Sunday, October 29, 2017

Lioness Arising

"These people rise up like a lioness; like a majestic lion they stand." - Numbers 23:24

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My church has done some studies by an incredibly gifted author named John Bevere, and as I was searching out more of his stuff, I found out that his wife is also an author, and I wanted to find out more about what she had written.  I requested some of her books for my birthday, and my kids got me her book Lioness Arising

Eager to delve in, I began reading it within a few days of receiving it, and immediately I was discouraged.  Not by its message.  Its message is powerful and enlightening.  It is full of awe and wonder.  That's what was discouraging.  As I read it, all I could think was "wow...this sounds exhausting.  Is this really what God wants for my life?  Because I'm already exhausted.  I can't handle this."

This line of thinking set off some alarm bells in my head...why was a call to action causing nothing but exhaustion and resentment in my heart?  That ain't right.

I felt the tug of the Lord calling me to come away from everything - responsibilities and events and plans and the BUSYNESS and the stress - and have a weekend practicing the concept of being still.  I kept putting it off - there is no way I could do that!  I'm a wife!  I'm a mom!  I teach!  I have responsibilities at church!  I'm a den mom!  We have soccer!  We have baseball!  I DON'T HAVE TIME TO BE STILL!

We have time for the things we make time for.  And it was high time I made some time for being still.

Finally, I shared with my husband that I needed to take this weekend, and he helped me rearrange some things to make a weekend for me to go away.  My in-laws were going to be out of town for a weekend, so I hid in their house to have a weekend with me, my journal, and my God.

And this book - Lioness Arising.

Once I cleared the clutter, I was no longer discouraged by the message of this book.  I was empowered by it. 

This is a book that every woman should read.  It's a call to be what we are.  It's a charge.  It's an encouragement that we, as women, are not second-rate characters in this story - we are joint heirs in the Kingdom.  We are God-answers.  We are the Daughters of the Most High, and we need to take our place.  We are lionesses. 

Lioness are "at ease with strength and at rest with power."  They are strategic.  They work together for the common good of the pride.  They are powerful.  They are stunning - and they know it.

You, dear ones, are stunning.  You are powerful.  And we need you.  We need you to walk in the mighty power God has granted you.  We need you to be dangerous and fully awake.  My confession is that I spend too much time thinking about how tired I am.  What's holding you back?  I want to be dangerous to the enemy and fully away.  I want to live in the light and hunt in the dark. 

I am a lioness.  So are you.  Walk in the destiny God has for you.

Also, read this book.

Order it here: Lioness Arising

Next up:
1. Without Rival by Lisa Bevere
2. The Paradigm by Jonathan Cahn
3. Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon
4. Behind the Shattered Glass by Tasha Alexander
5. Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne by David Starkey

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The 39 Clues

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As a teacher, I feel like it's part of my job to keep up with young adult fiction so I know what kids are reading and what to recommend to my students.

It also gives me an excuse to read fast, fun easy books that I enjoy.

The series I just finished, The 39 Clues, falls squarely into this category.  It is a 10 book series that I recently acquired for my classroom.  The premise was intriguing - two orphaned kids set out on a clue hunt that promises to change the world and give them some sort of unlimited wealth and power.  Along the way they discover secrets about their family's role in the history of the world and come to realize the Clue Hunt that began with their grandmother's will is not just a game or a treasure hunt - the future of the world depends on their ability to stay ahead of their competitors and take home the prize.

The series is particularly interesting because it isn't written by just one author.  Each book is written by a different YA author - Rick Riordan, Margaret Peterson Haddix, and Gordon Korman, just to name a few.  The novels are increasingly intricate as you go along, so it's pretty amazing that so many authors could have a part in the same story line.  Each author adds their own flavor, but ultimately they are all headed towards the same climax in then final book, Into the Gauntlet.

The series, to me, started out somewhat slow.  I wasn't terribly impressed, but some of the pieces seemed interesting.  However, as I kept going, the story began to unfold like an onion, layer upon layer.  By the time I reached Into the Gauntlet, I couldn't put it down.  It was a breathless race to see what was going to happen next.

In addition, the books are heavy laden with historical references.  Amy and Dan, the main protagonists, travel the whole world following clues, most of which bring them face to face with major historical figures and events.  Being the history buff that I am, I absolutely loved the tie-ins.  Being the teacher that I am, I immediately starting thinking about all the many possibilities these books could bring in the classroom.  Cross-curricular material is very big these days.  Using these books in a reading class to talk about history would be a pretty awesome unit.

What's more, these ten books are not the end.  They segue into another series, Cahills vs. Vespers, which leads to another series, and another and's an endless story.  A story that has it's own website, set of cards, and secret codes hidden in each book! I don't know who dreamed up this series and all the details behind it, but it is ENORMOUS, and if you got a kid hooked to it, they would be hooked to it for YEARS.  There's so much involved.

Overall, this is a great YA series that I recommend to anyone who likes a good mystery and a good story.  If you are a fan of movies like National Treasure,  or treasure hunts, or conspiracy theories, or history, or secret codes, this series is for you.

Catching up on reading...

School started, and I haven't had much of a chance to update this thing.  That's mostly because I haven't had much of a chance to read.  Hate that!  Between school and this terrible, awful flu season, reading for pleasure has taken somewhat of a back burner.  But here are some books I am currently trying to dig my way through:

.1. A-HA by Kyle Idleman
2. Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Galbaldon
3. As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

Sunday, August 31, 2014


When I get into a book series, I like to look up the author's website, join their Facebook page, and read interviews with them.  I like exploring the characters in a way closer to how the author really sees them.  I enjoy back stories.  It's my understanding, from reading these interviews, that an author generally these characters living with them all the time, kicking around in their heads, taking charge of a scene without the author really controlling the actions and motivations of these make-believe people.  This fascinates me.  I've written many stories and pieces, but it's all been non-fiction or stories based on real people.  I've tried writing fiction, but I don't have all these characters dancing around in my head.  I enjoy other people's characters, but I don't have any of my own.  I have a lot of respect for a storyteller's ability to spin a tale and create a world.

So is it any surprise that, given Amazon money for my birthday, I jumped at the chance to grab up Four by Veronica Roth?

I've already reviewed the Divergent series.  I'm a fan.  No, it's not Pride and Prejudice or David Copperfield or anything, but not everything has to be high literature.  Wal-Mart shelf fiction is  good too, especially when it's clean and allows you to ponder truths of life.  (Confession: David Copperfield is actually one of two books I "Cliff-noted" in my English 12 AP class.  It was assigned summer reading and I ran out of time.  But I spent so much time the night before the test reviewing the Cliffs Notes that I failed to review the books I HAD read and failed the test anyway.  Ah, lessons learned.)  Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant were fast paced, fun reads.  I enjoyed them all, although Allegiant kinda wandered around.  And the end was...well, let's just say I think she could have made all her points without doing what she did. 

But I digress.

Four is a collection of stories from the world of Divergent, but they are all told from the perspective of Tobias instead of Tris.  The first three stories happen before the events of Divergent while the fourth one overlaps with Tris's experience.  According to the introduction, the Divergent series was actually birthed in Roth's mind through the eyes of Tobias, not Tris.  Over time, Tobias didn't have quite the right tone she wanted, and eventually the right narrator of the story came along in the form of Tris.  However, Tobias's story was always very important to Roth and her development of the story she wanted to tell, so once the trilogy was complete, she went back and told pieces of the story from Tobias's voice. 

First, let me say this.  Read Divergent first.  The whole series. Four will be a much more meaningful experience if you already know what's going on.  I fear that future generations will look at the series and do what they did to the Narnia series and "put them in order."  Yeeech.  Sometimes things are written out of order for a reason.  (Someday I'm sure I will use my blog space for a published-order argument for the Narnia series.  Because doing the other way is STUPID.)  Four is meant to be read after you've finished the trilogy.

However, if you've read the trilogy and enjoyed it, you will absolutely love Four.

One of the draws of the Divergent world is the character development.  If you enjoy the series, you love Tris and Four.  (The same cannot be said for The Hunger Games.  I enjoyed that series for the action, but I spent a lot of time wanting to smack Katniss.)  Tris and Four are one of the best couples I've read.  They are like a younger version of Claire and Jaime for you fellow Outlander fans.  Seeing the events you've read and enjoyed through Tris's eyes turned around and seen through Four's is a lovely literary experience.  Suddenly the experience of reading Divergent becomes richer.  You become much closer to the story.  It feels like you are there in the midst of it all because you know more of the ins and outs.  You begin to see the story the way Veronica Roth see it - intricate and complicated.  One character only gives you a straightforward, 2-D perspective.  Adding another major character's point of view turns it into a 3-D experience.  It's well written, and Tobias's traits and motivations are well explored.  It was a highly satisfying experience.

I enjoy the world of Divergent.  If you enjoy it too, you need to read Four to round out your journey with the factions of dystopian Chicago.  It won't take you long - the book's pretty short - and you'll feel thoroughly satisfied once you've finished, like finishing the dessert of a good meal.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Stolen Crown

Sorry about the absence last week, folks - I had a kid in the hospital.  With PNEUMONIA.  Who the heck gets pneumonia in August?  My 8 year old, that's who.  So that's how we spent our last week of summer - sitting in a hospital room watching an IV drip drugs and fluid into my kiddo.  Not so much fun. 

But he is healing and I am back!


Did Richard III kill his nephews in order to seize the throne?
Why did the Duke of Buckingham rebel - unsuccessfully - against Richard?
Was Edward IV's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville legitimate or bigamy?
Am I a total and complete history geek? 

(The answer to that last one is yes, and I am ok with that.)

If you are an average American, you have never once pondered the top three questions.  However, if you are an Anglophile who reads books about the Wars of the Roses for fun, like me, then they are questions you have seriously wondered about.  This period of English history is a particularly controversial one.  There was so much intrigue at the time that it is hard to determine what was fact and what was slander. 

This makes it a great era for historical fiction writers to take apart and examine. What really happened and why did people do what they did?  We know some things for certain, but the rest is up to which theory you believe.  What really happened before, during, and after the reign of Edward IV in the England of the 15th century?

The Stolen Crown  by Susan Higginbotham takes us back to this period and explores the events of the time through the eyes of two real-life characters - Katherine Woodville Stafford, Duchess of Buckingham, and Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham.  Katherine was the youngest daughter of Elizabeth Woodville, whose secret marriage to Edward IV rocked his government and was the source of yet another rebellion during a time when the crown bounced back and forth between two feuding branches of the same family.  Katherine was married off to Henry at the age of eight, and the two were raised in King Edward's household.  They eventually had four children together, and the Duke went on to be a key member of King Richard III's government after Edward's death.  However, in one of those moments of history that historians cannot agree about, the Duke suddenly turned on Richard and led a rebellion trying to put Henry Tudor on the throne.  The rebellion failed and the Duke was executed...and in an ironic twist of history, Henry Tudor went on to mount another sucessful rebellion and became King Henry VII. 

Did you follow all that?  Probably not.  I had to read, like, eight books on the Wars of the Roses before things started to make sense, and I still get confused.  It doesn't help that every male is named Richard, Henry or Edward, and every female is named Elizabeth, Anne, or Katherine.  It also doesn't help that, due to titles, everyone has about three different names.   

But I digress.

The Stolen Crown was interesting to me because Higginbotham took me to a perspective I'd never read before, that of the Staffords.  I didn't know much about them before reading this book.  The Duke of Buckingham is usually presented in novels about this period as a true bad guy - evil and scheming and such.  This story presented an entirely different perspective on who Henry Stafford might have been.  Since there is no way of knowing, it's fun to read novels that speculate, and this gave an entirely different viewpoint than that I have read before.

I also enjoyed the back-and-forth perspective between Katherine and Henry.  Higginbotham refers to the same event seen through both sets of eyes, and this makes for a fascinating read.  It keeps the story moving and gives the reader much to think about as they read.  It allows for different perspectives on history to be shared and different theories to be offered.

Along those lines, I will say that I do not agree with Ms. Higginbotham's stance that Richard III killed his nephews, the Princes in the Tower.  After doing my own research, I came to my own conclusion years ago that he was innocent of that crime.  This did not, however, keep me from enjoying this novel immensely.  I like reading perspectives that differ from my own.  It's good to challenge your own ideas, even if it's just theories on 15th century mysteries.  It's a good thing for your mind and character to take your own ideas out for a walk and see how they hold up to others.  It can solidify your own stance or help you see things in a new way. 

The Stolen Crown was a good, fun, quick read, a great little break from the non-fiction I have been tackling lately.  For anyone who is a fan of this genre - and really, even if you've never tried it - it's a good solid venture into the tumultuous Wars of the Roses and a fun, different perspective on the lives of the people of those times. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Current Reads

I seem to have hit one of those periods where I have many, many books going at once. I can't seem to settle down into one.  So rather than my usual quick 5 TBR list, I thought I would take a moment to discuss all the books I have going at the moment.  I often read more than one book at once.  Other bookworms will understand.

Here's what I've got going on at the moment:

1. The Civil War, A Narrative, Volume 1 by Shelby Foote.  I recently watched Ken Burns' epic documentary The Civil War and, being the geek that I am, I wanted to find out more about Shelby Foote, the author that is interviewed throughout the series.  I discovered he had written a three volume narrative on The American Civil War, so I checked it out from my library.  And I LOVE IT.  Very easy to read, not at all dry, written in narrative form, it is incredibly intriguing.  Mr. Foote certainly did his research.  I don't know how long it's going to take me to finish it, but I will, eventually.  (It's very, very long.  The Prologue, which I just finished, is 72 pages.)  And then  I will move on to Volume II.

2. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  Apparently I am on a Civil War kick.  I have started this one so many times, and it is fascinating, I don't know why I can't finish the thing.  But it's coming along, and it's a nice complement to Shelby Foote's narrative.  I'm going to be quite the Civil War expert when I am all done.

3. The Stolen Crown  by Susan Higginbotham.  This is a historical fiction I found in Kindle form for $2.99.  The author is one recommended on the Sharon Kay Penman FB fan page (yes, I follow it, don't judge), so I am giving her a try.  It's about Edward IV's secret marriage to Elizabeth Woodville.  So far it's very good.

4. The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  This is actually several books in one, and currently I am working my way though The Return of Sherlock Holmes.  I do love Sherlock, and these are great short stories, which makes for good reads.  They are great for reading in line at the checkout counter at Wal-Mart.  This is another one I am reading on my Kindle.  (I told you I was slowly coming around to the ebook craze.)

5. Lost in Translation by John Klein and Adam Spears.  This book examines the Bible from a Hebrew perspective - which was, after all, how it was actually written in the first place, for the most part.  Absolutely fascinating, and it's shaking up my 33 years of Western Civilation-y interpretation of the Bible.  Which is an EXCELLENT idea, I highly recommend it.  God loves to shake up our preconceived ideas!

6. The Prime Minister's Secret Agent by Susan MacNeal.  This is the next Maggie Hope novel.  It just came out in paperback.  I splurged and ordered it from Amazon.  Should be here this afternoon.  I bet I have it finished in three days.

7. Four Blood Moons by John Hagee.  I actually don't know much about this one, but it has been recommended to me by multiple Christian brothers and sisters that I respect, so I'm reading it soon, it's on the short list.

8.  Cinder by Marissa Meyer.  This is a YA book that I am trying to read because I like to keep up with the books my students are reading.  The premise is intriguing - it's a futuristic telling of Cinderella where Cinderella turns out to be a cyborg.  Unfortunately, I can't seem to get into it.  I'll get through it soon, it's sitting on my nightstand, but I seem to be easily distracted from it by all these other reads.

9. Written in my Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon.  This is book 8 in the Outlander series.  I love the Outlander series.  I have waited for this book for three years.  I am totally pumped to read it...but I keep getting interrupted, and it was annoying me, so I put it down for a bit.  I have a vacation weekend coming up, that will probably be a good time to get going on it.

So there's my to-be-read list.  No wonder my to-be-folded laundry pile is so high...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

In Case You Didn't Notice...

...I quit rating the books by stars.


Well, to tell the truth...I kind of forgot.

And then, once I remembered, I realized it was kind of stupid anyway.  Our society loves ranking things.  We live by it.  But it's not really necessary.  How can I really  compare one book to another?  Books are written for different purposes and mean different things to different people.  How can I say one's a two-star and one's a four-star?

They are works of art.  They aren't meant to be ranked.  They are meant to be pondered and discussed.

So...that's why I quit.  Maybe I'll start back up.  But in the meantime, I prefer to just discuss.

The Divergent Series

I was glancing over previous posts of mine, and I suddenly realized I had never written a review of a book series that consumed most of my reading time this semester: The Divergent series!  How could I have let this one slip by!  Probably because of the crazy spring semester I had.  Well, time to right the wrong.  The movie came out just a few months ago, so the series is very hot and popular right now.  A good time to put in my two cents.

I picked up Divergent off the bargain shelf at Wal-Mart because I needed a hospital book to read while sitting with my mom in the ICU.  It was a good pick - it's a fast read, keeps the reader enthralled, but it doesn't require too much brainpower to keep up with the story line.  It's pretty straightforward, as are its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant.  It's definitely the kind of series that kept me up all night reading and calling friends desperate to borrow the next one.  It's that kind of exciting series.

The Divergent series tells the story of Tris, a teenager living in post-apocalyptic Chicago whose society had created a unique way to keep the peace.  When you reach a certain age, you choose which "faction" to belong to, according your aptitude and desire. Your choices are Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Erudite, and Dauntless.   There is a sort of virtual reality test given to indicate which faction you would fit into the best, and the idea is that you live out the rest of your life within this faction, happy to have your place in society.  Each faction contributes in some way to their society, and everyone just lives happily along, locked into the life they have chosen.  That is, of course, unless you wash out of your faction and get rejected, in which case you wind up living with the Factionless, and you are an outcast for life, living on the streets and off the charity of others.    And everyone gets along.  Right?

Well, of course not.  This is dystopian young adult fiction, after all.  There are no happy endings.

Divergent introduces you to Tris's world and the world of the Dauntless, the faction Tris chooses against her family's expectations as they are from Abnegation.  From then on, Tris's life is on a breathless fast-track through danger, suspense, backstabbing (sometimes literally), and love that thankfully manages to be passionate without being explicit.  The story ends in a major cliffhanger, and the next book, Insurgent, picks right up where Divergent left off - and then turns everything upside down.  You begin to realize that nothing you thought you knew was true.  Then Allegiant starts - and you realize that NOTHING YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW WAS TRUE.   It twists, it turns, loyalties are challenged, the factions are blown apart - and Tris ultimately learns the truth about her society.

Honestly, it's all very exciting up to this point.  I liked to storyline better than The Hunger Games trilogy, and I like Tris much better than Katniss.  (I'm not sure you're really supposed to like Katniss.)  Tris is unendingly brave and loyal - to a fault, really.  She is stubborn and independent and willing to do what it takes to save the people she loves.   She's hard, but she's good, and I liked her.

The story itself is good too - it messes with your head and makes you play "what if?" a lot.  What if everything you knew to be true was wrong?  What if all the authority in your society was really about something else?  What's really going on behind the scenes?  Every time you think you are comfortable with how things are progressing, you find out what you thought you knew was wrong.  It kept things very exciting.

However, like most dystopian literature, the ending left me feeling...bereft.  I needed more closure.  It feels like most dystopian novelists write themselves into a corner and then don't know what to do.  So...they just kind of end things.  That's how I felt at the end of The Hunger Games and Matched series, and the feeling was repeated again when I finished Allegiant.  It was highly unsatisfying, and I think the author could have made some of the points about bravery and loyalty without some of the plot turns she chose.  I also wanted to know more about what happened to each character and about what was going on in the rest of the world.  This is an aggravating aspect of most dystopian books today - they tend to focus solely on the United States.  What about the rest of the world?  I live in a very global community.  Why is the future suddenly so only-us focused?

That being said, Divergent is not a bad read at all.  The series goes fast, stays interesting, and gives you a lot to think about while not being too taxiing on the brain.  It's fun and not too draining. the interest of total honesty...Four, Tris's love we say...Smokin'.  Hot.  It is not easy to create a character this hot without a visual.  But...yeah.  Veronica Roth pulled it off.

These would make a great summer read.  If this is the genre that interests you, you will enjoy Divergent.