Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Have Not Abandoned Thee!

Hello readers!  No, I have not forgotten you, nor have I forgotten this blog!  In fact, I have written several entries in my head...unfortunately, I do not have time to write them out in reality at the moment.  I am wrapping up a semester of student teaching and practicum, and YIKES AM I SWAMPED.  I have the amazing Sharon Kay Penman's newest, Lionheart, sitting on my bedside table, looking cold and lonely.  But I will not be able to get to it till Christmas break.  Bummer!

Well, to keep you looking for things to read until I have time to update, check out this fun site:

Fun times and fun lists!

Happy reading y'all!  I will be back with I can!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Weird Sisters

I don't have any sisters.  I am the oldest of three children with two younger brothers.  I never had sisters, and quite frankly, never wanted them.  I thoroughly enjoyed my "only daughter" place in life throughout my childhood.  On my mother's side, I was also the only granddaughter until I was about 17, at which point I didn't care any longer about my place in my grandmother's eye and was happy to have younger girl cousins with whom to hang.   I now have two sisters-in-law, and one to come next Spring, but I have no blood-bond sisters like the three protagonists of The Weird Sisters

This lack of background, however, did not detract from my experience of reading the book; instead it made me somewhat of a curious observer.  I have seen this kind of relationship with other sisters in other families - that sisters can be simultaneously your best friends and your worst enemies, probably because they know the best and worst of you yourself, better than anyone else, including yourself.  It's an interesting dichotomy of human nature and relationships, and that's really what this book is about - life, change, choices, our place in the world, our place in our family, and ultimately, our relationships.

Thomas Wolfe said "you can't go home again."  But that's exactly what these three sisters do, all for various reasons - all, as the beginning says, having to do with their failures.  Rose has failed to do anything less than exactly what is expected of her.  Bean has failed to create an actual life for herself behind the intricate, criminally formed facade she has put up to the world.  And Cordy has openly, shamelessly failed to do anything useful with her life, coming home with the ultimate physical sign of failure of responsibility - an unwanted pregnancy.  All three of these lives are a product of their own choices, which is made clear, but those choices are also shown to be a product of their placements within their family, and they have simultaneously come to the place of having to reconcile that place within themselves in order to move on with their lives.  The fact that this convergence comes at the moment of their mother's diagnosis of breast cancer points them even more to the fact that it is time, quite frankly, to GROW UP. 

First, let's discuss linguistics.  This book is beautifully, intricately written.  I am not JUST talking about the Shakespearean quotes, although I will be honest - those rocked.   I wish I could quote the Bard like that.  Alas, I am not as quick with the Elizabethan wit.  But besides that, Eleanor's Brown elegant use of the English language is melodic.  It is like a symphony of words.  She picks the most beautiful words that are somehow exactly right - and they create the picture in your head without having to wade through pages and pages of description.  It's just...perfect.  It's intelligent, but not overly so.  I also love the perspective of writing it as "we" instead of "I" or "them."  It's the three sisters telling their stories, woven together because that's how families are.  You experience life together, even when physically apart.  These three sisters are in each other's heads and psyches.  Their decisions come from their place in the culture of their family.  So the idea of "we" being there in the library with Bean or "we" being in London with Rose is beautifully done.  I found myself simply soaking in the blissfulness of Ms. Brown's linguistic ability. 

Next - the story.  These are women making poor choices with their lives - but it portrayed as such.  If Bean was one of these characters who slept around and stole and seduced married men but were perfectly happy with it as if this were all just normal and ok, I would hate this book.  But for these girls, there are consequences for their actions.  Bean comes to realize she can't find the acceptance she is craving through empty relationships and the then veneer of success.  Cordy discovers that maybe living from place to place and guy to guy really isn't all it's cracked up to be - and now she has to  face the reality of her life choices.  Rose has spent her entire life being responsible for everyone around her, creating a cocoon of security in the lie that everything would fall apart if she went out and lived her life.  This too is a terrible choice, and she has to come to a place of accepting that she can't fix it all...and no one is asking her to.  Her mother would have had the blood clot whether or not she had been in London.  And in her absence, her sisters were finally given the chance to step up - and to everyone's surprise, they not only do so, but they do so with great gusto and success! 

I love the complicated-ness of the relationships in this book.  They are real and raw without being comical.  Everyone has these kinds of relationships in their family.  Everyone has these places where they feel they can't live up to their parents' lives - and yet they don't want the life their parents led at the same time.  Siblings love each other and are closer to each other than any other person, yet they can also be the harshest towards each other.  Relationships with men, bosses, boyfriends, old friends, new friends - all are woven together in the story in a way that makes the reader relate to their complexity without getting confused or sunk in the lives of the characters.  Each person is so three-dimensional.  I feel like Rose, Bean, or Cordy could walk in my first door and I would recognize them on sight.  I hope they never try to make a movie of this book.  It would ruin the effect. 

Did I agree with everything?  Absolutely not.  As in most modern novels - and not a few old ones - sex is treated as both a dangerous and casual thing.  It never ceases to amaze me how books, movies, and music all react to sex as something that is perfectly all anytime you feel the moment is right, and yet most story lines then go on to explain how those sexual choices get you into serious trouble.  I am one of a minority, I realize, who still holds out against pre-marital sex.  I personally did, and you know what?  Saved me a whole dang lot of heartache.  That doesn't get said enough.  So I'll say it again: I did not sleep around.  I waited until marrying my husband before having sex, and I have one and only partner.  And I do not regret one iota of that decision for one moment.  I wish others could have experienced what I have experienced in that area of my life, and I wish the Beans of the world would realize that they would not, in fact, "die in a relationship without sex." 

In addition, I wish I could sit these women down and explain that the faith they scoff at is there waiting to be their source of strength.  It is obviously a source of strength for their parents, but they don't really want to mess with it.  I like to think that Father Aidan continues to build a relationship with Bean in which he could approach this and help Bean see that the approval she craves is really found in Jesus.  It wasn't that kind of book, but that is reality.  All these sisters are looking for something they lost.  They can find that in Jesus.  But they won't - and I can accept that in fictional characters who don't actually exist.  But there are far too many Roses, Beans and Cordys in the world looking for love in all the wrong places. 

So, to recap: loved the book.  Thought it was great.  Wonderfully written, wonderfully told, great story, fantastic characters - and SHAKESPEARE!  Now it's your turn.  Here are some questions to jump start your response; also feel free to respond to the things I said above:

1. The Andreas family is dedicated to books, particularly Shakespeare. Would the family be different if their father were an expert on a different writer? Edgar Allan Poe, let's say, or Mark Twain? What if they were a family of musicians or athletes, rather than readers? How might that change their dynamic? Is there an interest that unites your family in the same way that reading unites the Andreas family? 

Actually, reading unites the family I grew up in, much like it does the Andreas family.  We are also bound together by our loves of history and discussion.  For my family now, it is yet to be seen, we are still young and finding an identity as a family.  Another writer would have changed the tone of the family, I think, but not the dynamic.

2. In many ways, the Andreas sisters' personalities align with proposed birth-order roles: Rose, the driven caregiver; Bean, the rebellious pragmatist; and Cordy, the free-spirited performer. How important do you think birth order is? Do you see those traits in your own family or in people you know? 

I think birth order plays a great part in their personalities, and I see that in a lot of families.  It's in my own, although not in the same ways.  I am the oldest, and I am the driven caregiver. My brothers each have their own responses to their birthplace in the family.  I think birth order is very important, although not the answer to everything.

3. Father Aidan tells Bean, "Your story, Bean, is the story of your sisters. And it is past time, I think, for you to stop telling that particular story, and tell the story of yourself. Stop defining yourself in terms of them. You don't just have to exist in the empty spaces they leave." Do you agree with Father Aidan? Is it possible to identify one's self not in relationship to one's siblings or family?  

This was one of my favorite passages of the book.  We all can fall into the trap of thinking our stories are written for us because of our place in the world, what we are born into.  But we can write our own stories - or, even better, let God write our stories for us.  Our identity is best found in Him, not in our family or anything else.

4. Is it irresponsible of Cordy to keep her baby?

First, let me say that I breathed such a huge sigh of relief when we got to the end of the book and Cordy did not abort her child.  I would not have been able to finish the book if that had happened.  That had me so worried.  Having gotten past that - should she have given Ariel up for adoption?  No, she did all right, I think.  Deep down, Cordy knew she would do what she had to do, and she wanted this baby.  So no, I don't think it was irresponsible.

5. Why do you think the mother is never given a name?

Wow.  I didn't even realize that.  Huh.  I think it's because the book is written from the girls' perspectives - and think about your own mother.  Do you ever think of her by name?  Or is she always Mom?  I certainly don't think of my mom as Jenny.  I think of her as Mom.  I think that's why we don't know her name - because, to Rose, Bean and Cordy, she is MOM.

6. The narrator says that God was always there if the family needed him, "kind of like an extra tube of toothpaste under the sink." Is that true, or does the family's religion have a larger effect on the sisters than they claim? How does your own family's faith, or lack thereof, influence you?

I wish the family's belief in God had more of an impact on them than is portrayed, but I don't think it does.  I think if they let it, they would find much of what they are searching for.  My own family's faith is the bedrock of MY faith, and my faith in God is the cornerstone, the foundation of my entire life.  I would want more of that for these girls because I want more of that for EVERYONE. 

Start discussing!  Oh, and throw out ideas for another book! 

Discussion questions taken from:

No, I have not forgotten!

Hello book clubbers!  I have not forgotten you!

But where, you might ask, is my review?

Umm, two words: Game Six.

Two more words: Game Seven.

So, I apologize.  Instead of furiously finishing the book, I was watching David Freese be AMAZING.  Wow.  Such good baseball.  Who's up for a baseball book next? ;)

Anyway, I did finish it today, in between learning how to cook brisket, and a review will be coming before the weekend is out.  I know you all love me and shall show me grace and mercy.  Right?  

Stay tuned!

Friday, October 21, 2011

I Finally Have It!

I got it!

Thanks to my book-loving mother, I FINALLY have a copy of the book I required all of you to start reading!  Yay!!

I have started it, and so far I am enjoying it, but I have not read enough to pass any particular judgement yet.  I have been getting some interesting reviews from some of you, so we shall see how the discussion goes. 

I am a speed reader, so I should get it read this week...even though I have to finish Glory Road first for my 8th hour character ed class.  (Showed them the movie.  Such a fantastic flick.  Great discussions, great participation.  And I got to watch Josh Lucas' blue eyes for five days.  Win-win!)

So check in next week for the discussion of The Weird Sisters!

In the meantime, I leave you with this collection of scenes from Gilmore Girls.  If Rory was, you know, a real person, we would totally get along.  I particularly identify with her habit of hauling around five different books just in case she is in the mood to read a certain one. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Checking In

Hey book club!

Umm...I don't have the book yet.

But I am hearing from some of you.  One reader did NOT like the book until the end.  Another one says it is not something she would normally read, but she is enjoying it thus far. 

Due to the generosity of my rockin' awesome mother, I will have my very own copy by Monday, so I should have something to share next Friday!

In the meantime, SKP is keeping me company via Lionheart.

See you next Friday!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Book Club Check In

Hello fellow bookworms!  As promised, here is your weekly book club check-in.  This is the time when we all come together and share where we are in the book and perhaps a non-plot revealing thought or two.

That is, of course, unless you don't have the book me. 

Hey!  Not my fault!  (Oh good heavens, the middle schoolers are starting to rub off on me.)  The library only has one copy, and I have generously allowed my friend Amy to be first on the waiting list.  Ain't I nice? :)  Actually, it's just that I am pretty sure my mom has a copy I can borrow.  At any rate, I shall get my hands on a copy soon!

In the meantime, I will be busy with THIS:


My best friend bought this for me for my birthday...TWO MONTHS AGO.  I have been watching the mail for that Amazon box all week...and here it is, along with an Elizabeth Chadwick!!  Yay! far are you in The Weird Sisters?  And what books are you looking forward to these days?

What's up next: Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman
Top Five TBR:
1. The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
2. To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick
3. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert
4. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
5. Erasing Hell by Francis Chan

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Question

"If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he rereads." Francois Mauriac

This blog is not only devoted to books that I read but also the love of reading itself.  I am passionate about reading and love to spread that passion to others.  One of my goals as a teacher is to teach kids that reading does not, as so many of them say, "suck."  It opens ideas and thoughts and awakens passions and callings.  It changes the way we think.  It takes us to other places, places we could never physically go, such as 1066 to see William the Bastard conquer England or Russia during the revolution or Cleopatra's court.  So much can happen when we read.

In that spirit, today I am going to answer a question that my mother emailed out to my family yesterday.  We are a family of hopeless bookworms, and we love to have literary discussions over email.  (Some of them get very funny.  And most of them are nutty.)  My brother, as a matter of fact, is a contributor to a book webpage called the Ultra Manly Book Club.  Even if you are not ultra manly, you should go check out that site, it is awesome!

Anyway, the question is this:

"What book or books have you read that impacted your life, especially in a more indirect way?  Nobody gets to say the Bible.  In fact, I think I am outlawing all obviously Christian books, or at least you have to give one more secular one.  And you need to tell why."

 Wow.  What a great question, Mom!  Today's post is devoted to my own answer to this question.  Next week I will devote a post to other people's answers to this question.  If you would like to be a part of that, either post your answer in the comments or email me - I would love to have lots of input!

So, my answers...

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.  This young adult book - about 4th grade level - was not only my first introduction to historical fiction, but it gave me a new sense of the world and its history.  The story of the Holocaust is one that must never, ever be forgotten or glossed over, and we need to know the stories of those brave men and women throughout Europe and the world that fought the resistance movement against Hilter's murderous regime.  The story of Denmark during this time period changed me and made me realize, at the age of 8 or so when I first read this, how important it is to stand up for what is right, even at the cost of your own safety and life.  Everyone should read this book. 

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier.   I already wrote a post on why; you can read it here.  Sufficient to say, this was my first "grown up" book, and it made it's mark on me.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.  I don't have the space here to explain GWTW's impact on me.  It will get its own entry in time.  This book, by far my favorite of all time, explores so many important topics, such as racism, history, history rewritten, love, romance, tragedy, parenting, culture, sex, women's roles...and it is absolutely beautifully written.  It also marked an important transitional time in my life - the age of 13 - and made an impression on me that will never be forgotten.  I read it at least once a year, and every time I see something new.  I so wish Ms. Mitchell had not met such a tragic, young end, for I would have loved to have seen what else was in her mind.  Love this book.

Dominion by Randy Alcorn.  Sorry Mom, I am breaking your rules, because this is a "Christian" novel.  BUT.  It is a Christian novel that so challenged my thinking that I feel I must list it.  This book challenged the way I look at poverty, heaven, urban ministry, the Church, racism, abortion, and...a bunch of other things.  It is also a fabulous murder mystery.  It changed my life as a Christian, an educator, and a minister of the gospel, so here it it. 

The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir.  This biography is where my weird fascination with British history began.  I do not defend my love of that island and it's colorful past - it is what it is.  But this is really where it all began.  I picked this book up somewhere - I think at a half price book store - and took it on vacation with me.  And thus an obsession was born.  And yes, I can name all six wives and what happened to well as every British monarch from Aethelred the Unready to Elizabeth II.  I am fun to have around at parties. 

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. (Sorry Mom!)  I read this - or, rather, it was read to me - for the first time when I was about six.  I loved it as a story, and I remember hunting through closets and corners of the house, hoping to find a passageway to Narnia.  Several years later, as a sixth grader, I was encouraged by my teacher to read it again because I would see it entirely differently.  And she was so right!  This book represents the first time I realized that books can change for a person over time.  You can see so much more every time you read and re-read a book.  God uses the same books at different times in a person's life throughout their lives.  This was just such a book for me.  (For the record: all of you who read The Magician's Nephew first are missing out and sadly mistaken.  I'm not trying to start a riot, I just want you to know that it is wrong.  One of these days I shall make my case on this blog.  And do not start in with "that's the order Lewis said to read them in."  I read the interview to which you are referring.  I bet you have not.  That's not what he said.)

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.
O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
    Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
    Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
    And I'll no longer be a Capulet. 

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
    Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
    What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
    Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
    Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
    What's in a name? that which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet;
    So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
    Retain that dear perfection which he owes
    Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
    And for that name which is no part of thee
    Take all myself.  

That is beauty itself.  People who "hate Shakespeare" have not taken the time to see the soul of the beauty of language.  You don't have to love it, but don't hate it.  It's like hating a sunset.  Romeo and Juliet is not my favorite Shakespearean play, but it was my first, and it made its impact on my literary life.  (And it is NOT because Leonardo DiCaprio played Romeo when  I was about 14.  Although that did help.)

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.  I distinctly remember reading this for the  first time my sophomore year of high school.  I was absolutely captured by the language, and I think that was the first time I realized just how much I love the written language.  Dickens impacted the way I read literature because he became the standard. 

Daughter of Time by Josephine Fey.  Not only did this feed the British obsession, but it changed the way I looked at history as it is reported and taught in the schools.  By the way - Richard III did NOT kill his nephews.

Up a Family Tree by Teresa Bloomingdale.  I first read Teresa Bloomingdale as a teenager, and at that point I just thought she was funny.  Later, however, she became a lifeline for me as I navigated my own early motherhood years.  Teresa was there to hold my hand, laugh with me, and show me it was ok when things got a little crazy.  I look forward to meeting this dear woman face to face in heaven and telling her how much her work meant to me.  She also, indirectly, encouraged me to write, as she was a successful writer as well as a stay at home mom...of 10.

 Theirs is the Kingdom; Secret Believers, Kingdom WorksThese are books, by a variety of authors, that challenged my way of looking at evangelism, poverty, Christians that are REALLY under persecution, and what my role in the world should be as a follower of Christ.

The Sacred Romance by John Eldredge and Brent Curtis.  This shook my preconceived notions of who God is and how He relates to me.  Everyone should read this book.

Ok, so I broke my mom's rules a little.  Sorry Mom!  But I also had some secular ones!!!

Your turn!  Chime in with your contributions!

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Moment You've All Been Waiting For...

A quick review: my dear friend Kelley over at Daily Sips presented me with a challenge last week - pick a book for an online book club.  Oh my!  What fun - and what a burden!  I mean, there are just SO MANY BOOKS out there from which to choose!  To choose just one for a book club...I felt like Spiderman.  It's both a gift and a responsibility. 

BUT, after consultation with an expert (i.e. my mother), I have come up with the first title for our monthly book club.  Let's review how this will work:

1. Everyone come back to my blog on Fridays and check in with their progress.  Be careful with what you say - someone else may not be as far as you are, and you wouldn't want to spoil anything!  These check-ins need not be anything elaborate - more like "hey, I'm on chapter five, wow, this is great!  You are my hero for picking this book!"  or "I'm on chapter four, this book sucks and I hate your living, breathing guts for picking it."  Stuff like that. 

2. On the last Friday of the month, I will post an online review of the book.  Everyone else in encouraged to do the same, either in the comments on my blog or on your own and link it in.  Then we can generate some discussion in the comments.  This will probably take some tinkering as we get into it, but we'll see how it goes. 

3. I will also announce the next book.  I will NOT, however, be the only one picking books for this thing.  I mean, I CAN pick them all, but you all will eventually get sick of reading biographies of medieval English queens.  (Don't worry.  That's not what I picked this time.) I will be taking suggestions and possibly assigning the task of picking the books to certain participants. 

4.  A note about the comments and discussions: we need to be able to have open discussions.  No two people are going to think exactly the same about anything.  So please, let's be respectful of others' opinions and expressions.  Let's keep it clean and civil out there. 

So, enough with the rules!   On with the first selection!

The book for the month of October will be...

According to

he Weird Sisters in Eleanor Brown's delightful debut could have been weirder, considering their upbringing. Their professor father spoke primarily in Shakespearean verse, and while other kids in the bucolic Midwestern college town of Barnwell checked the TV lineup, the Andreas girls lined up their library books. They buried themselves in books so completely that while they loved each other, they never learned to like each other much. And when adulthood arrived and they pursued separate destinies, each felt out of step with the world. When news of their mother's cancer makes a terribly convenient excuse for attention-hog Bean (Bianca) and Cordy (Cordelia), the “baby” who always got off easy, to boomerang back to Barnwell from New York and New Mexico, respectively, they return bearing the guilt (and consequences) of embezzlement and pregnancy-by-random-painter. They're most terrified of admitting these failures to Rose (Rosalind), the responsible eldest, who stayed in Barnwell to teach Math and cling to her caretaker-martyr role. With lively dialogue and witty collective narration, the sisters' untangling of their identities and relationships feels honest and wise, and the questions they raise about how we carry our childhood roles into our adult lives will resonate with all readers, especially those with their own weird sisters. --Mari Malcolm

So...that's my pick!

(You gave the assignment to a Shakespeare fan.  This is your own fault.)

Check in over the next few weeks, and come read and discuss the final review on October 28!

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Challenge Has Been Made!

Hello there, fellow bookworms!  You know...all three of you who read this blog.  My good friend Kelley over at Daily Sips has laid before me a challenge - start an online book club through the blogging world. 

Whoa, what? 

Because I have SO much time on my hands? 

Because I need ONE MORE THING on my plate? 

Because I need MORE commitment in my life?

Ummm, well...mostly, because it will be fun!

Here's how it will work.  We will pick a book per month.  Every Friday come to this blog and check in - I will write an entry Friday mornings for your comments.  You can either comment on how you are doing and what you are thinking, or you can keep it up on your own blog and just link it in my comment section.  The last Friday of the month, I will do a full review of the book, and everyone else is encouraged to do so as well...if not on your own blog, then come review it in the comments. 

Sound like fun?  Kelley and I think so! 

Tune in next Friday - the last Friday in September - for your first book assignment.  Kelley has nominated me to choose the first book, so next Friday I will reveal October's book.  Ohhhh, the suspense...I can't bear it...(especially since I don't know what book is first...)

If this sounds good, leave a comment!  If you are one of my FB readers, feel free to do your commenting there.  We'll bring it all together!!

Thanks all! 

Monday, September 19, 2011


I consider myself a fairly literate person.   I own The Complete Works of Shakespeare.  I love Charles Dickens.  Jane Austen.  Gone With the Wind is my favorite all-time novel.  I've read Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby.  Antigone.  Candide.  I have read, although hated, Walden, and I have suffered the great pains of two Steinbeck novels.  (I HATE STEINBECK.  I mean, not him personally, I don't know him personally.  But I hate Hate HATE Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath.)  I read great American novels, biographies, old classics, modern classics, classics of all varieties.  I am a well-read person. 

And every now and then, a well-read person needs a guilty pleasure.


By Tori Spelling.

Yes...Tori Spelling. 

I don't know what happened.  One minute I was standing at the New Arrivals section of the library shelf, looking for the biography of Cleopatra that I didn't get to finish the last time I checked it out.  The next minute I was checking out Tori Spelling's latest tell-the-world-about-my-life book, Mommywood.

The thing is, I don't particularly love Tori Spelling.  I don't particularly not love her...I don't think of her at all, really.  I didn't know she had a reality show.  I didn't know she was married.  I didn't know she had two kids, or that she'd been married before, or that she has been in numerous TV shows and independent movies.  I knew she was on Beverly Hills 90210, but I have never seen an episode.  The most familiar I am with her is her role on - wait for it - Saved By the Bell.  As Screech's dorky girlfriend Violet.  Because I am THAT AWESOME, my friend.  THAT AWESOME.

I'm also not a celebrity person.  I don't read the weeklies, I don't watch TMZ, and I don't know who most of the people are on the cover of People magazine.  I am a mom of toddlers - if they haven't sung a duet with Elmo, I don't know who they are, and I don't really care.

So, why did I pick up this book?

Ummm...I dunno.  I guess it just kind of caught my eye, being about motherhood and all.  I started to read the first chapter there in the library, and then I checked it out.  It's as simple as that.  I have read both of Jenny McCarthy's books about motherhood (the funny ones, not the one about autism), and they were hilarious, if not a little raunchy at times.  So I thought, what the heck, this looks interesting and like it would be a fast, fun read.  Why not?

It was all of those things - interesting, fast, and fun.  I didn't know much about Tori Spelling before this, but I realized I had some assumptions about her, like that she was a gazillion-aire who had inherited a chunk of her father's money.  Well, she is certainly richer than I am, but she's not in the same place she was growing up, and she consistently says she "has to work to support her family."  What that really means is that she has to work in order for her family to live a certain lifestyle in a certain tax bracket - but whatever, that's her choice.  I also didn't know anything about her personal life - her relationship with her mother, her marriage, etc. - and she is very candid about everything.   All that was interesting.  She's a little - ok, a lot - neurotic, and while I can't identify with much of her eccentricities (an open casket funeral for a dog?  Really?), I appreciate the fact that she can readily admit that "I'm just not one hundred percent sane."   She knows her childhood was crazy, and she knows her current life is nutty compared to most of America.  And she is able to be honest about it and laugh about it and invite us to laugh along with her.

It was also fascinating to read about her worries as a mother - not because I didn't realize she has the same worries that I do, but because SHE doesn't realize it.  I get the feeling she thinks all of this is new or just because of her celebrity position in life, but the truth is, most of her worries are the same as any other parents'.  The block party?  All that awkwardness about fitting in doesn't have to do with being a celebrity; it has to do with being the new kid on the block.  I have had vastly similar experiences, and I do not have cameras following me around all day.  (At least, I don't think I do...)  The celebrity factor adds a different dimension, but the feelings are the same.  Likewise about finding the balance between work and home life.  That isn't a famous person issue. That's an issue millions of mothers face, including me.  Feeling inadequate in the face of another parent's skills?  You bet.  Dealing with public temper tantrums?  Well, I have never experienced a red carpet meltdown, but I have experienced Wal-Mart ones, and the principles are the same.  (For the record, I think they did the right thing.  You either have to cut bait and get out, or just wait out the tantrum.  She couldn't leave, so she had to wait it out with as much grace as she could.  Go Tori!)  Motherhood is universal, whether it's in Mommywood or as a MidWestern Mommy. 

In the end, I had this overwhelming urge to call up Tori Spelling and go get coffee with her.  I mean, not that I'm going to or anything, but I think we could talk about a lot of stuff. We both have little kids, born via C-sections.  We both struggle through feeling inadequate as a mother.  We both face problems with our children and our families and the world around us.  We have the bonds of motherhood that forever bind women together.  I'd like to reassure her that really, she's not that different than other moms, just facing some different factors...and doing so with grace and style.  I could talk to her about diaper disasters, and she could teach me how to dress.  (You know, in something other than jeans and a t-shirt.)  And I'll be honest - I'd like to throw Jesus in there too.  This is a woman still in a lot of pain and a lot of issues from her childhood, and I wish I could tell her somehow that the holes in her life left by her relationship with her mother can be filled by God, and that He's just waiting and aching for her to turn around and see Him standing there, waiting for her with the open arms she never felt from her mother. 

So...Mommywood.  Interesting.  Fast.  Fun.  Not terribly deep, but though-provoking all the same.  A nice little guilty pleasure break from biographies of twelfth century Anglo-Saxon royalty or books about special education strategies.  Read it, don't read it, whatever you like. 

Scale of 1-5: 3
What's up next: To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick
Top Five TBR:
1. The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins
2. Hearing God by Dallas Willard
3. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert
4. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
5. Erasing Hell by Francis Chan

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Light in the Forest

I teach in a middle school, so more and more I am reading books because I will be reading them with my class.  Recently we read a book called The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter.  The book takes place during the 1760s in the Pennsylvania territory.  The premise is that a young boy of fifteen was kidnapped at the age of four and raised by an American Indian tribe.  Eleven years later, a treaty is signed and all white captives must be given back to their families - whether they want to go back or not.  True Son, the main character, has no memory of his white family and considers them his enemy.  As his birth family tries to reintegrate him into "civilization," True Son struggles with his loyalties and identities as both Indian and English.

This book is great for teaching because it generates fantastic discussion.  Themes of racism, tragedy, loyalty and family are just as familiar today as in 1760, and students can identify with these issues.  The characters are well defined, the plot is clear, and the setting is described in detail - all of which makes it useful for teaching state standards.  It is also a guy book, so if you are teaching a group of young boys (like I am), it's a great book because it will keep them engaged.  There is some violence and whatnot, and let's face it - scalping keeps even the most bored 13 year old boy involved.

Having said that, I didn't enjoy the book all that much.  I'm not a 13 year old boy, so I don't enjoy scalping and shooting.   I also, as a mother, had a hard time reading the part that flashes back to his kidnapping...I identified waaaay too much with the mother to enjoy the reading.  The style of the book is also not my particular taste. Richter gives many long-winded, beautiful descriptions of mountains and forests and rivers.  All of that is lovely, but I don't enjoy reading such descriptions.  There's nothing wrong with them, it's just not my cup of tea.

Let me be clear: this is a fine book.  Well written, good story, well communicated.  It's a great book for generating discussion and helping readers think about broad issues, and it's a book that I would recommend to teenage boys looking for a good read.  It was just not a personal favorite of mine.

Scale of 1-5: 3
What's up next: To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick
Top Five TBR:
1. Mommywood by Tori Spelling (that was just plain embarrassing to type; I'll try to explain myself when I review it)
2. Hearing God by Dallas Willard
3. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert
4. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
5. Erasing Hell by Francis Chan

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II

"Near the end of World War II, a U.S. Army place flying over the island of New Guinea crashed in an uncharted region inhabited by a prehistoric tribe."  - Mitchell Zuckoff, the preface of Lost in Shangri-La

In May of 1945, as the war was winding down, a small US compound on Dutch New Guinea sent out a plane full of WACs and soldiers on a pleasure viewing trip of a valley that had been dubbed "Shangri-La."  The three-hour morale-boosting excursion turned into a tragic nightmare as the plane crashed into the side of a mountain, killing all but three of the twenty-five inhabitants of the plane.  The next seven weeks proved to be a tale worthy of the movies, including life-threatening injuries, encounters with natives that had never seen people with light skin, treacherous jungle hikes, heroic paratroopers, and an incredibly wild, death-defying scheme by a cowboy colonel to get everyone home.

I had never heard of this story.  At the time the events occurred, it was a story followed with the same kind of breathlessness as the Chilean mine workers of our era.  Journalists treated it as one of the most dramatic tales of the war.  However, within months of the rescue, the atomic bomb was dropped, the war came to an end, and this amazing tale was lost among a sea of WWII stories.  It lay forgotten by the public until a journalist, author Mitchell Zuckoff, came across a random article on the crash.  The story, as he put it, "nagged at" him until he couldn't help but investigate.  The result is Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II.

The story reads like a work of adventure fiction...but it's all true.  I kept having to remind myself that he wasn't making any of this up.  Zuckoff goes to great lengths to be as accurate and detailed as possible, and yet he captures the readers' interest and keeps our attention.  It's an incredible story - why on earth is this the first time I have ever heard of it?  I would be absolutely shocked if this didn't become a movie sometime in the next couple of years.  The script writes itself.  Using first-hand accounts, diaries, photos, Army reports, and finally the results of a personal visit to New Guinea, Zuckoff brings us back to 1945 and plops us right down in this island, surrounded Stone Age natives and jungle.  You feel the pain in Margaret Hastings legs and the fear and confusion of the native tribes.  You wait with baited breath to see if everyone gets out alive...and the final rescue plan is something so fantastic there is no way anyone could make it up.

One of my favorite features of the book was the explanation of the natives' reactions to the soldiers.  Zuckoff uses a back-and-forth method to bring a unique perspective to the reader.  First he describes a scene from the point of view of one of the Army personnel, like the captain who led the paratrooper expedition that cared for the survivors until the rescue could happen.  Then, using interviews of the tribal members he obtained with the help of a translator, he explained what they had really thought and had really been doing.  The comparison is both hilarious and eye-opening, and it's a fascinating look at what happens when two completely different cultures find themselves face-to-face.  The US Army landing in the middle of Shangri-La was about as foreign to the natives of the island as space aliens landing in the middle of Kansas.  From a sociological and anthropological standpoint, the comparison of perspectives is a priceless look at humanity.

If you are interested in history, adventure, sociology, anthropology, military technique, or just plain like a good story, this book is for you! 

Scale of 1-5: 3.5
What's up next: To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick
Top Five TBR:
1. The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter
2. Hearing God by Dallas Willard
3. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert
4. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
5. Erasing Hell by Francis Chan 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood

Someday on this blog, I will make myself a cup of coffee, pop in Max Steiner's soundtrack, and write for hours of my deep and abiding love for Gone With the WindGWTW is my favorite novel of all time.  I read it at least once a year, cover to cover.  I can pick it up at any point and read because I can practically recite it.  There are many reasons for my affection for this famous American novel, but at the moment I just want to share about a recent book I read on this subject of the book itself.  I am still reading Lost in Shangri-La, which is proving to be pretty interesting, but it will take me a while to finish that one, so in the meantime I am going back about a month and a half to another non-fiction I read this summer: Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood. 

The story of GWTW's journey from hobby to bestselling novel has been written about many times.  Any GWTW novice knows how Margaret Mitchell starting writing the book as something to do while she recovered from a broken ankle, wrote pieces of it here and there for years, then gave it to an editor almost as an afterthought.  By the time she realized what she had done and, panicking, contacted the editor to say "forget it and send it back!", the guy was already hooked and offered her a contract to finish it.  The rest, as the saying goes, is history, and GWTW remains one of the best-loved, bestselling, most influential and culturally iconic novels in American history.

I, however, am not a novice when it comes to GWTW, so I was thrilled to stumble upon this new book Ellen Brown and John Wiley in our local library while looking for yet another historical fiction on medieval England.  (I have not yet revealed the true extent of my obsession with the middle ages and England.  Just wait.  One of my favorite authors has a new novel about Richard I coming out in October, and then you will learn more about the Plantagenets than you ever wanted to in your whole life.)  Unlike so many other books and articles I have read on the subject, this promised to be a thorough look at the odyssey of the book itself - not so much about Margaret Mitchell or how or why she wrote it, but how the book evolved into what it is today.

It was, in a word, fascinating.

Most books probably have an interesting story behind their publication, but GWTW has some specific quirks.  Mitchell and her husband John were not novelists, nor were they familiar with the publishing world.  They had a different opinion about how things should work, and as such, their approach to the publication and distribution of the book turned some heads in the book business.  Mitchell was also terrible protective of her work of art, and she fought unheard of copyright issues around the world to protect her intellectual rights.  Hers was also one of the first novels to reach incredible international acclaim, and that brought on a whole slew of issues...many of which were complicated by the fact that in 1939, while her book was still at the height of success, Hitler started stomping across Europe and made more than one of her overseas publishers disappear.  Her book was also immediately pursued for a movie adaptation, and the story of the movie version of GWTW - and David O. Selznick's screwing over of Mitchell and her husband - is the stuff of movies itself.  These are just some of the incredible tales of the book's journey.

GWTW took on a life of its own, and as such, deserved its own biography.   Brown and Wiley do an amazing job of bringing the story of the story to life.  It is meticulously researched (which is VERY important to me when reading non-fiction) and thoroughly detailed.  Yet it moves along and a nice pace, not getting bogged down in the boring or unimportant.  The authors stop to explain publishing terms, but they don't turn the book into seminar or lecture.  It's a fascinating read about a well-known subject that, for once, has something new to offer.  I would particularly recommend it for monthly book clubs.  It could easily be read in a month, and the subject matter is so universally known that everyone should be able to get something out of it.  The glimpse at the history of the publishing business is not as dry as it sounds, and it would make for some fun group discussion. 

This is a great find, especially for GWTW fanatics like me...but anyone interested in books in general would find it interesting.  Go find it at your own library!

Quote of the day:
"Amazingly, Brown and Wiley have written a book about a novel that...reads like a novel." (Boomer Magazine )

Scale of 1-5: 4
What's up next: Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff
Top Five TBR:
1. The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter
2. Hearing God by Dallas Willard
3. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert
4. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
5. Erasing Hell by Francis Chan 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Julie/Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously

I love the movies.  I love movies almost as much as I love books.  One of the greatest things about seeing a new movie is that it often gives me a new book to read - so many movies are based off books, and 9 times out of 10, the book is much, much better.  Rebecca, Gone With the Wind, Where the Heart Is, The Firm, and The Great Gatsby all fall into this category.  Books can go much farther and deeper than the movies...most of the time.

There is, however, that occasional book that comes along that is actually translated better on the silver screen.  Such was the case for me with Julie/Julia: My Year of Cooking DangerouslyI read this book because I saw the movie, which is a light, fun, slightly romantic comedy of Julie Powell, a woman living in a crappy New York apartment with her husband, working in a dead-end government job, who decides to cook her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  The movie is split between this woman's story and Julia Child's journey from bored housewife into America's most famous chef.

Linguistically, the book is annoying.  Powell often switches between tenses within the same paragraph or section, and as I tried to sift my way through the awkward phrasing, I could hear my 12th grade AP English teacher gasping in horror in my head.  (Mrs. Turk, wherever she may be, will always live on in my head as I read or write anything.)  She tends to start a story and then slip off in another direction, not coming back to finish her original point for pages and pages.  She tells stories within stories, and it's hard to follow along.  She misuses her dashes in a distracting way - she will use them to make a side comment, but never go back to the original one - and she jumps all around her narrative.

Then there is the swearing.  Now, I cannot claim to never let a bad word fly from my mouth.  It's my confession that it happens from time to time.  However, Powell's common verbiage is a constant stream of profanity, especially when she is upset, which she appears to be most of the time.  Not only is this offensive and distracting, but it shows a dramatic lack of creativity and vocabulary.  Good heavens, woman - you are a writer.  You can choose more than to use "the F word" as a verb, noun, adverb, adjective, pronoun, and every other part of speech!  But more offensive than profanity, to me, is the use of Christ's name.  I realize most people will roll their eyes at this, but it's my blog and I'll say what I want: I do not like it when anyone uses Christ's name as an expression.  It is far more offensive to me than letting four-letter words fly.  Imagine how you would feel if someone constantly used your husband's name as a curse word.  That's how I feel about it.

Ideologically, Powell and I are miles apart.  That's really ok with me - I know not everyone is going to agree with me.  That's fine.  But her constant barrage of sarcasm when it came to matters of politics, faith, and morality wore me out.  I am fully aware that not everyone is going to be in the same frame of mind as I am politically.  I am fine with liberals and Democrats in the world.  Apparently, though, Powell cannot stand me.  For all her talk of tolerance, she is not terrible tolerant of my conservative values, and that got old.  There were far too many "Republicans are evil" jokes.  I am a Republican, and I am no more evil than the next guy.  I'm not against helping people.  I just think I ought to be doing it, not the government.  One or two jokes - ok, I can take it, ha ha, stereotypes are fun.  However, the flood of jokes and snide comments was too much.  In addition, she seems to be fairly opinionated about matters of faith and religion.  That's fine too.  But when she calls a certain person in her office "the freak who wears the 'What Would Jesus Do?' bracelet," I'm a little put off.  I have never worn such a bracelet - mostly because I don't wear bracelets - but if she met me, she would probably refer to me as "the freak who wears the Icthus/cross necklace."  So that was disconcerting.  Finally, we are miles apart morally.  I knew she had finally lost me when she started encouraging a friend to have an affair with a married man,  That combined with her comment that she really didn't consider marriage vows to be all that important - "I figure every man for himself, you know?" - just plain offended me and made me sad for her and her husband.

The content of the book was also frustrating.  It was never quite clear to me why Powell was on this mission, especially since once she got into it, she appeared to hate it most of the time.  Instead of a lighthearted, amusing tale of cooking for fun, or even cooking for purpose, it was a stream of stories of friends making bad decisions, getting drunk, temper tantrums, rants about her job and Republicans and her crappy apartment and how life, in general, sucks.  Who needs to read that?  She didn't even seem to enjoy the Project. Every story seemed to be about how it led to a fight with her husband, or frustrated her, or brought on a temper tantrum.  What exactly was Powell looking for?  And did she find it?  I don't think she did.  The Project came to and end...and then what?  The movie made it look like she was truly fulfilled in the experience...but this is not the case.  Powell's next book, which I am NOT going to read, is about the fallout from the affairs both her and her husband had in the wake of her success.  She apparently didn't find what she was looking for. 

And that brings me to my final reaction to Powell's story.  I was frustrated, annoyed, offended, hurt, put off, and angered.  In the end, though, I was sad.  I was sad for Julie Powell.  This is a woman who is achingly searching for something.  The thing is, I know what she searching for.  I know what she needs - or, rather, Who she needs. However, I think if I sat down to explain it to her, she'd blow me off and make a stream of sarcastic, obnoxious comments to all her friends.  That doesn't anger me.  That makes me really sad.  My heart breaks for this woman who has looked to food, sex, men, her job, her friends, alcohol, even butchery for fulfillment.  I don't know who God has sent to her life to tell her Who she needs, but I am praying and believing that Julie Powell will one day come to that place of realizing she needs God in her life, that God is the ultimate fulfillment of what she is searching for.

And so, after everything else, I leave this review on that note: one of hope.  The hope that comes from knowing the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Friend. And I have that hope that Julie Powell will come to find what she is truly looking for.

Quote of the day:

"Flinging around four-letter words when cooking isn't attractive, to me or Julia. She didn't want to endorse it. What came through on the blog was somebody who was doing it almost for the sake of a stunt. She would never really describe the end results, how delicious it was, and what she learned. Julia didn’t like what she called 'the flimsies.' She didn't suffer fools, if you know what I mean." - Judith Jones, Julia Child's editor, on why Child was not a fan of Powell's blog.  And after reading the book...I have to agree.

Scale of 1-5: 2
What's up next: Princess on the Brink by Meg Cabot
Top Five TBR:
1. Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff
2. The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter
3. Hearing God by Dallas Willard
4. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert
5. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Today is my 30th birthday.  That doesn't really freak me out or anything.  I have had a wonderful 30 years, and the next stage of my life looks like it is going to be even more exciting than the last 30 decades.  I can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for me.

On a milestone day like this, it makes one reflective on other milestones in one's life.  And since this is a blog about reading, I feel it is appropriate to think back to a milestone book in my life.  Occasionally,  I plan to look back on such books in my life, not necessarily to review them, but to remember how I loved them and the impact such books have had on my reading life. 

Tonight I want to reflect on my first "grown-up" book: Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier.  This is the first book I can remember reading that could not be found in my elementary school library.  It's the first book I read that was lengthy with heavy, adult, hidden themes.  Its haunting tale was a coming-of-age journey from me, taking me from my childhood favorites like Number the Stars and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle into greater literature such as Gone With the Wind and A Tale of Two Cities

If you haven't read Rebecca, I recommend picking it up.  It's lengthy, but doable.  If you have ever seen the movie, you won't be disappointed - it's much, much better than the movie.  The movie, in fact, is what brought me to the book itself.  I first saw the movie when I was about 12, around 6th grade.  I loved it.  It was one of my favorites - and not just because I thought Laurence Olivier was one of the most beautiful men I'd ever seen in my life!  The mystery and artistry of the movie captured me, and I wanted to read the original book.  That's why I found myself, at the age of 12, tackling Daphne DuMaurier's 380 masterpiece. 

Of course,  I didn't understand it all at the time.  There were chunks I skipped over because I thought they were boring.  Some of it went over my head.  But I understood the tale itself, the twists and turns, the development of the characters that was so vivid I would have been able to see them in my head with or without the movie to back it up.  It is a wonderfully woven tale of love, treachery, loyalty, despair, psychosis,  fear, and redemption.  As a 12 year old romantic on the edge of adolescence, I soaked it up like a sponge.  I reveled in it.  And it brought me into the world of grown-up books, books beyond what was recommended in my English classes or on the Newbery Award list. 

Rebecca was an important milestone in my life, and as I reflect on the many milestones of literature in my life, I am thankful to have experienced Rebecca over and over again.  That original copy from 18 years ago still sits on my shelf.  It has gone with me to college, from dorms to apartments to intern housing, to my temporary, pre-wedding housing, and now to my own house.  Through many moves and turns and adventures, it has been on of those books I have held onto like an old friend and occasionally taken out once more, flipping through its pages, reading scenes out of order because I know them so well thatI don't have to read them straight through.  I know Rebecca like I know a family member.  It holds a special place in my heart, and it holds a special place on my bookshelf. 

If you are reading this out there in the Internet world, feel  free to respond to this question: what have been the milestone books in your life?

Quote of the day: "If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again."
Daphne du Maurier (Rebecca)

Scale of 1-5: 10
What's up next: Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell
Top Five TBR:
1. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert
2. To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick
3. Hearing God by Dallas Willard
4. Cleaved by Julie Powell
5. Cleopatra: A life by Stacy Schiff

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Heretic Queen

Today was a good day to start this blog, because today I finished a new book: The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran.  This is a sequel to another one of Ms. Moran's books I read recently, Nefertiti.  Moran has become one of my favorite historical fiction authors; I discovered her in an interview done by the great Sharon K. Penman on SKP's blog.  (More on SKP later, believe me.)  I enjoy her because she is a good storyteller, she develops her individual characters well, and she appears to be a meticulous researcher when it comes to her books.  (I am a snob when it comes to historical fiction.  If it isn't as historically accurate as possible, I don't bother.) 

The Heretic Queen follows the story of Nefertari, queen to Ramsses II of Egypt, who is thought to be the Pharoah associated with the exodus of the Hebrews of the Old Testament.  The blurb on the back of the book seems to indicate that the exodus will play a role in this book; don't be fooled by that.  (Who writes those things, anyway?  It isn't the authors, I'll tell you that.)  The exodus sort of makes an appearance in a backdoor sort of way, but it is in no way a major plot point.  Instead, the story follows Nefertari's coming-of-age from child of the palace to queen of all Egypt.   Court intrigue, lies, murder, and love follow. 

As I mentioned, I enjoy how Ms. Moran develops her characters.  Each one is unique, and they don't necessarily stay the same all the way though the story.  She manages to write so that sometimes you realize more of what is going on before Nefertari does.  You see the story through Nefertari's eyes, but you also see a panorama of court life, soaking in what life may have been like in that time and place.  The story moves along quickly and keeps the reader interested.  It's a period of history about which there is not much information left, but Moran does the best she can with the research available, brilliantly filling the gaps by weaving together fact and fiction.  It's a beautiful love story set against one of the most enigmatic yet intriguing periods of history. 

One piece that may bother Christian readers is the character of Ahmoses, who is (very) loosely based on the Biblical Moses of the Book of Exodus.  When reading these passages, I would challenge the reader to remember that this is a work of fiction and not meant to make one theological point or another.  The exodus is a controversial event in history, and Moran is here to tell a story, not rewrite history.  Her version on what may or may not have happened to a group of people called the Habiru that may or may not have been associated with the Hebrews of Exodus is just that - a version.  A story.  Take it for what it is and use the perspective to allow God to show you other sides of the Exodus story.  I do not for one moment believe anything else that what is in the Book of Exodus.  That is the standard for me, as is all historical events related in the Bible.  I don't mean to take away from what I believe God has passed down from generation to generation as the truth.  However, through the reading of other perspectives, I find the the Lord strengthens my own beliefs about the history of the world while giving me the unique view of others.  I challenge others to allow God to do similar things through their own reading.

Overall, The Heretic Queen is an enjoyable read.  One sexual scene, and some violence, so I would recommend it for teenaged readers and up.  It's a fast, fun read, not going to break you intellectually, but gives a fun look into the past.

Scale of 1-5: 3.5
What's up next: Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell
Top Five TBR:
1. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert
2. To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick
3. Hearing God by Dallas Willard
4. Cleaved by Julie Powell
5. Cleopatra: A life by Stacy Schiff

Quote for the day: "A room without books is like a body without a soul." - Gilbert K. Chesterton

And So I Begin

Let's get one thing straight right now.

This is insane.  

I am a married woman, a mom of three, and I am starting my student teaching semester in about 36 hours.  I am graduating with a Master's degree in December and plan to work full time.  I volunteer to run the missions ministry at my church, and I volunteer to work with the middle school students.  I already have two blogs, one of which I can't manage to keep up.  I am currently getting up in the mornings early to walk in an attempt to drop 50 pounds.  What in the world am I doing starting another blog that no one but my mother will read?  

Well, I could make some lofty statement about the importance of doing things for myself during these next few months, or I could pontificate on the role of literature in a civilized society.  

But the truth is...I'm doing this because it seems like fun.  

Here's the deal.  I love to read.  And when I say love...I'm not saying it the same way we say things like "Oh, I love  french fries!"  or "Oh, I just love Target!"  I mean I LOVE reading.  Reading is a gift from the Lord in my life.  It's a way to learn, to escape, to experience.  I can visit Ancient Egypt, medieval England, or the antebellum South, all in one afternoon.  (Did that this afternoon, as a matter of fact.)  I can learn about Eleanor of Aquitaine.  I can learn about baseball.  I can bask in the revelation of such great Christian heroes as C.S. Lewis or G.K. Chesterson.  If I EVER get through those Tolkein books on my shelf, I can visit Middle-Earth.  

And let me just tell you...with all that reading, I am THE person you want on your team for Trivial Pursuit.

However, I find it difficult to keep track of what I've read.  I can't seem to remember what book I picked up recently - and half the time, I can't find it halfway through and have to come back to it.  So I'm starting this blog as a way to keep track of my books just a little bit, as well as a way to discuss what I've read.  I LOVE talking about what I've read, but most of the time people don't really want to hear it.  This way, I can get it all out, and no one has to read it who doesn't want to!

So here's the plan: I am going to attempt to update this daily, or at least several times a week.  Each entry will be a review of a book I have recently read.  It will also include my current TBR list, what I am currently reading, how far I am in it, and anything else I think sounds fun.  When I don't have a book review to do, I plan on going back and reviewing books I have read recently - or even just books I love from the past and have re-read recently.  As Francois Maurioc once said, "If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he rereads."

You will also discover that I like quotes.  
So here we go.  I'll do my posting very soon.  Please, please feel free to comment on my reviews, even if you think I'm full of nonsense.  Half the fun of reading is the discussions that follow! 

With that, read on, readers, read on...