"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

December Books

A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel -- The subtitle is 'Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana' and it was a cute book. Liz recommended it as one of her favorites awhile back. I think she enjoyed it more since she lived in Indiana for part of her married life.  My library had it in the Biography section so I read it. She's a pretty good story-teller. 

Last Lessons of Summer by Margaret Maron -- in this book a lady from New York City comes to a small town outside of Raleigh, NC, to close out her grandparents' estate. In the process, she has to solve the mysteries of her grandmother's and mother's deaths.

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr -- the tale of a fifteen year old pastor's daughter, and the troublesome summer when her mom was in rehab, and her world seemed to fall apart.

From Beirut to Jersusalem by Thomas L. Friedman -- I found this one at a book exchange and just took my time reading a little bit nearly every day.  I began it on October 25 (my wedding anniversary), and finished the nearly 600 pages yesterday on the cool date of 12-13-14.  Lots of interesting stuff in here, but I felt like I needed an up-to-date tale from the author. As it ends, "Rabin himself is not talking regularly about 'separation' from the Palestinians," Arafat is still alive, and Hafez Assad still rules Syria.  So much has happened since then! I do wonder what the author would say in regards to his predictions of the future in that part of the world.  I enjoyed reading about his life in Beirut and Jerusalem; great reports from those places!

Hallie's Heart by Shelly Beach -- an aunt and niece share a few days together as they come to grips with a bad accident in their pasts.  Both learn the importance of forgiveness.

You Had Me at Good-bye by Tracey Bateman -- a book my mom finished while I was at her house so I decided to read it. Rather cute book, cute characters. Predictable, yes, but an easy read about a young editor in New York City.

Her Amish Man by Erin Bates -- I got this book while at the library recently. My sole quest was for easy reads, and this one was. But it was a rather silly book. Still, it fit the bill of being an easy book to read during this holiday season.  Lawyer Leah hides out with the Amish after being accused of murder. Exciting, right? 

The Tyrant's Daughter by JC Carleson -- can you imagine leaving your war-torn home country where your family was the "royal family" only to find out in your new country that your father was a dictator who approved many crimes against your countrymen?  That's the gist of this book. Quite an interesting tale.  Bridget recommended this one.

Little Bee by Chris Cleave - a friend recommended this one to me; a Nigerian girl makes her way to England where she is an illegal refugee. She meets up with a couple she met years before in her home country.  This book makes you feel more for those leaving troublesome pasts. 

A Likely Story: One Summer with Lillian Hellman by Rosemary Mahoney  -- A few years ago, I read one of her books about living in China, so I must have put her biography on my list for that reason. This book takes place when Rosemary was 17. She wanted to work one summer for a favorite author, and wrote asking if she could.  Ms. Hellman agreed, and it was quite an eye-opening experience for Rosemary.  I just looked up Lillian Hellman as she's not a famous person that I'm familiar with.  Anyway...if this sort of thing interests you, great.  Sometimes famous people aren't what they seem from their stories or movies.  Sometimes this is a blessing, and other times it is a great disappointment.

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker -- this year I've been jotting down books that people recommend on their blogs especially if my library has them. This is one book Crystal wrote about in September.  I found it in the Junior Fiction at my library so it's not really in my age group, but it's a cute story of two young girls who are trying to survive one summer in Cape Cod when their caregiver suddenly dies.  Neither wants to go into foster care so they bury Louise in the garden and live as if Louise is inside with a broken leg or out with her boyfriend. 

Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell -- I think Niki recommended this book, and I finally found it at a local library. It's the story of Agnes Shanklin, a school teacher in Ohio, who inherits some money, and eventually goes on a trip to Egypt, Jerusalem, and Gaza around the time of Lawrence of Arabia and Winston Churchill.  In fact, she speaks with both of these men at some length while traveling. 

Four Mile by Watt Key -- another YA recommended by Crystal.  I read this in one sitting.  Foster and his mother are preparing to sell the family farm when a stranger happens by.  For some reason Foster instantly likes Gary, and this book is about their times within about a month when Gary is helping to get the place ready to sell.

Which Way to the Wild West? by Steve Sheinkin -- my friend Jennifer's twelve year old son really enjoyed this book. I think she read it as well, and she recommended it to me. It was written by a former textbook author who saved all these cool stories - that the editors didn't have room for in a history book full of dates and charts - for a book of his own. Quite interesting and a quick read for my last book of 2014.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

After-Christmas Trip to the Beach and Southport

A few days before Christmas, it was gray and rainy. I am grateful for rain because I know it's needed, but I admit sunshine cheers me more.  Christmas day was lovely, and we saw the forecast was going to be nice at the beach for the weekend. So Christmas night - around 9:30 - we got back from my sister's house, and I made online reservations for a small motel on the Cape Fear River at Southport.  We had stayed there back in April, and enjoyed the location very much.

So we headed out Friday morning and arrived in Wrightsville Beach (pictured above).  I walked there while Andrew got in a nice bike ride.  Later we headed to Southport where we stayed much of the next day and a half (two nights).

Saturday we drove over to Caswell Beach which is where we sat for awhile and I decided to put my feet in the water.  'Twas cold!

Both nights we watched the sunset over the Cape Fear River in Southport (below).  Several other people gathered to enjoy it as well.

At night we would dress warmly, and walk around the streets to see the houses lit up for Christmas.  I didn't take very many photos of them, but they looked festive!

Today we stayed around Southport for morning walks and Andrew took a bike ride.  I talked to some people on the pier and around the swings each day. Met folks from New York, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Raleigh, and "here." 

We went to Wrightsville Beach for another walk before we headed home. The temperature was in the low seventies, and we sat along the marina watching the boats on the intracoastal waterway. We were just getting ready to leave for home when Andrew saw this boat about to tip over.  It did. So we stayed to watch the rescue. The men were fine, but their handmade boat took on some water and when we left, they were trying to remedy that. 

What a great after-Christmas trip!

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Arab Spring

I had an interesting talk with a friend yesterday.  He and his cousin are both Syrians living in Germany, and while visiting together last weekend, they got to talking about how well they were treated by the Germans.

S said he ponders how non-Muslims treat them better than Muslims. How that saying about going to the West to see true Islam, but not as many Muslims was maybe true.

I countered, "Ah, but you know Muslims in Muslim countries aren't that way! Dictators rule so that is why people are mistreated!"

What he said surprised me. Otherwise I'd not have jotted it down for this post.

Here's the gist of it:

Before the Arab Spring I would have said the same thing: Arabs are oppressed by their dictators.  But now, no.  Arabs are at fault!  A sizable majority like their dictators, and the ones who don't - the ones who want freedom from dictators - are not willing to put aside their differences to make something better.  

They go back to "primitiveness" and tribalism takes over.  No common goals, but each person for himself at the expense of the whole country.  

If we really wanted freedom, we would be different.

I don't have time to go into any more right now, but that made me curious what the Arab Spring has taught others.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Anxiety Help

Someone shared these on Facebook from a book she was reading.  I liked them, and wanted to keep them somewhere easy to find.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

November Books

Wow, five fiction books this month. I remember a few years ago when I read hardly any fiction the entire year. I used to almost only read fiction.  I'm more than halfway through two other books (a memoir, and a non-fiction), but I only list here books I finished within the month.  Hard to believe that tomorrow is December 1.
The Passions of Chelsea Kane by Barbara Delinsky -- a book I found at a book exchange; a lady goes to a small New England town in search of the story around her adoption nearly four decades prior. Somewhat interesting story (I like the part about patriarchal small towns...just because I find small communities of interest), but I could have done without some of the details in other areas of this book.

House Rules by Jodi Picoult -- I enjoyed this book about a teenager with Asperger's syndrome!  I have a few friends with children on the spectrum so this was a really interesting read to me.  As the book jacket states, this book "looks at what it means to be different in our society, how autism affects a family, and how our legal system works well for people who communicate a certain way - and fails those who don't." 

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead -- earlier this year I got a small notebook which I've used for keeping up with books recommended by blogger friends. Crystal mentioned this particular one back in September, and I finally went by the library and got it.  It was short enough to read in a couple of hours, and I enjoyed the break reading this YA book brought.  Can't say I followed the time travel talk, but I liked other aspects of it.

Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata -- This story is told through the eyes of a Japanese-American girl, Katie, as she moved from Iowa to Georgia around 1960.  I found it on the Newberry shelf while searching for the book above.  An easy read, and pretty interesting to hear about life through her eyes. Since I have lived in the South all my life, I try to think of how I would treat people who are different than I.  Would I welcome a Japanese family into my life? Would I say hello on the street or would I ignore them?  I'd like to think I would be friendly and welcoming back then, and it challenges me to be that way today to people who may be less welcomed by society.

Jane Austen in Scarsdale or Love, Death, and the SATs by Paula Marantz Cohen -- an easy read I found in the library. I learned quite a bit about the job of a guidance counselor and how they help students preparing for college. The main character is a guidance counselor in a rich public school. This book is also about her meeting up with her long, lost boyfriend...that sort of thing. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

We moved

Way back when it was still warm outside, we moved a few miles away from our previous house.  I sometimes wish it were a more drastic move to, say, Syria or something, but we aren't those types of folks, I reckon.

We closed on our new-to-us house on September 30.  One of our rooms was green.  It was the former owners' nursery, and it looked really cute with the black crib and matching bedding. But it didn't really go with my mismatched furniture so we had that room painted when we had the two pink rooms painted.  (Did I mention they had three daughters?) 

Here is a picture of the room before it was painted, and a couple others of it now with the variety of creams and whites, and the old furniture given to us when we married that we just never replaced. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

October Books

Try to Remember by Iris Gomez -- the story of a teenage Colombian girl growing up in an immigrant family in Miami; I found this at a book exchange

Expats by Christopher Dickey  -- the author's recollections as he travels around the Middle East;  not my favorite book of this sort, but there were several interesting tidbits throughout

Captured by Grace by David Jeremiah -- I've read this one before, but came across it while unpacking books and decided to read it again. I love the subtitle:  "No One is Beyond the Reach of a Loving God."  Some good reminders for me in here!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

September Books

Tumbling Blocks by Earlene Fowler -- another book I found at a book exchange (so free), and it's "a Benni Harper mystery" which meant nothing to me. Still, I read it - a bit of a murder mystery, but nothing scary in the least.  OK filler book, but I doubt I'll look for more Benni Harper mysteries.

A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley -- from the front cover:  "As a five-year old in India, I got lost on a train. Twenty-five years later, from Australia, I found my way back. This is what happened in between."   Pretty neat story!

We'll Always Have Paris by Jennifer Coburn -- after losing her father at a rather young age, the author believes her own life will be short and decides to visit Paris, and a few other European places with her daughter so her daughter will always have these wonderful memories with her mother.  The book is part "this is how our trips to European cities went" and part flashbacks to the author's life growing up with divorced parents who were still friends and rather dysfunctional or perhaps typical for this era. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

August Books

Julie & Julia by Julie Powell  - a Texan living in New York City decides to go through Julia Childs' cookbook and make a few new dishes most every night. And she blogs about it and gets somewhat famous.  She's a pretty funny writer with a sailor's mouth. And she doesn't like Republicans.

Global Mom by Melissa Dalton-Bradford -- as I started this book and read through the first half or so, I thought "oh, yet another nothing-much-ever-goes-wrong, charming Mormon family life."  It was very neat reading about this family's years in Norway and France. So interesting especially when the author contrasted the two - and had to get her second son's name approved when he was born in Norway.  About two thirds of the way through the book, however, I was stunned and flipped back to the acknowledgements and "about the author" sections to see if what looked like was going to happen, really did. And it did.  Ahhh, tear out my heart.  I think I was teary-eyed or downright crying through much of the last third of the book.  I first heard of this book from Bridget's blog.

Once Upon a Town by Bob Greene  -- a book about a small town (North Platte, Nebraska) that set up a canteen to meet the soldiers during World War II as they were traveling across the country by train. The author talks to some of the soldiers who passed through, to women who were children or adults back then, and talks a bit about life in North Platte today (well, when he visited there researching for the book.)

Sword of God by Chris Kuzneski -- this is totally not my usual type of book. I saw it at a book exchange (it was free) so I decided to bring it home.  And for some reason it was the book I chose to read earlier this week when I needed a new one. I'm trying to read some of the books I have at home before going back to the library.  It was about a couple guys who were finding clues in a terrorist plot involving one of their former comrades.  Parts of it take place in South Korea while other parts take place in Mecca.  I occasionally felt like I was watching an episode of Hawaii Five-0 except there was no Steve, Danno or Hawaii.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July Books

Still Waters by Jennifer Lauck -- the last book I read in June was about Jennifer's growing up years - well, until around age 12. This book takes off from there, and talks about her life with her new parents, reuniting briefly with her brother, schools and work and starting a family.


Show Me the Way by Jennifer Lauck -- so, yeah, the library had another one of her books and this is three in a row that I've read by this author.  This one had a few flashbacks from Jennifer's childhood and young adulthood - a few familiar, and a few new stories. But mostly it was stories from her pregnancies, children's births, and dealing with her young children. I know parents adore their children, and I do love my nephews, but I was reminded throughout this book of how happy I am not having any children of my own. 

All In by Mark Batterson -- we read his first book just before going to Syria. He always challenges me, and makes me want to DO something. Which I rarely do.  Boo.  Lots of good stuff, but one thing I noted that applied to me:

"Our prayers tend to focus on external circumstances more than internal attitudes because we'd rather have God change our circumstances than change us."  (pg. 121)

Miracle in the Hills: The Lively Personal Story of a Woman Doctor's Forty-year Crusade in the Mountains of North Carolina by Mary T. Martin Sloop, M.D.  -- my mom found this in the library...fun to read about this lady's life in Crossnore, NC

A Farewell to Mars by Brian Zahnd -- "an evangelical pastor's journey toward the Biblical gospel of peace."  -- I saw this on the new book shelf at the library, and then one of my favorite authors whom I follow on Facebook recommended it a few days later.  Such a challenging book!  Especially for those like myself in a culture that often seems to want to bring peace through violence (war).  Great read!

The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman -- a friend sent this to me for my birthday. We had been talking about World War I together, and I suppose he thought it would be good for me to read more about it. He googled "best English books on WWI" or something like that, and this was recommended.   I didn't even know who sent it until I inquired on Facebook about a book appearing in my mailbox.  There were parts of this book that I found interesting, but I must admit I'm not a big fan.  It took me exactly 2 months and 1 day to finish this - though I did not read some every day. I did try to read a page or ten most days, but there were plenty of days where this book was completely ignored.  So glad I finally finished it today (7/25) so I can included it on this list!

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman -- the author recounts her 1986 trip to China with a friend from college - wow

Stronger by Jeff Bauman -- I saw this in the new book section of the library; it's from one of the guys who lost his legs after the Boston marathon bombing in 2013 - I enjoyed reading his story

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

June Books

Can't believe it's already July! This year is flying!

Shadowed by Grace by Cara C. Putman -- I found this novel in the new book section.  It was about a photographer who went to Italy during the final months of World War II in search of her father.  It wasn't really all that interesting to me although it made me think of my times in Europe which have been nice.  Need to visit Italy one day.

Last Train to Paris by Michele Zackheim -- another book from the new books shelf at the library, and I liked this one much better. It's about a reporter who covers news in Europe during WWII.  The reporter is Jewish, and it was interesting reading about her adventures, her family, and her friends there.

Listen to the Squawking Chicken by Elaine Lui -- a Chinese-Canadian tells her story which includes so much about her mother's influence on her life. I learned quite a bit about Chinese culture (at least her version of it) in this book. The part about filial piety (pg. 58) was quite interesting especially at how much it differs from how people raise children here.

Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: a memoir ...of sorts by Ian Morgan Cron -- I found this book at Goodwill awhile back and finally read it this month.  The author recounts his years growing up with an abusive alcoholic father, and his own struggles with drinking too much, too young in an effort to earn his father's love.  My favorite part was when he recounted his childhood to an elderly black woman whom he met at a church he attended in Denver when he was in seminary.  The part about Jesus asking him for forgiveness and her reply that "love always stoops," really touched me.  (pg. 175)

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James  -- I read a similar book about Louisa Mae Alcott that I really liked more than I thought I would. So when I saw this one at the library, I decided to see if it were similar.  I liked it.

In The Presence of My Enemies by Gracia Burnham -- I'm over a decade late reading this memoir, but I saw it at a local thrift store, and it drew my attention. I remember when New Tribes missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham were kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist group, in the Philippines in 2001.  It was interesting reading this account of how they were treated, and how they passed the time during their year-long captivity.  I especially enjoyed reminders of God's faithfulness to them even during those very low points, and found myself praying for these awful men, that God will show them their need for salvation through Christ. I prayed that the lives of the Burnhams showed them the peace and joy they can have in following Christ rather than a horrible ideology. 

Blackbird by Jennifer Lauck -- a biography my mom finished and said was good.  It was. But so sad, too. I wanted to jump into this book a few times and intervene on this child's behalf. Goodness, there are some mighty cruel people in this world.  I'm reading the sequel to this book now. Not sure if I will finish it in time for this post. (nope)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

May Books

Roadside Assistance by Amy Clipston -- a girl tries to find her faith after losing her mother to cancer

Secrets Over Sweet Tea by Denise Hildreth Jones -- this book is based around a community and church family - eh, my mom read it and passed it along

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees  -- So this author enjoyed reading about LMA, and wondered if there was a romance in her life so she uses a summer the Alcotts went to Walpole, New Hampshire and creates a story about Louisa's "lost summer" of meeting some guy that she adores, but also her attempts at getting published. I liked this more than I thought I would!  And I got it at an area book exchange.

The Bible and the Land by Gary M. Burge - I enjoy these colorful books, and I requested this one on my Amazon Wishlist.  The author talked about the wilderness, water, bread, names and such things mentioned in the Bible from that culture.

Rainwater by Sandra Brown -- I found this at one of those book exchanges. I realized right away that I'd read it before, but decided to read it again. It was an easy read - just an ol' fiction book

Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall -- a friend sent this to me for my birthday.  Interesting read.  "My story of growing up in a polygamous sect, becoming a teenage bride, and breaking free of Warren Jeffs"  -- I won't even bother mentioning yet again how much I detest men who "speak for God" and ruin so many lives

December 1941:   31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World by Craig Shirley -- this is quite a big book that I bought on a whim at Barnes & Noble a few months ago.  I remember it was in the bargain books, and I thought the subject was interesting. Curious what the US was like just before, during and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor?  This book shares interesting tidbits not just about what was happening militarily, but also cultural news such as:

The power of movies in 1941... "One of the biggest stars of the era, [Clark] Gable, took off his shirt in the movie 'It Happened One Night' to reveal his bare and masculine chest.  Unlike most men in America, he did not wear a T-shirt and as a result T-shirt sales dropped 40 to 50 percent in one year."  (pg. 32)

Of course I got to wondering later if perhaps the war and maybe a shortage of cotton or people using clothes more contributed to this drop.  This book was so-so.  Not terrible, but not the best either. 

Accidental Pharisees by Larry Osborne  -- "Avoiding pride, exclusivity, and the other dangers of overzealous faith."  -- I had this one on my Amazon wishlist and got it for my birthday. I think a friend recommended it to me.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Original Glory

I "liked" some Facebook page awhile back, and I read this on my news feed today.

What do you think?

"To teach a child from their earliest years that they are inherently bad and capable of all sorts of evil is to mock the divine image in which we were created, and not only provides a license for sin, but subconsciously programs people to live debased and immoral lives. Teach your children that they are the offspring of divine perfection, and that the Father, Son and Spirit smile upon them and all that they are.
Original glory trumps original sin. Original sin is Adamic mythology, but original glory is truth redeemed and revealed through Christ."

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April Books

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai -- I've been wanting to read this one, and found it at a local library.  I enjoyed reading more of Malala's story, and hope she and her family will be able to return to their home one day.  It was interesting reading her views on the Taliban, Benazir Bhutto, the Americans, and, of course, schools for girls!

Code Talker: A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac -- an interesting way to learn more about the Navajo Indians and their work for the US during the war; my friend Joni recommended this to me a few years ago, and I finally found it at my library.

Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation after my Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood by Leah Vincent -- I heard a short interview with this author on NPR, and then found this book in the new section of my library; If you enjoy books about people leaving their super-strict faiths, you may enjoy this book.  It was more graphic at times than I expected. I couldn't help feel anger at her parents for how they treated her. It reminded me of fiction books I read as a teen about Amish teenagers breaking away from their faith and being shunned.  No unconditional love in these families!

The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ by Daniel Boyarin -- "Throughout this book, we have been observing how ideas that have been thought to be the most distinctive innovations of Jesus himself or his followers can be found in the religious literature of the Jews of the time of Jesus or before."  (pg. 133)  We're talking things like a suffering Messiah who atones for our sins, the possibility of a divine "Son of Man" (which the author claims is more of a divine title than "Son of God") and Jesus keeping kosher.

For the Benefit of Those Who See: Dispatches from the World of the Blind by Rosemary Mahoney -- I happened upon this book in the new book section of my library. Earlier this year I read the memoir of a deaf person so I thought it would be interesting to read about blindness.  The author shares about her experiences with the blind in Tibet, and later teaching English to a group of international students at a school for the blind in India.  Through her students I learned how blind people are treated in Germany, Japan, Kenya, Liberia, and Tibet.  I heard stories of other cultures, and even how people have reacted when their eye sights have been restored and they've seen for the first time (it's not as much fun as you'd think:  can you imagine humans not being as good-looking as you'd always imagined? and that's not the real issue just a mere shallow vanity thing)  My kind of book. Very interesting once you get past the introduction which dwells on how much the author would hate to be blind and her squeamishness when her boyfriend undergoes LASIK.  I almost decided to not read any further, but I'm glad I persevered. 

The Nazi and the Psychiatrist by Jack El-Hai -- the subtitle is "Hermann Göring, Dr. Douglas M. Kelley, and a Fatal Meeting of Minds at the End of WWII" and it is about that, but it's mostly about Dr. Kelley, his family background and practice both during his time in Nuremberg and beyond.  I didn't know he'd worked in nearby Winston-Salem, NC, for a time after his stint in Germany.  He sounds like a very troubled man, but who wouldn't be hanging around a bunch of Nazis and trying to understand them!  Plus his grandfather...and mom.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi --  I really liked this book more than I thought I would.  I'd put it on my Amazon Wishlist a few months ago because someone had mentioned this guy to me. I tend to like conversion stories to varying degrees, and wanted to hear more about this guy.   The first many chapters conveyed how he grew up, his deep love for his faith, and how he enjoyed debating Christians in the United States.  He seemed to really love learning as he stated how often he'd visit his father's library to learn more about his faith and how to argue against Christianity.  You cannot help falling in love (um, can't think of a better way to put this) with his parents and just their sweetness and devotion.  Their family life is truly one to be envied.  Alas, he becomes best friends with a Christian who defends his faith, one who challenges him...and much of the book is about this amazing friendship, and how the two guys interact and learn more about each other's faiths.  It was quite an enjoyable read the last two days. None of the Islam bashing that one can find in many other books. 

Prototype by Jonathan Martin -- I believe this was on Rachel Held Evans' list of favorite books in 2013. I put it on my Amazon wishlist and got it for my birthday.  The author is a pastor of "liars, dreamers, and misfits" and he does a nice job of sharing his heart for people and for creation - restoring the world as Jesus would.  At one point he says we long for restoration, not escape, and he reminds us of the beauty all around us.  I read this as I was lying outside in the shade under a tree, with the bright blue sky sparkling above me. Birds were singing especially loudly and cheerfully.  It was a pretty neat moment. I like the part around page 147 about God coming down to earth, and how His doing that is "the descent of God's Kingdom peace into the chaos of the present."  Jesus brought the "comfort and delight of God's very own touch to humanity," and the other Comforter i.e., the Holy Spirit, came to do the same - and still does.   I was challenged by the chapter on community and sharing yourself and getting involved in one. I resist this to no end. I like the idea of it, but hate it at the same time.  People are messy. People take time. People want listening ears, and emotional support, and sometimes monetary support, and involvement - and, I'm often too selfish and wrapped into my introverted ways to reach out - or allow myself to be vulnerable.  "'Can't I just have a relationship with Jesus and not the church?' Actually, no.  you can't."  UGH! 

A Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck -- a couple Mormon bloggers mentioned this book as something that really stuck with them so I added it to my Amazon Wishlist and a sweet friend sent it to me for my birthday. It has large print and is only 104 pages so I finished it in about an hour.  The first 80% of the book I was thinking this was so bizarre and I didn't really get it. But then it all sort of sunk in.  My first thoughts were that, hey, I would totally be fine if the Baptist version of hell were wrong, and lost people went to a huge library for a "short stay" and then they could be with God for the rest of eternity.  I have NO PROBLEM AT ALL with a more merciful God, and my views of hell being wrong.  I'd love to think of folks like Hitler and Bin Laden searching through books for the stories of their lives right now.  But then this book progressed and I was thinking hell was everyone being white, Americans, and being surrounded by SO MANY BOOKS. And, hey, I love books (note most blog posts these days are books I've read each month.)  I realized loneliness and lack of hope and even "short stays" in hell can be hellish.

The Lost Childhood by Yehuda Nir -- a rather interesting memoir of a Polish Jew and how he, his mom, and sister survived World War II. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

March Books

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell -- I decided to get as many of her books as I could find in my local libraries. This one dealt with the Puritans and their colonies in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.  She discusses John Winthrop a lot, Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, Henry Vale, and other people here and there.  It was an interesting way to learn more about this time in US history. I liked this book least of her books though. I think because it was more "wordy" (get it?)  instead of talks of her travels to various places. She did travel some, but New England's not that big so ...

Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell -- a pretty good way to learn more about Hawaii's history; I ... didn't know much about it

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool -- a blogger recommended this one so I found it at my library. I enjoyed reading of Abilene's summer in Manifest as she learned more about the town where her father had lived (I passed this one to my mom, and she enjoyed it as well.)

Between Sundays by Karen Kingsbury -- another book my mom read and thought I might like. These are easy reads for me. This one dealt with a few NFL players (fictitious) and the foster care system.  Really made me wish I had more of a heart for helping children especially older ones who are jaded by the system.  My heart hurts for them.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein -- I'm trying to read a few books that people have recommended on their blogs or on Facebook.  This was one Niki liked a lot, and I found it in the YA section of my local library.  I had a tough time getting into it, and thought of not wasting more time on it, but I kept thinking that Niki really liked this book so I kept going.  And I'm glad I did.  The story got better and better the more "Verity" wrote, and then later when someone else wrote ...it came together pretty well.  This story takes place during World War II. Just never make the mistake of calling Verity an English gal. She's SCOTTISH!

The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism by Deborah Baker -- this book is about a Jewish woman who converted to Islam, and moved to Pakistan where she wrote articles that spoke against the evil West.  In my opinion, she's a horribly weird woman.  Read more here if you want.

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett  -- curious what it's like to be held hostage in Somalia as a female? Here is one woman's experience - wow; Bridget recommended this memoir and my library had it

Strangers at My Door: A True Story of Finding Jesus in Unexpected Guests by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove  -- found this in the new book section at my local library; the author and his wife live in a hospitality house in a predominately black neighborhood north of Duke University's campus. Since I live about 30 minutes or so from that area, I decided this might be an interesting book. It was.  I admire the way they live among addicts, and homeless people, and those leaving for and returning from prison. How they really get involved in these lives and learn more about themselves in the process.  How we are all in this together...that sort of thing.

Where Yesterday Lives by Karen Kingsbury - another book my mom had that I decided to read before returning to the library.  A family in Michigan gathers to bury their father - and to deal with some issues they have with each other. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

February Books

In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White -- A memoir about the author's time in prison for bank fraud. Only his prison was a Louisiana leprosarium.  This story tells of his months there introducing us to his fellow prison inmates as well as those who had lived there for decades due to their having leprosy or Hansen's disease.  A pretty interesting book!

What's That Pig Outdoors? a Memoir of Deafness by Henry Kisor  -- I found this in the biography section of my local library.  It was interesting reading the perspective of a man who was deafened by an illness when he was three.

One of several things that struck me was how often he had to go for speech therapy because after awhile his ability to speak at least 90% clearly (or able to be understood) would falter. I like that he tried improving himself and that his speech therapists pushed him to do better.

I enjoyed his thoughts on being a life guard. How much of that is visual rather than listening for someone crying out for help.

Also when he talked about lipreading - who tended to be easier (women, Southerners) to read vs. those more difficult (men, nonSoutherners). 

"Deaf people share certain similarities with blind people, for each has suffered the loss of a sense. Our afflictions, however, are not the same.  The consequences are profoundly different. Blindness is a handicap of mobility, deafness one of communication. Terrible as is loss of vision, it does not distance the blind from the sighted the way loss of hearing separates the deaf from the normal.  Deafness opens up a huge social chasm between sufferers and nonsufferers. In the hearing world, deaf people tend to be solitary and ignored if they are lucky, lonely and rejected if they are not. That is why Samuel Johnson called deafness 'the most desperate of human calamities.'"  (pg. 11)

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell - I tend to like books where people travel to various parts of the world. I even read books from time to time of people traveling the United States from east to west by mule or those who hiked the Appalachian Trail.  This book was in a local library - the one I go to least - and it seemed odd, but of some interest so I checked it out.  I figured I could always return it not finished if it didn't capture my attention in the first chapter or two.  I found I really enjoyed it!  The author takes the reader on a trip to Key West, Washington, D.C., the Adirondack mountains, New York City, rural sights in Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland all the while telling historical tidbits about the men involved in the deaths of three United States Presidents.  She also incorporates other history and current events along with her wit and humor.  A very nice way to learn more history!  

So, do you think Dr. Samuel Mudd was guilty of conspiring to kill Abraham Lincoln or was it coincidence that John Wilkes Booth happened to know exactly how to find his house when he needed treatment?

Here is one thing that took my attention, too.

"Robert Lincoln, by the way, would continue to run the War Department for Garfield’s successor Chester Arthur.  In the 1880’s, this mostly entailed managing the dwindling Indian Wars out west, with one ghastly exception.  The same week Garfield was shot, one of Lincoln’s charges, a twenty-five-man Arctic scientific expedition was en route to Lady Franklin Bay.  Robert Todd Lincoln, writes Leonard F. Guttridge in Ghosts of Cape Sabine, "could not have cared less about the North Pole."  Underprovisioned, thanks mostly to Lincoln’s indifference toward the project, the men arrived in the North Pole to set up a base, expecting a relief ship the following year.  It never came.  After two years went by without supplies or rescue, the starving party abandoned their camp and retreated home.  Only six survived.  The survivors ate the dead men.  It was a fiasco of planning and leadership, a national embarrassment and disgrace, and as the bureaucrat in charge, Robert Lincoln had frozen blood on his hands.  When the rumors of cannibalism surfaced, Lincoln and his counterpart the secretary of the navy conspired to cover it up by announcing that the reason the bones of the dead had been mangled by knives was that the survivors cut up their comrades’ flesh to use as "shrimp bait."  That’s how ugly the scandal was - that turning human flesh into shrimp bait was a positive spin." (pg. 161)

Leaving Mother Lake: A Girlhood at the Edge of the World by Yang Erche Namu and Christine Mathieu - a memoir of a Moso girl who tells of her people's traditions and her story of how her mother defied tradition by leaving her mother's household and how Namu later did the same - except in a bigger way. The Moso believe in visiting relationships between women who live at the maternal house, and men who knock on their doors as lovers.  Marriage breaks down families and hasn't been widely-practiced.  While some people have written of the Moso as matriarchal, they are perhaps more matrilineal.

The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell -- since I liked the above-mentioned Sarah Vowell book more than I thought, I decided to see what else my library had that she's written. This book was more of a collection of thoughts on touring Presidential libraries, attending the inauguration of President George W. Bush (and Sarah's bursting into tears of sorrow), thoughts on Teddy Roosevelt (as a child she envied his asthma since he was able to lie around and read all day), Tom Cruise, Tom Landry, The Wonder Twins and a few other topics. I learned more about her upbringing in Oklahoma and Montana, her parents, her twin sister, and her nephew.

I Forgot to Remember: A Memoir of Amnesia by Su Meck  -- I found this one in the new books section of a local library.  A pretty interesting story of a lady who got struck in the head by a ceiling fan and the results of that: she lost all her 22 years worth of memories and had to learn who she was again.  She tells of her frustration of not having shared memories with people who called themselves her parents, and children, and husband, and cousins and so forth.  And the thought of kissing and having sex with this strange guy. Wait! What is sex again?  How do I even write or read or find my way places or take care of my young children?  If you know someone with a traumatic brain injury or if you just like memoirs, this might interest you.

The Chance by Karen Kingsbury -- My mom finished this and said it was good. I thought it would be great for reading while traveling to and from the beach this weekend, and it was.  An easy, somewhat predictable read, but sometimes you need something light.  This was about best friends, Nolan and Ellie, who were separated when Ellie's dad moved them across country when they were both 15 years old. Eleven years later, they meet again. Stuff like that.

Love, Charleston by Beth Webb Hart - another book that mom my finished, said was good so I decided to read it rather than return it to the library for her.  Takes place in Charleston (duh), mostly about three cousins and their experiences one year just before and after one cousin gives birth.  Deals a bit with post-partum depression. Not in a really technical way, but maybe making people more aware of it in an easy-to-read fiction way.

Beneath My Mother's Feet by Amjed Qamar -- found this in the YA section in the library.  A story from Pakistan about a girl with a pretty awful father and brother, but a good mother.  This story is about their lives once the mother and daughter become house maids because of the slackness of their male relatives.  Books like these make me sooooo thankful for my culture.

Friday, January 31, 2014

January Books

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls  - one of my favorite books last year was a memoir by this author.  This book was a "true life novel" about Jeannette's grandmother, Lily.  An interesting read especially if you are curious about how people grew up in the Southwest a hundred years ago.

Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell -- I pretty much hated this book from the beginning.  I really don't like books that say the same thing over and over. The first chapter was about a dirt poor family conniving to steal turnips from a passing neighbor. If I heard them say one more time about how much they love turnips, but their turnips had "damn-blasted green-gutted worms in them" so please give me yours  -- grrr.  Thankfully the next chapter dropped this subject, but it was disturbing!  Books like this feed contempt for the poor, the backward farmers, women preachers (or any perverted preachers because Bessie was perverted), the southerners who dare think like this. I guess it's for the best that people like this starve and/or burn to death with few people caring. Wouldn't want to bother any one with these lazy, perverted lowlifes, and the sooner this breed dies out, the better for all of us.

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls  - since I read her memoir and her true-live novel, I decided I should read this novel since my library had it.  Pretty interesting book.  I didn't really love the ending, but the story itself was pretty good up until the last bit. It just ended a bit "happily ever after" which is good, but was too abrupt perhaps.

A Jewish Understanding of the New Testament by Rabbi Samuel Sandmel - I saw this book recommended to Rachel Evans sometime last year and put it on my wishlist. I got it for Christmas and decided it would be the first book I began in 2014.  It took me nearly the whole month (some days I read more than others), but I finished it earlier today (the 27th). 
I enjoyed reading how the New Testament comes across to a rabbi.  He wrote it for Jews, and many things that were familiar and innocuous to me in the NT, came across differently when I considered them from his perspective.  I enjoyed how he concluded the book (see below.)

 Here are a few notes I took.

One example of why Paul is difficult for many Jews to understand:
"Rabbinic Jews and modern Jews believe that man is by nature good; Paul, that he is by nature bad.  Jews hold that a man may commit sins and by repentance re-establish himself in God's grace; Paul, that man, in possessing a physical body, is gripped by inherited sinfulness from which he himself cannot extricate himself.  Jews believe that each person, through repentance and good deeds, works out his own personal atonement; Paul, that helpless man requires atonement to be made for him, and that the death of Jesus was this atonement."  (pg. 38)

Page 41 dealt with Jewish missionaries and how missionary activity was "by no means unsuccessful" in the Greek Diaspora.

The Jewish view of sin vs. Paul's view was interesting.  "In the Jewish tradition, man atones and, it is believed, God graciously pardons him. In Paul's view, man cannot atone, but needs to have his nature changed from the bodily to the spiritual."  (pg. 59)

When the author talks about the gospels, he speaks of Matthew and Luke borrowing heavily from Mark yet recasting the stories to suit the emerging needs of the church.  Since Paul seems to abolish the use of the Law, the gospels were written due to "the urgent need for some regulation."  This is why Matthew introduces Jesus' version of the Law in the Sermon on the Mount. 
"The differences between Mark, on the one hand, and Matthew and Luke, on the other, show us  with unmistakable clarity how the problems, doctrines, and needs of the church developed and reached a crystallized expression."  (pg. 143)
"The Gospels do not in reality tell us about Jesus; they tell us about the faith, the problems, and the interests of the church which created them."  (pg. 195)

"In the Jewish tradition there have been many men who have inspired in modern Jews ideals such as self-effacement, nobility, and exaltation, yet neither the Old Testament nor rabbinic literature depicts the ancient worthies - Abraham, Moses, David - as perfect. Not perfection, but goodness, has been the Jewish demand from the individual, a goodness which we Jews have urged upon ourselves as a personal responsibility to be nearly as perfect as possible.  But we Jews have not equated strict perfection and goodness as interchangeable.  If this standard seems deceptively to be lower than Christian perfectionism, we Jews would reply that the standard is not less exacting, but only more humanly tolerable.  In the Jewish view, there have been many great men, but not any perfect man to be exalted above all others."  (pg. 209)

And the conclusion:

"For Jews, the New Testament is not and cannot be a literature sacred to us.  But the sacred literature of others can be enlightening and broadening to us, even giving us fresh perspectives on our own beliefs, if we try to understand sympathetically the profound perplexities and deep aspirations which human beings have been inspired to express, and how the lives of our contemporaries are moved by those ideals and institutions which embody them.
The New Testament, although it is not ours, is closer to us than any other sacred literature which is not our own.  It shares in a legacy which is eternally precious to us. For American Jews it is the Scripture of our neighbors - and, happily, of fellow citizens and friends."  (pg. 321)

The Butler: A Witness to History by Wil Haygood -- This short book (fewer than 100 pages) was pretty good. I wish it had been more about 'the butler' and his time in the White House, serving 8 Presidents. The first part is, but much of the end is about the making of the movie by the same title.  That part was just OK.