't qualify" for! Even though I did.  So I have bad memories associated with this, ha!  But that aside, I did enjoy this audiobook.  Ember Falls is book two in the Green Ember series, which is a middle-grade fantasy story with noble, warring rabbits.  I'm enjoying the story, but find that alot of it is told in conversations, and I am not quite sure I like how that translates to audio.  This second book was a little slow-moving to me, but I still want to finish the series, until the "Green Ember rises, or the end of the world!" (I might have got that phrase a little wrong, but it's impressive I remember it at all considering I listened to it three months ago.  It stuck.)



Really interesting book about parring down your schedule and learning to say no to things that are not the best use of your time.  I read this after reading Digital Minimalism and Reclaiming Conversation late last year, and it was a nice way to round out all those ideas about trimming distractions from your life.  I'd recommend it if you frequently find yourself overwhelmed with tasks that are not the best use of your time and that you didn't really want to do in the first place.  This book will be a good shot in the arm.



I picked up this book after Andrew Pudewa mentioned that it had interesting points about how to evaluate children's literature to determine if the underlying messages are ones that you want your kids' reading.  This book really made me think, and it did indeed have alot of great tips for choosing books for your kids that are in line with good character values.  The discussion on dragons in children's literature was especially interesting. It's written from a Catholic perspective, so I didn't agree with all the theology in it.  But I did appreciate how it made me think deeper about the kinds of books I want my kids' reading, and I'll probably return to it for ideas in the future.



This was a thriller I listened to on audio when I needed a distraction.  It's a story about a girl who disappeared, and years later her mother is still trying to figure out what happened to her - things start to come together when she starts dating again.  I didn't love this one.  I listened to the end just because I wanted to finish it, but there was definitely some sexual content (thank goodness for the button to skip ahead 30 seconds).  I also hated the ending.  Not that I was expecting a happy ending exactly, but it was bittersweet in a disturbing way, and left me with kind of a yucky feeling.  I kind of wish I had quit this one.  Maybe I'll just stick with Mary Higgins Clark books when I want a thriller in the future.  More modern thrillers rarely work out for me.


I started this book last year, and just finally finished it this spring.  Tripp gives advice in this book to all Christians on how to counsel and encourage others in a biblical way, by asking good questions and pointing others to scripture.  It's solidly grounded in the Gospel, and the advice later in the book was really thought-provoking and helpful to me in some of my relationships.  This is a book I'll probably be reading again, because I need reminders.  If you want some help on learning how to encourage others in the Lord, this book is for you!


East Of Eden by John Steinbeck

Only $1.50 on Kindle!

I've got probably an eighth of this book left, it's been taking up a large portion of my reading time for the last two months, but I think it will be worth it! The story is a generational story about two sets of brothers with a Cain-and-Abal type relationship.  I'm very invested in the characters, and I'm going to be kind of sad when I can't read about their lives anymore.  One content note: there are "houses of ill repute" involved, so some sexual references in the plot line, but nothing too explicit.



That's where my reading life stands as of Spring 2020!  

I've decided to change my strategy for how I'm picking books for the rest of this year.  When I was trying to write my post about my favorite books from 2019 (back in January), I found myself really unsatisfied with the group of books I had to choose from.  Then I looked over my last couple reading years and realized I haven't loved very many of the books I've been reading for a while now.  I decided to try to read more books that I like this year, and less books that end up being duds.  I may write about my strategy in another post, but I'm pretty satisfied with the books I've read so far in 2020.  There are alot of good ones on this list!  

Here's to hoping 2020 will be a great reading year, where my "Favorite Books Of 2020" post will be difficult to write because I have so many I love, as opposed to so few!

What has been your favorite book of the year so far?

Post-Apocalyptic Books To Read During A Pandemic





What should one read in the middle of a pandemic? That is the question.

I won't tell you all what to read, but I will say that over the last week, with hysteria over the coronavirus and social distancing protocols in place, I have really been enjoying books with a post-apocalyptic vibe.  That might seem a little morbid, but it's not really.  At a time when so many people are scared, it's comforting in a weird way to think of how much worse things could be.

You could be on an outer space mission and come back to an earth that has no people left on it.  You could be in a traveling orchestra that is being chased by vigilantes after 90% of the people on the planet have been wiped out.  All the electricity in the world could suddenly fail.  You could find yourself unable to provide for your family while a dust cloud fills your lungs and covers your car (that one actually happened).

There, now don't you feel a little better about this whole coronovirus thing?  No?  I'm the only weirdo here?



All joking aside, a little escapist reading never hurt anyone, and people need a break from coronavirus news.  Turn off the TV and try one of these! (My post-apocalyptic reading is limited, so I welcome your suggestions in the comments!  I'll also add to this post as I read more.)


Books I've Read




Last Light by Terri Blackstock

It's been...possibly a decade since I read this book, but I do remember being pretty into the story.  An electromagnetic catastrophe knocks out the world's electrical systems, cars, etc, basically plunging everyone back into the 1800's when it comes to technology.  This book is a murder mystery/thriller type book that takes place with that backdrop.  I remember enjoying it, and maybe it's time to pick up the rest of the series.

Content Notes:  This is Christian fiction, it was clean!






Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Probably alot of you have already read this, but this book follows a traveling orchestra after a virus wipes out...somewhere in the ball park of 90% of the population (worst estimates for the coronavirus are around 3%, so keep that in mind lest you get anxious!).  It's less about the apocalyptic event, and more about how people might keep art and music alive after something like that happens.  I really was taken by the characters in this book and enjoyed it alot.

Content Notes: Definitely some cussing and some crude/inappropriate sexual references, but not too densely if I remember right.






Good Morning Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

I just read this one, and it ended so sadly.  I still have a book hangover from it.  This book is about a man who is stranded in the arctic, and a crew who is stranded in space, when the radio waves of the world suddenly go silent.  No one knows why.  This is very much a character-driven book, and the characters aren't necessarily likable, but I thought it was an interesting portrayal of loneliness and finding the things that really matter.

Content Notes: Some cussing and crude/inapropriate sexual references, not too dense, the characters are atheistic and that comes through.






The Age Of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

I read this one a few years back, and it really resonated with me for some reason.  The earth is slowing it's rotation, just as the protagonist is coming of age.  I'm kind of a sucker for coming of age novels, so I liked it, but I also remember it ending rather sadly.  But the scientific speculation of what would happen if the earth slowed it's rotation was also fascinating.

Content Notes: Some language and sexual references.






The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

Note: Free to read if you have Amazon Prime!

I mentioned this book in my post yesterday, and I'm still reading it now.  This is the only non-fiction book on this list, about the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, and what it was like to live through that. People can't afford to feed their families, farmers can't sell their crops, and enormous dust clouds sweep across millions of acres, destroying homes and whatever livelihoods were left.  I'm finding it really compelling, and interesting on a personal level since I had some relatives not too far from the Dust Bowl around this time in history.  I am finding this book particularly encouraging in times of uncertainty.  Those people went through so much, way more hardship than you and I will probably ever face.  There is a reason these people gave rise to and/or are called the Greatest Generation.

Content Notes: Some cussing and references related to prostitutes.

Other Suggestions Via My Online Buddies

I put the word out about this post on social media, and a couple of my Instagram buddies offered some additional suggestions!  I haven't read these, but they sound interesting.






Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

A middle grade historical fiction that follows a girl through the yellow fever that hit Philadelphia in the 1700's.  This one sounds really interesting to me, and I love middle grade!  Thanks to Brittney for this suggestion.






Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

The world has mostly been destroyed through nuclear disaster, and survivors in a small town in Florida band together to survive.  Also sounds interesting! This on is $3 on Kindle.  Also suggested by Brittney, thanks friend!






The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I haven't read this one in years, but it would be very appropriate with the way we're all stuck at home right now!  Might try this one with the kids.  Only $1 on Kindle right now!  Thanks to Anna for reminding me of this one!



Also on my reading list?  The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (didn't like his last book, so we'll see what I think of this one), and Unbroken by Laura Hilderbrand (catastrophe on an individual scale, but I expect to be inspired).


Keep In Mind

None of these novels end particularly happily (with the exception of the Dust Bowl book - haven't finished it yet, but humanity obviously survives).  Most are bittersweet.  Keep that in mind if you don't like that kind of book, or can't handle anything but a happy ending right now.

Also keep in mind that as believers in Jesus, we know the world isn't going to end any of these ways!  Someday Christ will return and put everything to right.  He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4).  Maybe that's why I don't mind post-apocalyptic stories.  I can appreciate the imagination of them without fear, because I already know the end of the story for those of us who have put our trust in Christ to save us - and it's a good one.  I hope all my sisters in Christ who are reading this will remember that too in these uncertain days, and not let news stories or silly books bring any anxiety.  No matter what, we are safely in His hands.


Ways To Read When The Libraries Are Closed

I highly encourage you to see if your library participates in any digital services, because you can get ebooks and audiobooks that way!  My favorite library apps in the past have been Overdrive, Axis 360, and Hoopla.  Download the apps and check to see if your library is listed!  You can also apply for library card numbers for libraries in surrounding counties and check to see if any of those libraries participate in these app services.

If you are a Prime member, you should be aware that you can read some books for free on Kindle through Prime Reading!  The Worst Hard Time is available that way, if that one sounded good to you.



What post-apocalyptic-y books would you add to the list?

My Favorite Books From Last Year



Is it too late to write a post about my favorite books in 2019?

I have been slacking quite a bit on recording the books that I'm reading, ever since...well, our vacation, which was in August.  I met my goal of 52 books for 2019, but I didn't record many of them on Goodreads.  But I wanted to at least share a few of the books that stood out to me on here!



Non Fiction

I read a lot of non-fiction books that I really liked, so it was hard to leave some of them out.  These were the ones that stood out - I especially read some great Christian non-fiction, so if you are looking for some Christian encouragement-type books, read on!

Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham

I bought this book when Voddie Baucham visited our local homeschool conference a few years ago, and I finally finished it.  Wow, if you want to be challenged in your parenting and in training your kids up to know the Lord, this is one you should pick up!  I was convicted to re-think a lot about my parenting and refocus on what is really important because of this book.  In fact, it's probably time I read it again.

Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges

This book is about the smaller sins that aren't mentioned much in Christian circles - we brush over these sins in ourselves and others, we tolerate them.  Bridges challenges us in this book to root those sins out of our lives.  This book is soundly rooted in the Gospel, and I found it not just convicting but very uplifting as well.  I highly recommend it!

None Like Him by Jen Wilkins

I feel like I've mentioned this book a million times between my blog and Instagram, but it was really good.  Wilkins looks at ten attributes of God, but these are not attributes that we can reflect (such as love, grace, etc), but attributes that belong to Him alone.  I found this book insightful and inspiring, and it was biblically sound and very readable.  It's a great book to start with if you are just beginning to dip your toes into theology.  Even though I was somewhat familiar with alot of the attributes she discusses, there were terms I learned and specific points that made me think more deeply about the ways that God is set apart from us.

Devoted: Great Men And Their Godly Moms by Tim Challies

If you've ever wondered if the little things you do for your kids are making a difference, pick up this book!  It's short and sweet, and would be perfect for Mother's Day.  I found it both convicting as I read about different godly moms through history and how they impacted their sons, and encouraging because of the little things they did that made such a big difference.  Highly recommend.

What Wondrous Love Is This by Joni Eareckson Tada

This is a book about hymns, and I used it as an addition to my morning Bible time.  Each chapter covers a different hymn, it's history, the theological breakdown, and it's personal impact on the authors.  I didn't even know half of the hymns in this book, but I would read a chapter and then look up the hymn on Spotify, and it was such an uplifting addition to my morning routine.  I'd recommend it if you also love hymns and are up for learning some new ones!

You Who? Why You Matter And How To Deal With It by Rachel Jankovic

I liked Jankovic's Loving The Little Years, which I read years ago, and finally remembered her as an author this year when I saw this book.  She discusses the "self help" culture, and why it is not the way we should approach life as Christians.  I think I need to read this book again, because I flew through it so fast the first time.  I read it during a discouraging period, and it was exactly what I needed to break me out of my doldrums, but I can't remember everything about it.  I inhaled it the first time, and I'd like to read it more thoughtfully a second time.  But anyway, it was good.

Them: Why We Hate Each Other And How To Heal by Ben Sasse

This book was timely for the current political climate, and the epidemic of loneliness in our culture.  We are more connected than ever, via the internet, but less rooted and less likely to actually know the names of our neighbors.  Sasse discusses why this is, what's really dividing us as Americans, and little ways that we can start to fix it.  I thought his view of why our culture is changing in our level of connection to one another was interesting, and in the end I was so encouraged by this book.  Though Sasse is a Republican senator, the information in this book and the points he makes are bipartisan, so I'd recommend it no matter your political leanings.

Chasing New Horizons by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon

I started several space books last year after our visit to NASA, and I'm still working through most of my space books, but I shot through this book on audio!  It gives the history of Pluto, and how we finally sent a spacecraft to that distant planet.  What I found really interesting about this book was how involved it is to fund and plan an unmanned space mission, and all the logistics of sending a spacecraft to such a distant planet (even going as fast as 52,000 mph at times, and traveling almost a million miles per day, it still took 9.5 years for it to arrive at Pluto!).  I listened to it on audio, and I'd recommend reading it that way, I think it could be a little dry if read in print.  But it was a fascinating book to me.

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

This book was so timely, since I read it after I decided to go on a Facebook break in December.  It challenged me to think more carefully about social media and how I wanted to be using it.  Highly recommend this book if you struggle, like I do, to put down your phone!



Fiction

As I was looking over my list, I did not have as good of luck with fiction books last year.  I'm going to list the books I really liked first, and then do some "honorable mentions".

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I have to be honest, I didn't think I was going to enjoy this book.  I have seen the movie before and the characters weren't exactly likable, and there was alot of debauchery, cheating, etc.  But what made this book worthwhile for me was reading while also listening to the Close Reads discussion of The Great Gatsby.  Because of reading the book while listening to that podcast, I noticed so many things that I wouldn't have otherwise, and I realized the message of the book is completely different than what I originally thought it was.  I ended up really liking it!  You can bet that if I ever have my kids read this for school, it will be assigned WITH the podcast.  Here are the links to the episodes if you're interested:

Chapters 1-3
Chapters 4-5
Chapters 6-7
Last Chapters


1984 by George Orwell

Does anyone really like 1984?  I'm not sure that's quite the right word, but I did get alot out of this book.  Some of it was creepily similar to aspects of our political environment today.  It's not like any book I would normally enjoy (more sexual aspects of the plot than I expected, and the ending was NOT uplifting), but I have to include it here because I think every adult should read it.  Very interesting.

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery

The first book I've read by Montgomery that wasn't an Anne book, and I loved every second of it.  It was completely delightful.  I especially liked the nature writing and the ending.  This book didn't feel anything like Anne Of Green Gables to me, but the writing was the same ol' Montgomery-style that I loved from the Anne series.

Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt

I love every Schmidt book I've read, and this is no exception.  A boy opens the door one day, and finds out his family has "inherited" a butler from his grandfather.  The butler starts putting the family in order and teaching Carter about cricket.  Really fun and delightful while also wrestling with some deeper subjects.  If you haven't read Gary D. Schmidt, you just should.  I usually recommend The Wednesday Wars first, but I loved this book because it had the same feel.



Honorable Mentions

A couple more books I read and enjoyed alot...

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

All the "book celebrities" (ie. Anne Bogel and booktubers) mention this book all the time, and I finally read it.  It didn't completely blow me away, but I did thoroughly enjoy it.  It's a post-apocalyptic book, but it imagines how art might survive in a post-apocalyptic world through following a traveling orchestra.  I think I enjoyed it even more because I've never quite read another book like this, so it was something new.

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

I listened to this book, and I'd recommend it in that format, because I think it would get slow in print (and also, the narrator was very good).  Whoever recommended this book to me said I should go into it without reading the synopsis, and I'm glad I did.  But let's just say if you are into time travel plots, you might like this one.  It's more character-driven than plot-driven.  Even though it's a slower-paced book, I still really enjoyed it.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Horror books aren't really my speed, but this one is a classic, and I'm glad I read it.  I understand vampire references in pop culture so much better now.  That Gilligan's Island episode where Gilligan is bitten by a bat?  Makes so much more sense.



There we go, my favorite books from 2019!

What did you all read last year?  Any stand-outs?






Long Before Luther - A Review


Affiliate link below.

This book, Long Before Luther: Tracing The Heart Of The Gospel From Christ To The Reformation by Nathan Busenitz, caught my eye late last year.  I had recently heard someone claiming that the Reformers basically "made up" a new doctrine when they formally established the doctrines of "by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone" as the means by which we are saved.  The claim was that no one before in church history had viewed salvation the way the Reformers did - that Luther, Calvin, and others were unsupported by previous church history and theologians.  I didn't believe that, but I am not completely familiar with church history either, so I wasn't sure what to think about that claim.  When I saw this book, I snagged it.

This book is pretty scholarly, but it has to be to address some of the specific charges of Reformation theology being unsupported previously.  The author does a great job of breaking down Reformation theology into three specific points - the forensics nature of justification, a distinction between justification and sanctification, and the imputed righteousness of Christ.  Each area is explained in a clear and accessible way, and then the author goes about showing that there are evidences of theologians before Luther who held views in line with these doctrines.

I really loved that the author starts with showing where Scripture itself is in support of each of these doctrines.  The Bible is our ultimate authority, and I love that the author clearly laid out how Scripture presents these issues of justification, sanctification, and salvation.  After firmly grounding us in Scripture, the author then presented his evidence from pre-Luther history, showing how many theologians held similar views to the Reformers in each of these areas.

I thought the author's presentation was thorough and convincing, while also being honest and fair in explaining the ways some of these theologians differed from the Reformers.  But my favorite section of the book was the Appendix, where the author includes 100 quotes from pre-Reformation theologians and church fathers that support the idea of being saved by grace, through faith in Christ, apart from any works.  The book itself thoroughly explains how these theologians viewed each of the specific Reformation doctrines the author was investigating, but the Appendix compiles all the evidence in one place, and it's really compelling.

After reading this book, I feel confident that the next time I hear someone claim that the Reformers were making up new doctrines, I will know there are specific church fathers and theologians that we can look at to prove otherwise.  Excellent book if you have ever wondered where the true Gospel was before Luther.

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

Homeschool Bravely | A Book Review



I picked up this book in May, right before we finished school for the summer.  It has taken me this long to finish it because I basically took a break from even thinking about school as soon as I could.  But with starting up homeschooling again in the fall, it was time to finish this book.

What I Liked

Homeschool Bravely by Jamie Erickson is a book to encourage Christian homeschool moms who are doubting their homeschool choice or worried they aren't doing a good enough job.  I thought it completely lived up to that purpose.  Erickson has so much hard-won, practical encouragement for homeschool moms, and she tells it all from her own experience.

This book is solidly a Christian homeschool book.  Erickson weaves her faith through every aspect of homeschooling that she addresses, and I love that - it's as it should be!  Her encouragement is definitely geared toward Christian homeschoolers, and I appreciated alot of what she has to say, especially her encouragements to trust God for our homeschools, not on ourselves or crossing things off our to-do lists.  She encourages Christian moms to keep their eyes on the big picture of why we are homeschooling in the first place, and that is always valuable to me.

What I Didn't Love

My only complaints with this book have to do with some muddied Christian messages in it.  Though Erickson refers to the gospel, and based on different things she says she seems to understand that we are saved by faith in Christ alone and His atoning sacrifice for our sins, it's not really clearly explained.  If a book is going to focus on Christian encouragement and teaching, and refer to the "gospel" so much, I really appreciate when the gospel is clearly spelled out.  Not everyone who picks up a book like this may have a clear understanding of how to be saved.  This book didn't reach that bar for me of clearly explaining the salvation message.

The other thing I didn't love was the way Erickson took different Bible stories or isolated verses and applied them to a homeschooling point she was trying to make.  Sometimes I felt like she seemed to reduce everything Jesus did on earth as merely for our example.  He is our example, but that is not the primary reason He came.  Her use of Scripture felt forced sometimes, and also led to some theological interpretations I would question.

The best example of this is on page 141.  Erickson writes:

"God constrained Himself when He took on human flesh.  He gave Himself physical limitations.  If God recognized the need to do less for a time, then why shouldn't you?  Why shouldn't I?"

I think it's a big jump to use the fact that God became flesh in Jesus Christ to then state that God recognized a "need to do less".  I just cringe even typing that. I may be misunderstanding her, but I still need to point out that God is not like us, He has no need to rest or "do less".  He wasn't doing any less when He became flesh in order to live a sinless life and take the punishment for our sin upon Himself!  Sure, in His humanness, Christ rested in His physical body.  But as He was also fully God, He was also doing everything God normally does, upholding all things by the word of His power (Heb 1:3), even while He had become fully man in order to become the sacrifice for our sins.  He certainly wasn't doing any less.

---

Anyway, aside from all that, I did appreciate how Erickson wove the Christian faith into her encouragement for homeschool moms.  Alot of her homeschool advice was right on the money, and I appreciated reading it.  I'd recommend this book to Christian homeschool moms, while encouraging them to still read with discernment since I thought some of her use of Scripture and theological statements were questionable.  But there is certainly alot of encouragement to be had here.

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

A Serial Killer's Daughter | A Review



Occasionally I'll get on a true crime kick, and it was one of those days when I found out about this book and requested it to review.  I am usually interested in true crime because I like to see how law enforcement solves the crime and catches the bad guy.  And I guess it should have been obvious from the title, but this was not that sort of book. However, it made me think alot more about the families of criminals and how they are affected by these crimes.  It's not something I considered that much before, and I'm glad I read this memoir for that reason.

Kerri Rawson was an adult when she found out that her father was the BTK (Blind-Torture-Kill) killer.  I just cannot even imagine the shock of that.

Most of the book is Kerri sharing some of her childhood memories of her dad, particularly different situations that she would later come to correlate to the times of his crimes.  The picture painted here is just surprisingly...normal.  She describes her father's sometimes erratic moods, and a couple occasions when he did physically abuse his family, but most of her memories are not terrible.  The family was never tormented by their father in the way he tormented his victims.  He was living a complete double life, and no one had any idea or inkling that he could have done something like this until he was arrested.

Kerri shares some of her journey of faith in Christ through the book, and the trauma and healing she had to go through when she found out what her dad had done.  I was so sad for her.  She loved her father, and still loved him even after he was arrested.  She continued to communicate with him and attempted to show him love and encourage him to get help, even while she was hurting so badly.  I thought that was inspiring, and also heartbreaking at times when her father failed to show proper remorse.

There is no tidy way to wrap up a memoir like this, but Kerri still manages to end the book on a hopeful note.  Though I can tell I have some theological differences, I appreciated her inclusion of how Christ died to save us from our sins and will forgive us when we turn to Him.  This book was hard to read in many parts, but it gave me a new perspective on the true crime genre, and alot to think about.

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


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.

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. The actual root cause of being a grumpy mom is not addressed very well. 

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.

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?

Book Girl - Review



I'm going with 3 stars for this one.

I received Book Girl for review a few months ago, and to be honest, I wanted to give up on it after the first few chapters. I was a little worried when I requested this book from the publisher because of my previous experience with Sarah Clarkson's writing in my attempt at The Life-Giving Home. Her writing has come off stilted and pretentious to me in the past. I had hopes that this book (about books! one of my favorite subjects) would be one I would enjoy, but I was almost immediately bogged down in that same pretentious tone. I liked a lot of what she had to say, but her writing style is just not for me.

I snagged the audiobook because I was not getting anywhere in print, and her writing came across much more relatable and friendly with the narrator's voice. Overall, while listening, I enjoyed it. Most of the book was composed of recommended booklists, with thoughts on reading and personal stories in between. I liked hearing her book recommendations, as well as her thoughts on the reading life and the benefits that can come from reading good books. 

However, I won't be adding all of these books to my to-read list (even if I did have time to read them all). I could tell from her interjections and the actual book recommendations that we are not on the same pages theologically. I wouldn't trust all her non-fiction recommendations, but I am interested to check out a few of the fiction books she referenced.

The book also lost half a star for the constant references to Oxford. I'm sure studying at Oxford was a cool experience and formative for Clarkson (if something can be "formative" at 30 years old), but it was starting to feel awkward, like name-dropping (except with a place instead of a person). The "place-dropping" just added to my problems with the writing style.

Overall, would I say this book is worth reading? Sure, go for it if you want. Not everyone will mind her style, and she did have some good recommendations (but take some of what she recommends regarding Christianity with discernment). I'll keep this one on my shelf as a reference for when I want to add a meaningful fiction book to my reading list. However, I think I can pretty confidently say this is the last book I'll be reading by Sarah Clarkson. I've read enough of her writing at this point to be able to say it's not my cup of tea.

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