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Book Review: “A Flickering Light,” by Jane Kirkpatrick

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Genre: Christian fiction; historical fiction; romance; coming of age story

Plot Summary: 15 yr. old Jessie dreams of becoming a photographer in the male dominated era of the turn of the century.  Her family are in poor straights leaving her and her sisters to get work wherever they can in the Midwestern city of Winona.  Jessie is fortunate to find employment with the Bauer portrait studio, and as the years go by she learns much about the business, her talent and capabilities, and about forbidden love.

My Book Review: I’d heard good things about the author Jane Kirkpatrick, so I was interested in reading my first book by her. A Flickering Light is the first in a two-book series called “Portraits of the Heart”.

The tale kept me going because I wanted to find out what would happen next, yet at the same time it had a very slow pace. I started to get bored about half way through because not much of anything new was happening by way of the plot.  However, things started tightening up a bit about 2/3 of the way in and my interest picked up.  I really liked how the book was interspersed with vintage photographs which made me wonder if this was based on a true story.

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Mr. Bauer’s Studio in Winona.

It turns out, it is. Jessie is based on Jane Kirkpatrick’s own grandmother and we get to learn much about her as a young girl and what life was like in the early days of photography.  This escalates the appeal of the book even further.  It is interesting to see how photographers were able to accomplish so much without digital technology or even film.  We even get to ‘witness’ historic firsts in the art.

Another thing I appreciated was the taboo nature of the plot. SPOILER: Our character Jessie falls in love with her married employer (many years her senior) and struggles with what she knows is right and wrong.  We don’t often read of this in a Christian novel, and I think it makes for an interesting study. Jessie and Mr. Bauer don’t start out with wrong intentions.  Instead, a series of innocent events leads to a little more and then over a long period of time things turn into a lot more than they’d planned to.  Thankfully, Jessie comes from a good family who loves her and when they come to a realization of the truth they take it upon themselves to intervene. END OF SPOILER.

I am looking forward to reading the sequel (An Absence So Great). I did look up some of the history behind the real characters, but I would advise anyone else not to because it did create a spoiler for me as to what happens in the second book.  If you can be patient with a quiet, slow-moving story, I think you will appreciate this read.

If you enjoyed this book, I also recommend:

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2018 in Book Reviews

 

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Random Books: Towering Stack

I love processing through my latest towering stack of new books.  By the time I get around to doing it, I’d forgotten what books I’d bought and it’s like Christmas all over again!

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2018 in Book Shopping

 

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New Beautiful Fall Christian Fiction for 2018!

A few good ones this time around, and excited to see new authors!  I’m sure there would have been a few more beautiful gems to add to my TBR, except for the all the silly Christmas novellas taking up room in the latest CBD catalog.  😦  See the newest edition here.

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Posted by on October 1, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Review: “A Season of Shadows,” by Paul McCusker

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Genre: Christian fiction; historical fiction; suspense; intrigue; WWII; espionage

Plot Summary: When the rich, beautiful Julie Harris finds herself a widow during the early days of WWII, she decides she needs to find out the truth about her late husband.  Was their marriage a sham ever since they met?  Was he true to her, or did he live a double life?  The only way she can answer these questions is by going undercover herself, as one of America’s first agents of the war.  Working in London, she gets to know a small circle of people who seem to be her friends.  But who can she really trust?

My Book Review: It’s been a long time since I’ve ever read a book by Paul McCusker.  I remember I loved his Passages series when I was a kid (spin-off novels from Adventures in Odyssey, which McCusker helped create).  What would one of his novels for adults be like?  This one grabbed my attention, as espionage always does!

I found that I enjoyed this suspense story very much. Although I suspected the one character all along, I was never quite sure enough and I kept going on the edge of my seat.  Some great plot twists I didn’t see coming, and different love interests for our beautiful heroine that kept me guessing, too.  🙂

But more than that, I really learned a lot about England (esp. London) during the air raid bombings in 1940. I love fiction books that can teach me about a certain era, and this was definitely one of those.  Everything from what civilian daily life was like, how they coped, their attitude during the most difficult of days, and the everyday heroes of the war such as the emergency volunteers, the doctors and nurses, and the priests.  I even learned some things about Churchill.  To confirm all of this, I ended up watching a documentary on Netflix (“Winston Churchill: Walking With Destiny”- narrated by Ben Kingsley) that went over the same timeline during which this book is set and I got to hear and see photographs of the very things “Julie” would have witnessed.  I also watched a brief documentary on the first spy training camp the US set up in Canada, where our heroine also would have been sent to.  It made the book feel all the more real and I know it was well researched.

Some drawbacks to the book are that some readers may find it predictable. Sometimes I wanted it to be a tad more cloak and daggerish, but that’s probably just me being unrealistic!  I did find it somewhat unbelievable that Julie would run off to be an agent to spy against the very people her husband supposedly sympathized with, so soon after his death.  That part just didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

But I still enjoyed it, and stayed up late nights trying to finish it in time to send it back to the library. Those are the good ones, aren’t they?  So, if you’re up for burning the midnight oil, I think you’ll like this one!

I also recommend…

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2018 in Book Reviews

 

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Non-fiction Books I’m Liking (Fall 2018)

I’m seeing a Japanese theme here, aren’t you?  Enjoy these Asian-rooted books with me this autumn!

The Four Holy Gospels, illustrated by Makoto Fujimura ~ The first time I heard of Makoto Fujimura was on a late Moody radio program.  ‘A Christian abstract artist?  That just can’t be!’ I thought.  I’m not sure how, but somewhere along the way I picked up the thinking that modern art was completely anti-God, anti-Christian and anything that didn’t at least try to look realistic had its basis in evil worldviews.  Thank goodness God’s mellowed me out since then, and I guess the process is ongoing!  For those who may be struggling with this idea that abstract can be glorifying to God, I recommend Francis Schaeffer’s short work, “Art and the Bible.” In any case, I became curious enough to look up this deeply spiritual Asian-American online to see what his art looked like.  I was astounded.  I don’t pretend to understand high art.  I need those trained in it to help me understand it.  But I appreciated the beauty and emotion he infused with traditional Japanese painting techniques to create beautiful washes of color with veins of metallic running through them.  I heard that he was commissioned to illustrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, rather like the medieval illumination of old.  I’ve always wanted to see it, and I finally got the chance.  I wish there was more explanation accompanying his paintings and why he chose what he did (as a lot of it goes over my head), but I loved looking at it nonetheless.  My favorite piece was the full-page illustration, Prodigal God.  I would like to own my own copy someday. 

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo ~ Spring cleaning… in the fall?  I know, that doesn’t seem to make much sense, does it?  But I’ve always felt more like the fall was a second New Year’s for me, a time to hit restart and a chance to attempt more order.  And as alluded to in a recent post, I’ve been feel overwhelmed and stressed out for a long time and my systems aren’t working.  So I need a change.  I found this book at a garage sale and knew that it was a popular, best-selling book.  I’d first heard of the KonMari method of organizing on a youtube video where a woman went through her wardrobe cleaning and sorting according to what she had read in the book.  And then I just started of hearing it everywhere.  Last year I redded [yes, that is a word even though spellcheck says it’s not] my book collection to purge what I didn’t have room for anymore.  I was pleased with the results, but I really needed to read through this cover to cover.  So, I am currently about halfway through and am enjoying this little book.  So much of what the author recommends seems backward to what I was thinking, but once she explains herself it begins to make sense and I am willing to try.  I have already gone through my own clothes closet and am now to attack books again (I acquire new all the time) and papers.  I want to begin to put her principles into my daily living, not just a once a year mad purge.  I know she comes to the table with a very Eastern spiritualistic worldview.  Some readers may feel weird about Kondo’s assigning personalities to things and talking to them, thanking them for their service.  But at the same time, I identify with that because of my struggles with OCD.  So even though I personally don’t believe my Mom’s 34-year old blender that she got as a wedding present and that is now out of commission has a spirit, it is easier to place it in the dumpster after I’ve given it a dignified “thank you for your service” speech.   

 

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2018 in Non-Fiction Books I'm Liking

 

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My 1ST BOOK CLUB! & Book Review: “Sensible Shoes,” by Sharon Garlough Brown

16204594Genre: Christian fiction

Plot Summary: [from goodreads.com:] “Sharon Garlough Brown tells the moving story of four strangers as they embark together on a journey of spiritual formation: Hannah, a pastor who doesn’t realize how exhausted she is. Meg, a widow and recent empty-nester who is haunted by her past. Mara, a woman who has experienced a lifetime of rejection and is now trying to navigate a difficult marriage. Charissa, a hard-working graduate student who wants to get things right. You’re invited to join these four women as they reluctantly arrive at a retreat center and find themselves drawn out of their separate stories of isolation and struggle and into a collective journey of spiritual practice, mutual support and personal revelation. Along the way, readers will be taken into a new understanding of key spiritual practices and find tangible support for the deeper life with God.”

My Book Review: I first heard of this book on Midday Connection, where it was once recommended for one of their on-air book clubs.  It never really seemed to appeal to me as far as reading genres go.  No excitement, no adventure, intrigue, etc.  But a lady from my church whom I highly respect and who is also in charge of our women’s ministry had an inspired idea to start a women’s book club throughout the summer with this book for discussion.  It turns out, she personally knew the author Sharon Garlough Brown, and contacted her about visiting our church in October around the time the third in the Sensible Shoe trilogy was released.  Well, how could I pass on something this neat?  I signed up for the book club discussions, and got a copy of the book.

The book’s publisher, IVP, is not in the habit of printing fiction books. Their attention is directed toward non fiction (usually in the contemplative genre) that help people grow in their spiritual walk.  But when Brown approached them with her manuscript, they decided to change their rules for once and publish it.  They felt strongly that even though it was fiction, it taught great spiritual disciplines.  Through the emotional medium of fictional characters, biblical truth can be effectively taught in a way non fiction can’t.  This is what has meant so much to fans of the Sensible Shoes club.  Truth climbs in the back door of our heart and helps us see that we truly are God’s beloved and we long to walk more closely with Him, overcoming the walls and barriers that have closed off life for so long.

At first, I had a hard time getting into the story.  It still wasn’t my thing.  It was well written, but just not exciting.  One of the main reasons I had joined was because I knew that the topic of contemplative Christianity would be brought up, and I wanted to learn more about it.  I had come to the right place.  The four female characters in the book—Mara, Charissa, Meg, and Hannah—meet one another at a spiritual retreat center, where a wise spiritual director introduces them to disciplines that help them grow in their walk with the Lord.

a71db3c4fc05f755450487872d6e06fdThere are probably some of you reading this review and already the hackles have gone on the back of your neck. You’ve heard about this strange “pagan form of New Age religion” called contemplative Christianity and you’re scared to death.  I’m glad the author addresses those concerns in her book.  It takes a mind fully bent on discerning truth under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and not someone who gets creeped out because of something new or outside of the comfortable box to embrace this book.

90 women showed up at our church to begin the book club discussions. Even our pastor picked it up to read and got into it.  We split the book up into 3 chapters at a time and got together in smaller groups at a local log cabin retreat center (WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE!).  We talked about the characters and how we identified or didn’t identify with them, and also about the spiritual disciplines taught along the way, and what God was teaching us through them.  It was my first time being a part of a book club, and I really enjoyed the conversations.

As far as the story itself went, I finally started to get more into it around 2/3 of the way through. The plot gained some suspense and I wanted to know what happened next.  I would probably say I identified the most with the character Hannah, though not in the way some in my group supposed I did.  I knew God was wanting me to dig through some stuff I kept on wanting to shove under the rug.  I would like to go back through the book again and incorporate the spiritual disciplines into my routine.  It’s definitely something I want to explore more deeply.

004October came and we had our big shebang at the end of the bookclub. when Sharon Garlough Brown came to visit our church. Unfortunately, the even started at 9:00 in the morning.  Um, no.  I don’t do mornings well.  I got myself around the earliest as best I could and arrived an hour and a half late, but was able to sit in on the last half hour of her lecture.  Amazingly, it was exactly at that spot in her speech that I needed to hear.  She was talking on Romans 8:31-39 and it was like it was just for me!  I took lots of notes.

We broke for lunch and reconvened later for music worship and then Sharon came on stage again to talk, mainly about her inspiration and background for writing the book. Then it was Q & A time and giveaway time.  At the end of the afternoon, Sharon sat at a little card table with a flower in a vase and we lined up to get our copies autographed by her.  That was so much fun!  I even got my picture taken with her, but I don’t post my pic on the net.  I’ll just post the one I took of her signing books.

Sharon Brown was a lovely person to meet, and such a regular-body, too. I found a video of her promoting her series, and more can be found on Youtube:

It seems these books are the type of thing you read and pass on to someone else, and they spread and grow among friends. I even recommended it to my uncle!  I lent mine to another friend who appreciated it, but also said she felt like the problems the characters dealt with were gotten over ‘too quickly.’ She has a point– there are usually no quick fixes in life.  But at the same time, a story arch has to fit within a certain page structure.  Then too, there are two more in the series, so who knows what will occur in the next segment of their journey?

This is a highly recommended novel, because of how it causes one to examine their heart with God at the helm. If this scares you, I encourage you to give it a try in small parts anyway.  A book won’t bite, and it gives the brain something to chew on.

Did you love this book? Why or why not?

I would also recommend:

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2018 in Book Reviews

 

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Random Books: lots of Christian fiction

I’ve come across quite a few Christian fiction reads in my thrift travels lately.  Here’s my newest stack of random books before I catalog them into my own home library:

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2018 in Book Shopping

 

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