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New Reading Year- Looking Ahead 2018

I’m pretty excited about the new year and what lies ahead, especially in the area of reading!  I’ve been feeling pretty psyched since I wound up 2017 with more books read than expected, and I’m off to a good start already.  I’ve already finished one book, I have another half read, and another one awaits me at the library after coming in on the interlibrary loan system.

This year my reading resolution is simple: read 24 books (2 books per month).  I’m pretty sure I can accomplish that one.  To some that may not seem very ambitious but it is a challenging, yet doable number for me.  Especially considering I have some other major projects in the works this year.

I have made up my usual reading list for this year, and can’t wait to start on it.  I wrote in a post a long time ago how I do this the week after Christmas.  However, I’m also trying something a little different.  I joined a reading challenge group on goodreads!  I’ve been mulling over joining one for a while and perused several before making up my mind to join The Seasonal Reading Challenge.  This group appealed to me for several reasons.  For one, I liked the idea that it is seasonal and goes by themes.  There many different tasks of varying difficulties and allows for a broad range of reading.  So, I made up a second reading list (did I say I love lists?) planning out titles to read that qualify under the challenges required, only it basically incorporates most of the books from my first list that I’d been planning on reading anyway.  I’m not sure how I will like this change.  You may laugh, but I’m very serious about my lists and what order I read books in.  I love rules, but only the ones I make up for myself.  Ha!  So we’ll see how I do with a reading group.

I will strive to get my reviews ‘caught up’ this year.  This is actually a little relative in my definition of being caught up.  Ever since the start of this blog I have posted reviews at least a year after having read the book and this is because the margin gives me a feeling of distance and control.  It also gives me the ability to change certain comments I make so that I don’t end up writing something I will regret later.  Of course, I sometimes still do regret things I’ve written.  But time to go back much later with hindsight is better for me.  So my goal is to ‘get caught up’ to within a year’s past reviews, if that makes any sense.

I would like to start up my ‘Character Reflections Series’ again; I miss writing them!  Also, I have had an idea for years that I would like to start adding music somehow to my blog, but have not quite figured out how to do it in a way that is not annoying.  I’ve been looking into it and playing around, so don’t be surprised if you find that appearing on booklearned!

Do you have any different reading goals this year?  Share below!

 

 

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Posted by on January 7, 2018 in Reading Habits

 

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Non-Fiction Books I’m Liking (Winter 2017-18)

A new year; what will it bring?  Curiosity, intrigue and surprises are in store for us this winter with these books!

Escape from Colditz, by P. R. Reid ~ This book has long been on my mom’s shelf.  She and I share the same interest in stories of WWII, including POW experiences and especially escape attempts!  I remember the Steve McQueen film The Great Escape was a favorite of mine from around age 8.  So of course this was on my reading list!  The problem was that I was confused because it goes by several different titles, has different editions, sequels, compilations—which do I choose to read?  As it turns out, I wish that I had gone with Reid’s later edition, “Colditz: The Full Story”.  His first history of Colditz was written a mere few years after his experiences and he did not have more details until much later.  I will be getting my hands on that version [as well as several films on it], but yet I can recommend these books by Reid because they make for great reading. Reid appears to keep a light “stiff upper lip” attitude toward his captivity, yet I’m sure things were rougher when suffering the reality.  I originally thought this would be a detailing one large escape attempt, rather like the one from the famous Stalag Luft III (The Great Escape, by Paul Brickhill).  Instead, I quickly found it to be a narration of the author’s experiences at the fortress Colditz and the numerous failed and successful escapes made from there.  More like Hogan’s Heroes though much more serious, real, and dangerous.  The prisoners’ innovativeness, and ability to laugh and create entertainment even in a sparse atmosphere was enjoyable to read.  No matter how many avenues were thought of, tried, discovered, foiled and so on, they could always come back with another idea to escape.  Reid said there were basically two types of prisoners—those who succumbed to their imprisonment, and those who could deal with the depression that accompanied it and so put all their energy toward escape plans.  Which one would you be?   

A Curious Faith, by Logan Wolfram ~ I’m still finishing up the last chapters of this book, but it certainly has come to me at the right time.  I’m immediately drawn to any book with the word ‘curious’ in the title (for obvious reasons), but add the topic of Christianity on top of that and I’m all in!  I have been gleaning so much from it and copying out large passages of quotes.  This definitely is a great book to start the new year off right.  Worry, waiting, fear, control, decision making, spiritual dryness, and disappointment are a part of every human’s life.  But in the context of a curious following after God, how do we deal with these everyday things well?  How do we endure and trust with joy and childlike faith?  I think if you have these questions, you will enjoy author Logan Wolfram.  She writes simply yet eloquently.  She has really helped to make has certain Scripture come alive for me.  I can’t wait to finish this and highly recommend it to my sisters (or even brothers) in Christ!   

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2018 in Non-Fiction Books I'm Liking

 

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End of Year Random Book Post

Must do this post because my current new stack would fall over if it wasn’t propped up between my bookcase and my nightstand.  I’ve now started Bookcase #3 and have about 1 1.2 shelves left of free space on that.  Oh dear…  Does anyone else have these problems?

I love going through my accumulations because I forget what I have and it’s like Christmas all over again!

 

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2017 in Book Shopping

 

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2017 Year in Review

I just spent a happy day yesterday planning out my new reading list for the next year.  This is always an event which I look forward to!  But before I delve into my plans in an upcoming post, I like to take a look back at what the last 12 months has looked like for me in terms of reading.

Finishing up the year, I feel pretty pleased with myself.  This is because I was able to read more than in recent years and have a longer list of total books read than I’ve had in a long while.  Especially the last couple months– by rearranging my evening plans [i.e., mainly quitting work and shutting off my computer!], I’ve had more time to read, which means more books accomplished.  Well, as soon as one title gets added to my ‘done’ list, it lights a fire in my belly to consume more… and on it snowballs!  So lately I’ve had an increased interest in reading fiction.

My total for this year is 23 titles (14 fiction; 9 non-fiction), and I don’t think I’ll be adding anymore to the list in the next couple of days.  As always, I’ve actually sat down with a lot more non-fiction that what appears on my official list, but those were mostly skim read and I don’t count them as actual books read.  You can view my complete 2017 reading list here.  I’m a little behind in where I want to be on this blog […okay– a lot], but book reviews are coming on most of them.

Here is a little exercise that has now become traditional on this blog, where I do a fun Q&A answering with titles of books read during the past year.  I’m usually limited as to what I can answer with, but this year I have a little more to work with!  Here we go…

Describe yourself:  Just Jane, by Nancy Moser

Describe where you currently live: Escape from Colditz, by P. R. Reid

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: The Blue Castle, by L. M. Montgomery

Your favourite form of transportation: The Long Walk, by Slavomir Rawicz

What’s the weather like: Secrets on the Wind, by Stephanie Grace Whitson

You and your friends are: Wish You Were Here, by Beth Vogt

You fear: John Jago’s Ghost, by Wilkie Collins

What is the best advice you have to give: The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning

Thought for the day: Simply Tuesday, by Emily P. Freeman

My soul’s present condition: Fight Back with Joy, by Margaret Feinberg

How I would like to die: The Loved One, by Catherine Palmer and Peggs Stoks

What about you?  Can you answer these questions with book titles you’ve read?  I’d love to read them in the comments below!  Some can be pretty humorous!

Okay, now time for my Year in Review Awards!  These are so much fun, as I “award” different books I’ve read in different categories.  There’s been a mish mash of Christian contemporary, shorter-sized books, mysteries and romances.  In some of these categories, I’ve had to split hairs and make some close calls because there were several that could easily have won ‘best of’.  Click on the pictures to read more info…

So out of these, which was my all-time, highest ranking favorite of 2017?…

🙂

 

2017 Favorite Book of the Year!

L. M. Montgomery– one of my favorite authors since I was a teenager– has done it again!  An altogether very different novel than her Anne books, The Blue Castle completely surprised me, made me laugh, sigh, and cozy up with in the evenings to read.  I highly recommend it, if you think you’ve tried everything out there.

Well, that’s it for this year.  What a great one it’s been for reading, for growing, and for learning!  And that’s one of the main things life’s all about.

What has your year in reading looked like?

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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MERRY CHRISTMAS (stories)!

I hope everyone has themselves a merry little Christmas!  It doesn’t have to big, it doesn’t have to bright, it doesn’t have to be loud.  But I do hope it is merry, and that we ponder it in our hearts.

Chris Fabry did a recent program with past recordings of Christmas stories narrated by Mike Kellogg.  I thought I’d post it here for us to enjoy together.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2017 in Chris Fabry Live

 

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IMHO- Children’s Books I Liked/Disliked Growing Up

Children’s books are still a reading option for one and all well into adulthood.  One does not outgrow a classic story worth its salt even if the wording is simplified for little ears.  Sometimes, that is the best way for a story to reach the heart.

Unfortunately, not all children’s books are discovered by us when we are children.  Not all children’s books that should be appreciated at a young age are until we are much older.  And not all children’s books are really worth reading at any age.

I’m not a literature professor.  But I was a kid once, and knew my taste in books.  I thought it would be interesting to do a post on the books I remember loving -and hating- when I was a kid.  The books I have listed as loving are titles I feel have been underrated (or at least, I haven’t heard them talked about much) and wanted to bring attention to them.  Were my tastes correct?  My opinion on some of these stories have changed over time (my commentary is provided with each).  Sometimes, there is no right or wrong (just unique) taste.

I loved: The Kingdom of Kidderminster books, by Christopher A. Lane.  Based on the parables of Jesus, good King Leonard and his animal kingdom learn familiar lessons in tales such as King Leonard’s Great Grape Harvest and Nicholas and His Neighbors.  The illustrations are rich and super cute.  These were also some of the very first “audiobooks” I narrated as a child :).  To this day I can’t hear of these parables in a sermon without thinking of Mrs. Beaver or Sir Humphrey.

I disliked: Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter books.  I’m not sure why I could never get into them, but I have an idea it was the pictures of scraggly-drawn creatures.

I loved: The Goose Girl, by the Brothers Grimm.  A twist on the Cinderella story, the goose girl uses her creative talents to design a beautiful ball gown made entirely of white downy feathers.  This always captured my imagination!

I disliked: The Princess and the Pea, by Hans Christian Andersen.  I believe I now have this enigmatic fairy tale figured out, but as a little girl I was upset with the ending that did not make sense.  Could it be it was all about the noble use of discernment?

I loved: Homer Price, by Robert McCloskey.  Long chapters, great vocabulary, fun illustrations! For older readers.  My sister and I made a radio drama out of Nothing New Under the Sun.  I loved the small town setting with familiar characters in new adventures chapter after chapter.

I disliked: Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson.  I tried many times to start and restart this book.  I can’t tell you how many times I checked it out of the library.  But that old yellow cover just did not appeal to me and I could never get beyond page 2.

I loved: Incognito Mosquito, by E.A. Hass.  Not exactly a classic forevermore, but I’ll reckon maybe you never heard of it.  I’d done run out of Encyclopedia Brown books and was hankering for more of the like, when I come across a private insective with a gnat for witty bug jokes in rambling narrative who saves history slime and slime again.

I disliked: Paddington Bear, by Michael Bond.  I wish I could say this was a book I loved, but I required much more action and the marmalade-sucking, rain-dripping bear wasn’t cutting it.

I loved: Snow White & Rose Red, by the Brothers Grimm.  This was one of my favorites from the old Childcraft books.  I loved the story of two sisters, a cottage among roses, and of good things coming to those who are kind and loving.  I always wondered though- did they fight over marrying the bear prince and who would settle for his brother?  Probably not; they were so good, after all.  They weren’t like my sister and me.

I disliked: Diamonds and Toads, by Charles Perrault.  Rather an obscure tale overshadowed by the more popular Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.  Ironically, although I didn’t like this story growing up, I believe I was fascinated with the idea all the same.  It isn’t what goes into a person that corrupts them, but what comes out of them (ie, the heart) through their words and actions.  But imagining frogs and toads coming out of their mouths made me shudder.  Actually, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to be rewarded with diamonds and butterflies coming out of mine, either.

I loved: The Ivan Series, by Myrna Grant.  I think these books are almost unheard of among today’s generation, and probably were for mine as well (they were published in the 1960’s).  But my grandparents were church librarians at the time and that was how I discovered these gems.  Set during the Cold War era in Soviet Russia, the suspense had me on the edge of my seat.  I couldn’t get enough of them!

I disliked: The Pansy books.  If you are an Anne of Green Gables fan, you may remember a brief reference to these as books Anne and her friends passed around at school.  As a homeschooler, I had access to them as well and did read one called ‘Esther Reid.’  The books are basically moralistic Sunday School tales with great benefit, I’m sure– but I was bored to tears.  I could not bring myself to slog my way through another one, though my friend enjoyed them.

I loved: …The King of the Golden River, by John Ruskin.  We had this as an oversized storybook when I was a kid.  There was something mysterious about this tale and its pictures that captivated me.  Perhaps it was partly because it was given to us by an old man with a funny accent and a mysterious past himself.

I disliked: Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll.  I can appreciate this story now with a few more years under my belt, but as a kid the utter chaos lost me but good.

I loved: …The Story of the 10 Lepers, found in Luke 17:11-19.  I loved the stories of Esther and David and Goliath.  But there was something about this story as well, that made me fall in love with the one leper out of ten who had a heart of gratitude for what Jesus had done for him.  His simple and sincere thank you made Jesus smile.

I disliked: The Jungle Books, by Rudyard Kipling.  As I said, I was usually much more into romantic stories of kings and queens than I was into half naked boys and mongooses.  It was just too different of a culture for me to understand and get interested in at the time.

What stories did you love or hate as a child?  Are there any you consider underrated that deserve more attention?  Share below!

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Movie Review: “The Little Prince”

ec4e725b6d1c1d6faf94e3a956f7a7e4Based on the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

Version: 2015; starring Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, James Franco

Genre: children’s; animation

Plot Summary: [from IMDb:] “A little girl lives in a very grown-up world with her mother, who tries to prepare her for it. Her neighbor, the Aviator, introduces the girl to an extraordinary world where anything is possible, the world of the Little Prince.”

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not by comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

Growing up, my mom had two copies of the French classic “The Little Prince.” One was in French (and incomprehensible to me), the other in English. Neither interested me very much.  The pictures looked bland and too unbelievable.  I was sure I wouldn’t enjoy the story.

Not too long ago I saw that Netflix had made an animated version of the book and I didn’t mind sitting down to spend an evening that way. I was mildly curious.  I was not prepared to be blown away.

I think I was drawn into it from the first notes of music. The art, the plot, the script were beautifully done.  The old phonograph playing was enough to melt my heart alone!  I was nearly crying by the end of it.  And now I want to read the book very much.  It isn’t often that film versions inspire me to read the book, but when they do…  🙂

This movie is actually told in two stories. One is of a little girl who is expected to live a life where childhood is forgotten.  She unexpectedly meets her next door neighbor, an eccentric old man (and self-proclaimed ‘hoarder’) who used to be an aviator once upon a time.  He begins to woo her friendship by telling her the story of the Little Prince he met in another world long ago.  The story of the Little Prince and his rose is told through stop-motion animation, and I loved every bit about it!  I enjoyed it even more for it’s nuances, and thought-provoking lines about life that are hidden like gems throughout where you have to mine them to interpret the meaning for yourself.  Wonderful!

5dc9afdfecd8144ffddd97bd0c8b18e9There are many who abhor this film because they say it takes too many liberties with the book. Apparently the story of the little girl trying to live the expected life of an adult is not in the original.  Since I’ve never read it, I don’t even know if the part of the Little Prince is told faithfully.  But I know I loved the film and that it has inspired me to pick up a book I never knew I needed to read before.  I would say that is the effect of a well-told, don’t you?

One of my favorite lines comes from the Aviator consoling the little girl when she tells him she doesn’t want to grow up. He responds, “Growing up isn’t the problem– forgetting is.”  I wish someone had been able to tell me that when I was a kid and afraid of graduating to adulthood.  This wisdom makes a world of difference because it is true!  I have found that becoming a true adult is really only becoming the person you were meant to be, which includes the parts of childhood that are good and pure and young in heart.  Idealistically, the aim is to shed the ‘juvenile’ ways we used to think and act.  Juvenility is to be differentiated from being childlike in that it is immature, selfish, and narrow-minded.  (1 Cor. 13:11)  Childhood, on the other hand is essentially joy, wonder, and innocence.

1631c1a78f3a24aa2c2690874535b559I have met older adults, even Christians in their 60’s, behave like juveniles. I have met adults who have completely forgotten what is childhood, instead exuding joylessness, hyper-practicality, and busyness.  But I have also met other adults who have retained their openness to life, wonder at the world, and quest to learn and grow- the mark of a true ‘child at heart.’  That is what God means for us to be, I think.  And for us believers, we are all to be trusting children in relation to Him.

And He said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3)

I do have a qualm about the movie’s plotline, and that is although it is an indie flick, it does not escape the usual Hollywood storyarc of children being better-knowing than their parents (or more often single parent): rebelling against the ‘status quo’, and teaching the parents they do not know what is best for their kids. See an excellent article on this topic here.

But the voices (esp. Jeff Bridges’ for the Aviator) were great!  Bridges has a voice that has aged well, resulting in a friendly, comforting effect.  I also loved the Fox, voiced by James Franco.  So adorable!

I recommend this glimmering, luminous movie for family viewing, young and old alike. If you approach it being prepared that it’s more loosely based on the book, I think you’ll enjoy it.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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