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Book Review: “The Loved One,” by Catherine Palmer, Peggy Stoks

Genre: novella; contemporary Inspirational

Plot Summary: Meg Chilton is proud of her son who is about to graduate from high school and leave for college.  But as his graduation draws nigh, Taylor announces to his parents his decision to join the military.  Devastated, Meg loses herself in her genealogical research—and learns of family’s courage and sacrifice stemming from great love.

My Book Review: I have a few books by Catherine Palmer on my TBR and this is the first I’ve read of her, co-authored with Peggy Stoks.  Actually, this was more of a novella and I zipped through it pretty quickly.  Published in 2007, it is a little dated but the content and story is still good.

The story has a strong, patriotic bent. But by the time I got to Chapter 2, I could see where the story was going and it was predictable.  However, the book flips back and forth between present day and the story of the Chilton forbears and it is the historical fictions that are the most interesting even if the contemporary scenes were repetitive.  I appreciated that the stories from the Chilton past were not wrapped up with nice little bows at the end.  Rather, the characters sacrificed family, emotional well-being and physical safety in order to do what they knew needed to be done: defend their country.

If you are interested in family history, or are looking for something patriotic to read this season, this short book will probably be just for you!

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: “The Blue Castle,” by L. M. Montgomery

*See Note

Genre: romance; classic

Playlist…

Plot Summary: 29-year old Valancy Stirling takes stock of her uneventful life.  All she has ever known is a grey, dull existence with no real love of her own.  Her favorite fantasy is to dream of her very own ‘blue castle’ in which everything is just as she would wish and she entertains a string of handsome suitors.  But then she gets a shocking medical diagnosis that changes her perspective on everything.  What will she do with the rest of her life?

My Book Review: L. M. Montgomery has been a favorite author of mine since way back.  I grew up with her as a teenager, convinced that I was a Montgomery heroine myself.  I’ve read almost all of her novels, but still have a few more of the Anne series and one or two obscure works to cover.  I purposefully waited to read “The Blue Castle” until I was the same age as the main character– I always like to identify with the characters I’m reading about.  However, I’d been a little bored with the last Anne book I’d read (“Anne of Ingleside”) and was not sure how I would like this one, especially since it is less known.

I absolutely loved this, as it turned out to be such a sweet gem of a story!  There are almost three parts to Valancy’s journey but I don’t want to put major spoilers here.  At first I was unsure I would become so attached because the first third details Valancy’s bitterness about life and her lack of familial love.  But a few plot twists I never saw coming changed the whole thing, both for Valancy and for me as a reader.  I began to wonder how I might react to the news that I had a fatal disease, and it was interesting to see Valancy’s attitude go from self-pity to acting on her new self-discovery.  Who might we become if we really acted on what we thought or felt on the inside?

Valancy finds love—not among her joy-robbing relatives that she’s known her whole life, but among the outcasts of society. She decides to spend her life acting on her compassion, and in so doing mirrors Jesus’ actions toward the lepers, the dying, and those of scandalous reputation.  Her blue castle no longer becomes her ideal, but a little ramshackle cabin in the sticks becomes her wonderful reality.  She spends so much time enjoying living in the here and now, that she forgets about her impending sentence.

I found the story to be so beautiful and it gave me much food for thought. Not to mention, I got a good laugh out of some of her relations!  Set during the 1920’s, it’s definitely a lot different from Montgomery’s other tales, but I’m sure it will become a new favorite for you as it now is with me.

*Note- This is one of those instances where you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.  This is not a Harlequin romance novel, like this popular book cover above indicates.  Nor does Valancy have brown hair and wear 1980’s nighties.  And the hero of the story does not look one bit like a Ken Barbie doll!  No, below are pictures closer to what I picture them to look like (even though their dress and age may be a bit off)…

If you liked this book, I also recommend…

 

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Non-Fiction Books I’m Liking (Spring 2019)

There is so much to see, do and read in the springtime!  Let’s not waste a moment but take advantage of the time learning!

Relearning to See, by Thomas Quackenbush~ I suffer from myopia and astigmatism, along with strabismus on top of that.  So yeah, I have a lot of eye strain.  I’m also not a good candidate for contact lenses and I don’t particularly feel glamorous with two pairs of eyeglasses.  I just have never been able to think well with frames on my face.  Being interested in holistic measures, I’ve heard of improving one’s eyesight naturally using different exercises, diet, etc but never really knew how to implement it or had the confidence it would help with my particular issues.  I discovered this title on goodreads a while back, and then found it at a book sale when a local library was doing a purge.  What a stroke of good luck!  It’s been my breakfast reading material for the last couple of months.  Overlook the author’s unfortunate last name.  This is an in-depth textbook that borrows a lot of material from a learned eye doctor, William Bates, who studied and practiced during the turn of the century thru 1920’s.  A lot of his explanations and reasoning makes sense.  I appreciate that he does not view the Bates Method as eye “exercises”, rather a way of relearning how to see in a natural, relaxed manner.  Some of it gets a little too textbook on me and over my head but that’s okay, I just skip ahead to the more comprehensive parts.  Have I seen any improvement?  I want to finish the book first to understand everything before I begin implementing the techniques daily.  (To be completely honest, it is hard to form a new habit and it is hard to practice while a lot of your work is in front of a computer.)  But there was a moment (which the author refers to as “a flash”) when I experienced a bout of being able to see clearer than I had for a long time.  This was after I’d started trying some of the relaxed ways of looking around me.  It did not last very long, but it was enough to give me some hope and encouragement.  I think a lot of people will be interested in the scientific material presented, and be assured this is not some “quackish” gimmick. 

The Enchanted Hour, by Meghan Cox Gurdon~ This was such a wonderful book to listen to on audio!  I had no idea what it was about when I saw it in the library but the title had me hooked and I enjoy listening to non fiction audiobooks so I took it home with me.  Do you enjoy reading aloud and want a kindred spirit to share your enthusiasm?  You’ll find it in the author who narrates her own book.  Her passion for reading out loud to youngsters, teens, dogs, the ill, disabled, elderly—anybody and everybody!– is obvious.  She provides tons of interesting studies and statistics, as well as interviews with doctors, volunteers and a few guinea pigs on the benefits and NECESSITY of reading out loud.  Did you know that our society has lost approximately a third of its vocabulary and illiteracy is rifer now than it was decades ago?  How can we stop this epidemic and be more involved in our kids’ lives?  The answer is simple: READ A BOOK.  And yet most of us struggle to do keep up this discipline in a modern world of technology.  Gurdon shares tips and ideas from her own experience on how to make reading a fun family habit and how to make memories for years to come.  As a narrator, Gurdon does pretty well since she has had years of practice while bringing up four children.  I do wish she wouldn’t affect character voices for some of the people she quoted or interviewed, as this is sort of a no-no in non-fiction narration and becomes cartoonish rather than enhancing the story.  But she had such a warm, cuddly type voice and I fell in love with her descriptions of babies, tykes and tots.  Please do not misunderstand that reading is for young children only.  Although Gurdon puts a lot of emphasis on this, she also stresses that reading out loud really is good and beneficial for all ages.  

 
 

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Remembering Uncle Charlie, d. 02/22/2019

Did you listen to the Children’s Bible Hour on the radio when you were a kid?  Do you remember the voice of Uncle Charlie?  Charlie VanderMeer read Christian stories for children for decades in his warm, conversational voice and often posed questions for reflection on the program he hosted.  My sister actually got to see him in person when he visited the children at a bible camp she used to work at.

To be honest, I was always hankering for Adventures in Odyssey to come on and only stayed tuned for CBH which aired afterwards if I was really bored and there was nothing else to do.  Perhaps I had gotten too old for it at that point.  But I am thankful for such a faithful man who loved God and cared about kids.  We hear so much scandal going on everywhere in the church these days, unfortunately.  But Uncle Charlie was a bright spot in our world, and was a godly ambassador for Christ who reflected God’s love for such a long time.  Praise God!

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2019 in Inspiring Voices Series

 

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Non-Fiction Books I’m Liking (Winter 2018-19)

I was feeling very stressed during the last few months of 2018.  I don’t do well with rush, pressure, deadlines, and then trying to enjoy the holidays on top of it all.  Looking back over my year, I can tell there were areas where I wanted become more organized and less of a workaholic and so I determined my New Year’s resolution would be to learn to breathe.  These two books were the beginning of my foray into learning to live more intentionally… 

Rhythms of Rest, by Shelly Miller~ I do not feel like I do Sunday well.  I’m not sure where I go wrong, but I thought perhaps relearning what the Sabbath is all about and building upon those spiritual roots were the way to go.  There were dozens of books I could have chosen to read on this subject, but this was the one I started with.  I found Shelly’s voice very soothing and gentle, with a lovely poetic turn to it.  She definitely put forth a convincing perspective on spending slow, fun time with God.  I also enjoyed reading about her family’s journey toward their calling to move to England.  I could relate to some of her trials and it gave the book a type of plot instead of being completely a how-to book.  One thing I wish the author would have discussed more in depth, instead of waiting until the very last chapter, was about how Christ is our Sabbath rest every day of the believer’s life, not just on Sundays (although, it is a holy day set apart as special).  But after I finished the book, I went online to subscribe to her email newsletter called Sabbath Society because I could use a little present of encouragement in this direction now and then. 

Slow, by Brooke McAlary~ This book was just sitting out on the New Arrival shelf at our library and it was calling my name.  I took it home with me and have been slowly reading it since the beginning of the year.  It’s a delightful read.  The author has a great sense of humor imparting little bits of wisdom she’s learned over the years that make her life full of what really matters and less filled with stressed.  Since her years of struggling with deep depression, Brooke has developed a more flexible way of living that includes what she calls ‘wobbly balance’ (my favorite chapter!).  She started by writing out her imaginary eulogy!  From there she took baby steps to live more intentionally.  I took lots of notes!  It was also fun to read during breakfast because it is broken up into short, readable pieces with fun pictures, diagrams and lists.  Her metaphoric word pictures help convey her ideas and they have helped me to relax just a little bit easier and to let go of some of the guilt and perfectionism.  We could all benefit by doing the same, so let this book show you how! 

 

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Book Review: “Beginnings,” by Steve Stephens

Genre: Christian Inspirational; biblical fiction 

Playlist… 

Plot Summary: Once upon a time, Garden-Maker made the stars and space and time, and spoke earth and light into being.  He formed Man out of the dust of the earth and created a paradise for him to live in and it was perfect.  But then the creature called Shining One grew jealous of the glory of Garden-Maker and enticed Man away from the path of wisdom.  And so begins the epic tale told by an ancient storyteller…   

My Book Review: This series, entitled “The Story Teller” by Steve Stephens, sat on the shelf in our church library for years and they looked intriguing to me.  Finally, I picked up the first one to read and fell in love with the beautiful poem-prose narrative.  They are simple retellings of the Genesis stories, yet the words swirl around in a sort of colorful, magical mosaic.   

Stephens isn’t the first to write imaginative accounts of bible stories, filling in details and elaborating or simplifying finer points here and there.  But I loved his bard-like habit of substituting characters’ names for their signature qualities.  For example, the Creator God is referred to as Garden-Maker and later on in the story as Promise-Keeper.  Noah is Builder, Sarah is Princess and Joseph is Dreamer.  This is also done to place names as well.  Canaan is the Valley of the Apples; Egypt is the Land of the Deltas.  Describing people and places as such gives the familiar Story a fresh take as well as a timeless feel.  But it is still the same. 

I found it wonderful to be reintroduced to these ancients of the faith and most especially, to read of the character of Promise-Keeper who never fails us.  He gave me such encouragement of heart.  If you’re wanting something that will help you understand the heart of God and His Word a little better, this is a great supplement.  It is easy enough for children to understand, and adults will find a deep well of truth to rejoice in.  I truly cannot wait to read the next installment, “Leaders”, followed by “Kingdoms”,  and “Promises”.   

  

If you liked this book, I also recommend… 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Random Books: Fall’s Hurrahs

And then… 🙂  I went to two more book sales over the weekend and came home with EVEN MORE!

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2018 in Book Shopping

 

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