Thursday, February 27, 2020

"Hello, My Name is Single" by Adriane Dorr Heins

Let's be clear:  I am not single.  I didn't suddenly ditch Cowboy and not tell you about it.  But I wanted to read this book anyway because I do have friends who are single, and I'd like to be a better friend to them.  I thought this book might give me some insight into the particular struggles that Christian singles face, struggles I haven't had to deal with for almost two decades, that I might be forgetting.

I was right.  This book is VERY insightful.  And funny.  And helpful.  I mean, it was helpful to me, giving me ideas and reminders on what my unmarried friends might need from me.  I think it would also be really helpful and encouraging for Christians who ARE single too.  Your mileage may vary, of course.

The subtitle of this book is (How I Learned to Ignore the World's Expectations and Trust God), and that's very much what Heins focuses on here.  It talks a lot about the expectations and demands and ideas of the world concerning singles, and then it zeroes in on ways to trust God and get past what the world is telling you.

Heins never falls into the "just pray more and God will send you a spouse" trap.  She talks about that trap and exposes it for the nonsense it is.  She also talks at length about those who are blessed with the gift of celibacy and are truly happy to be unmarried.  But much of the book is meant for people who are not currently married, but wish they were.  And she also speaks to people like me who know singles, or who have single people in their congregation, and gives suggestions on how to be a good friend to a single person even if you're not currently single yourself.

(Random fun note: Adriane Dorr Heins' dad and my dad grew up together and are still friends.  I've never met her, but I think that's really fun.  It's a small Lutheran world!)

Particularly Good Bits:

What the Lord has to give you isn't dependent on your attitude or your emotions.  He will provide you with the comfort and the peace you need, no matter your mood.  He is faithful.  He cares about you (p. 106-07).

Instead of waiting for some magical moment to kick-start your life, you can -- get this -- go ahead and live boldly right now (p. 152).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-16 for frank, non-explicit discussions of sexual matters such as pornography and casual sex.

This is my 7th book read for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

"Hawksmaid" by Kathryn Lasky

Hawksmaid is a retelling of the Robin Hood legend that focuses on Marian and imagines her as a nobleman's daughter with a love for falconry.  She and Robin Hood grow up together, and the story follows them from preteens to young adulthood.  I found that nifty, as most Robin Hood retellings don't span such a lot of years, especially not ones aimed at kids.  

I liked the characterizations in this, for Robin himself felt light-hearted, yet could be serious-minded, which is exactly what I want in a Robin Hood.  And Marian was brave, intelligent... and a little bossy.  I'm bossy myself, so I kinda liked that in her.  Plus, she learns all about falconry, which means readers learn a lot about it too.  The only other fiction book I can remember that touches on this subject is My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, which I loved as a kid.

The one thing I didn't like in this was the sort of mystical, magical turn the story veered off into toward the end, with Marian joining consciousness with her birds somehow.  The rest of the story was so grounded in reality that the injection of magical realism here and there felt weird and off-putting.  I would have loved it if it had stayed totally realistic, or if it had been magical realism from the start.  Instead, it feels like the author couldn't figure out how to make the ending work, so she resorted to adding in some magic.  As a reader, I was annoyed.  As a writer, it struck me as lazy writing.  So... I'll give this three stars.  And let my kids read it if they want to.  The characters were good, and the storyline was good.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for violence, danger, and scenes of peril, as well as unexplained magicalness.

This is my sixth book read for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

When Do You Read?

People ask me that a lot.  I read about a book a week, which is not a lot compared to some people I know, but for a homeschooling mom of three who also writes books, blogs, co-leads a homeschool co-op, teaches Sunday school, etc... it feels like a goodly bit of reading.

So anyway, a bookstagram friend of mine, Beth Anne @bookworm_baggins (a fellow homeschooling mom) gets this question too.  In her stories on Instagram last week, she shared pictures of how she fits reading into her busy life.  Inspired by her, I did the same -- for four days in a row, I took a picture of every time and every place I read.  And now I'm sharing those pictures here too because... I can.


Two minutes reading a book while I re-braid my hair before breakfast.  Three minutes reading my devotions while I floss and brush my teeth.

Five minutes reading while I wait for my kids to be ready to eat breakfast.  Fifteen minutes reading while at the library, waiting for them to find books to check out.

Twenty minutes while doing cardio after supper.  Five minutes reading aloud to my kids.  

Twenty minutes while my kids Skype with their grandparents before bed.

Thursday total: 65 minutes


Three minutes reading devotions while I floss and brush my teeth, plus two minutes while I rebraid my hair.

Twenty minutes reading aloud to my daughter during school as part of her history class.  (The other two totally listen in most of the time.)

Friday total:  25 minutes


Three minutes of devotions while flossing and brushing teeth.  Fifty minutes reading aloud to my kids before supper.

Don't know why I took two pictures of reading The Hobbit.  Ten minutes reading after my shower.

Twenty minutes while the kids Skype their grandparents before bed.  Three minutes while I brush and rebraid my hair.

Saturday total: 86 minutes


Three minutes reading devotions while brushing and flossing teeth.  Thirty-five minutes reading in the car on the way to church.

Fifteen minutes reading in the car on the way home.  Would have been more, but my book ended too soon!  Twenty minutes reading while doing cardio.

Twenty minutes while my kids Skype with their grandparents.

Sunday total: 93 minutes

All of which is just here to tell you that, if you can handle reading in little dribs and drabs, you can squeeze at least thirty minutes of reading into even really busy days.  I know not everyone can do that, because I have friends who require more concentration to read.  But if you can read a little here and there, it adds up fast!

So now, tell me -- when do YOU read?

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

"The Secret in the Tower" by Charity Bishop

Well, Charity Bishop has done it again.  She's made English history so engrossing in her latest Tudor Throne installment that I put down the other two books I've got going at the moment so I could concentrate on this this one.

The Secret in the Tower focuses on Katherine of Aragon, widowed wife of the late heir to the Tudor throne in England.  She was married to Prince Arthur to build an alliance between England and her native Spain, but Arthur's death in a previous book threatens that alliance.  No one knows quite what to do with her -- had she borne Arthur a child, that would make her situation secure, but as it is, she  has no real reason to remain in England.  But King Henry VII doesn't want her to return to Spain either, because then he'll have to return her dowry, which he's already spent on his costly efforts to rid himself of the biggest threat to his crown.

Katherine makes friends with the scholarly Thomas More, who often visits and advises her.  The plot grows more and more complex, with rescued waifs, missing prostitutes, a series of thefts, and scandalous rumors, before coming to a satisfactory conclusion.  And fear not!  Fellow fans of that foxy fellow Thomas Lovell will see plenty of him in these pages too.

Particularly Good Bits:

"The past shapes us, but we choose our future" (p. 72).

"Art and beauty are the same.  Our Lord intends us to enjoy them" (p. 89).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-16 for discussions of prostitution, suggestive material (mostly dialog), violence, and scenes of peril.

This is my 5th book read from my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020 :-)

Sunday, February 9, 2020

"The Bones Will Speak" by Carrie Stuart Parks

Yay!  I've now read all four Gwen Marcey mysteries by Carrie Stuart Parks!

I read them all out of order, but oh well.  I really enjoyed all four of them -- they were all engrossing and the sorts of stories I can inhale in just a couple whirlwind days.

This might have been my favorite of the four, actually.  Maybe because it has a rescue aspect to it too, not just solving a crime or stopping one.  And because her daughter Aynslee isn't quite as grating in this one as some of the others.

Gwen Marcey's dog finds a serial killer's dump site AND a not-quite-dead-yet victim at the same time.  Both are very close to Marcey's house.  And the victims, both the dead ones and the one saved at the nick of time, bear an eerie resemblance to Gwen's teen daughter.  The killer appears to have ties to a neo-Nazi group, and lots of danger and excitement occur before the end.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16 because there are discussions of teen prostitution, some suggestive dialog (not involving Gwen), some disgusting crime scenes, and a lot of danger/peril.

(Here are links to my reviews of the other books of the series, if you're interested:  A Cry from the Dust, When Death Draws Near, and Portrait of Vengeance.)

Friday, February 7, 2020

"January Snow" by Hayden Wand

I'm not sure why I love stories set during the Roaring Twenties, but I do.  Do I love F. Scott Fitzgerald's books because they're set during the Jazz Age?  (BTW, Fitzgerald is credited with coining the name The Jazz Age!)  Or do I love that era because I like a lot of stories set there?  I don't even know anymore.


January Snow: A Jazz Age Fairy Tale is a retelling of Snow White set, obviously, in the 1920s.  It's got flappers and bootleg hooch and speakeasies and gangsters and hobos.  Everything you need for a good (fictional) time, right?

Jan herself is not having a good time, however.  Her father dies.  Her stepmother blames Jan.  Her stepmother takes out a hit on Jan.  Jan flees.  Jan makes new friends.  Apples play an important role in more ways than one.  Also, Jan's stepmother is a medium and communicates with the dead.  And the FBI get involved.

Jan might not be having a good time in this book, but I sure enjoyed reading it!  I also liked that there wasn't any overt romance in it.  So many fairy tale retellings play up the romance and play down the other interpersonal relationships, like those within families or between friends.  I love that this one was different.

Note:  I received an ARC copy of this book, and I promised to give my honest opinion of the book if I chose to review it.  I liked this book so well, I bought a paperback copy to keep on my shelves!

Particularly Good Bits:

January Snow had long ago decided that the public's preference for alcohol stemmed from two things: one, their own inability to face up to their problems; and two, to disguise the fact that without their liquid crutch, they would all be exposed as very tedious, very boring people.

...when she'd shorn off her waist-length hair four years ago, it had been a bold move.  Now it was only one head among thousands wearing the same style, the sign of rebellion fading into the typicality of the masses.

"It's all right to cry," Mrs. Brendan said.  "It doesn't have to mean you're injured, it just means you're a human being."

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for violence, suspense, scenes with danger, and occult practices.  The latter are clearly shown as wrong and dangerous.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

"Old Ramon" by Jack Schaefer

This is a short, wonderful book.  I picked it up on a whim because I love Jack Schaefer's book Shane and was surprised to see he'd written for kids too.  And it's a Newbery Honor Book, at that!  I'm so surprised I'd never heard of it before, especially since I soaked up dog books when I was a kid.

A boy accompanies an aging shepherd named Ramon on a sheep drive, taking sheep to green pastures far away.  The sheep belong to the boy's father, Ramon's patron, who wants the boy to learn from Ramon because he spends too much time reading books and not enough out experiencing real life.  Ramon has two dogs with him, one as wise in the ways of shepherding as Ramon himself, and the other young and still learning.

Together, the old man, the boy, and the dogs face many dangers: sand storms, wolves, heat, thirst.  The boy learns much from Ramon about not just tending sheep, but about life, how to love others, and what it means to take on responsibilities.  This book is very short, just a hundred pages, but it packs so much wisdom and beauty into those pages!  I loved it.

Also, if they'd ever made a movie of it, Gilbert Roland would have been magnificent as Ramon.

Particularly Good Bits:

"Ramon does not speak just to make words.  What a good dog decides, a wise man accepts" (p. 14).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for some perilous scenes.  

This is my 4th book read for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020.  I'm also counting it as my 43rd book read and reviewed for my second go-'round with The Classics Club because it fits my criterion of being older than 50 years and being written by someone known for writing classic stories.  It should be better known today!  

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Crystal Ball

This week's Top Ten Tuesday prompt from That Artsy Reader Girl is "Books On My TBR I Predict Will Be 5-Star Reads."  I'm tweaking that a bit so it reflects my TBR shelves in particular.  I suspect I'm going to love:

1.  By-Line by Ernest Hemingway
2.  Crossfire Trail by Louis L'Amour
3.  Dear Readers and Riders by Marguerite Henry
4.  Flower Fables by Louisa May Alcott
5.  My Lost City by F. Scott Fitzgerald
6.  North to the Orient by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
7.  On Stories by C. S. Lewis
8.  The Story Girl by L. M. Montgomery
9.  Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
10.  Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

(A favorite reading spot in our home, from my Instagram.)

How about you?  What books in your future are you expecting to love?  And have you read any of these?

Monday, February 3, 2020

"Till We Have Faces" by C. S. Lewis

I had really zero idea what this book was going to be about because I don't know the story of Psyche and Cupid, so people telling me "it's a retelling of the story of Psyche and Cupid" didn't really mean anything to me.

Anyway, I'm soooo glad Olivia hosted a read-along for this because it's not a Lewis book I had any real interest in reading, so I probably would have gone YEARS before getting around to it.  But I dug it very much indeed.  Thank you, Olivia.

It's hard for me to explain what this book is even about.  On its surface, it's about a king's ugly daughter, Orual, who is fiercely possessive and protective of her younger half-sister, Psyche, who is even more beautiful than Orual is ugly.  They live in an ancient kingdom in the Middle East-ish sort of area, I guess?  And their father is a tyrant, they have a sister who's a fool, and they have a Greek slave called The Fox for a tutor.  

The Fox teaches them all sorts of fairly athiestic philosophy.  Their own culture worships a rock-goddess and believes in many deities.  But Orual basically worships her sister.  Until she loses her.  And gets freaked out by what she finds when she goes looking for her sister.

Basically, the whole thing is all about what it's like to be an unbeliever who loves a person who becomes a believer.  How left out you would feel, then how rejected, how angry, how confused.  How betrayed and bewildered.  Orual cannot accept or believe what happened to Psyche, and her unbelief drives her to desperation.  It's masterfully told, of course, and I think that when I re-read it, I'll enjoy it even more because it wasn't until the very end that I finally got what Lewis was saying about unbelief and belief, so I spent most of the book going, "Um, wait, what?"

Particularly Good Bits:

The days were endless.  The very shadows seemed nailed to the ground as if the sun no longer moved (p. 102).

I was with book, as a woman is with child (p. 281).

Memory, once waked, will play the tyrant (p. 287).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16.  Much more raw and adult than I was expecting, yet never crosses over into being explicit or dirty.

This is my 42nd book read and reviewed for my second go-'round with the Classics Club and my 3rd for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020.  And my first for My Year with C.S. Lewis!

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Winners of the Book Love Giveaway

Congratulations to @books.n.blossoms and @efbuckleswriter, winners of my Book Love Giveaway!

I'll be contacting you both via Instagram direct-messaging to get your mailing address.  Thanks to everyone who participated, and keep your eyes out for another giveaway... you never know when I'm going to feel like hosting one, hee!