Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, 
the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men
And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, 
is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?"

~Benjamin Franklin~

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : The Three Lives of James Madison

Okay, so I have finished reading a second biography on James Madison, and while I don't plan to make it a habit to read multiple biographies on each president (until next year when I read two biographies on Andrew Jackson—ha!), I'm glad I did in this case. You can read the recap I wrote of Lynne Cheney's biography of Madison here. Comparatively, this 2017 biography of Madison by Noah Feldman is much more intellectual, authoritative, and thorough. Of the two, this is definitely the one I'd recommend. 

The full title of this book, The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President, gives you a glimpse at how the book is written. It's actually divided into three books, each focusing on the main three phases of his political career. The first phase details his work on the creation and ratification of the Constitution. While Madison is known as the Father of the Constitution and the Constitution we have today is very much his brainchild, I had no idea after reading Cheney's book earlier this year how much his original vision for the Constitution was compromised and changed during the Philadelphia Convention. I appreciated that Feldman took the time to really describe how the convention played out and explained how the small states forced Madison to compromise his idea for having proportionate representation in both houses of Congress. Madison did not think each state should have equal representation in the Senate because he thought both houses should have representation proportionate to each state's population. This is only one example of the many issues battled over and compromised on during the Philadelphia Convention. After reading Cheney's book, I had this vague notion that Madison wrote the Constitution, presented it to the Convention, there was some discussion and debate over it, and then it was accepted. That's not how it went down. The Constitution produced by the Philadelphia Convention certainly was constructed on the frame Madison introduced, but it was fleshed out much differently than he originally imagined.

The second phase describes his time as a Congressman and the rise of partisan politics. When Madison dreamed up his perfect Constitution, he was adamantly against partisan politics and he thought that the construction of the Constitution would actually prevent political parties from rising up against each other. Boy, was he wrong, and this is a point in Madison's own thinking and practice that he truly evolved on. He went from working closely as friends with Alexander Hamilton in their effort to have the States ratify the Constitution by writing The Federalist Papers, to considering him a political and personal enemy. In this phase of Madison's life, he and Jefferson really banded together to create the Republican Party in order to combat the Federalist Party headed by Hamilton. Madison went from supporting a powerful central government to protecting States' rights, a true 180 in his thinking.

And in the final phase of the book, Feldman concentrates on Madison's involvement in the War of 1812, first as Jefferson's Secretary of State, then as President of the United States. Madison's thinking on this subject shifts again from being certain that the U.S. could maintain control and neutrality during the war by utilizing economic sanctions to our advantage, to eventually deciding that war was inevitable and ultimately winning the presidency by promising to fight for U.S. interests. Again, Madison's time as President was my favorite part of his life to read about.

Another major difference between Feldman's book and Cheney's was their differing views on Madison's health and motivations for religious freedom. While Cheney spent so much time theorizing on Madison's "mysterious" bouts with poor health and positing that he was committed to religious freedom because he probably struggled with epilepsy and people back then attributed epilepsy to demonic possession, Feldman very practically asserts that Madison's dedication to religious freedom stemmed from his time at Princeton being surrounded and influenced by students and professors of differing beliefs. He writes off Madison's occasional mentions of illness to debilitating migraines or other plausible illnesses which made a lot more sense than Cheney's far-reaching notions of epilepsy. I appreciated that Feldman stuck to the facts of what we know about Madison as opposed to Cheney's constant efforts to fill in all the blanks of his personal life.

Another point Feldman made in this book that I really loved was one regarding Madison's marriage to Dolley. While John Adams is always hailed as such a loving husband because of the multitude of affectionate correspondence he shared with his wife Abigail, Feldman points out that Madison always preferred to be with Dolley while Adams spent much of his political life apart from Abigail. Not to say that Adams didn't love his wife, but the point resonated with me.

Really, my only bone to pick with this biography is that the Table of Contents is after the preface. (Who does that?!) While there were times when Feldman was so detailed I just wanted him to get to the point already, his writing ultimately helped me understand Madison and at the end of the book, I realized the detailed accounts of the political battles he fought gave me the clearest picture of Madison possible. If you're looking for a good biography to read on Madison, I highly recommend this one. 

And just to give you a little update on my Monroe dilemma: I got the bio by Harlow Unger, and I think I can squeeze it in this year so stay tuned for another presidential recap before 2018 is through!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Casual Fridays

Happy Friday to meeeee! Here's my latest haul from The Book Shelter. I picked these up last weekend, and it's taking a lot of self-control to not drop everything and just sit around reading all day. I only have 7 books left from my original 2018 list so I should definitely be able to get to one or two of these babies before the end of the year. Have you read any of these? Which one should I read first? 
And here's a bonus shot of my Colonel-bud to send you on your weekend because he was just glamming it up on the couch and the lighting was pretty. You're welcome.
What are you up to this weekend?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"Gilbert darling, don't let's ever be afraid of things. 
It's such dreadful slavery. 
Let's be daring and adventurous and expectant. 
Let's dance to meet life and all it can bring to us, 
even if it brings scads of trouble and typhoid and twins!"

~from Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery~

Monday, August 6, 2018

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday, my sweetheart! I love you forever!
And Happy Birthday, Najati! We love you so much!
Cody shares a birthday with our oldest girl Najati. She lives in Tanzania, and today, she turns 15 years old. We love her dearly and pray for her consistently. We write her letters, and she writes us back. I would encourage you to consider sponsoring a child in need with Compassion. You will change his or her life for the better and fall in love in the process. We hope to be able to visit Najati one day, but we may never get to hug her this side of Heaven. If you have questions about how this all works, I would love to talk to you more about this amazing ministry. 

Friday, August 3, 2018

Casual Fridays

I think today we'll phone it in and just do an extremely basic Currently I'm... post. Because at the time I'm writing this, it's nearly 1 AM and I plan to be dead to the world when this goes live in a few hours. Let's see what I can come up with in the next 15 minutes.

Reading...

... technically, nothing at the moment. And not just because I'll be asleep when this post goes live. I finished The Three Lives of James Madison on Monday, 31 Days of Praise on Tuesday, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (say that 5 times fast) last night. Never fear: I totally intend to begin Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis whenever I wake up. And Othello won't be far behind.

Watching...

... Bones. I'm beginning to lose count of how many times I've watched this show from start to finish, though, if we're going to be precise about it, this would actually only be the second time since the show only came to a complete close last year. I'm currently on Season 10 and loving it just as much as I usually do even though I'm super mad at a certain someone right now. (Can't say who because my mommy-in-law is watching the show for the first time and I can't give away any SPOILERS.)

... Alias. Oh yeah. We're throwing it back old school. Cody and I just picked up the first season at FYE and I am hooked. I never saw a single episode of this back in the day, but I am into it now.

... all the movies. Like, seriously, I have been on such a movie kick lately. In the last couple weeks alone, I've managed to squeeze in all five of the Mission Impossible movies (we're going to see the new one tonight!) along with Ladder 49, Cinderella starring Lily James, and First Daughter to name a few. And that's just in the last few weeks. Y'all. Someone stop me.

Anticipating...

... the Netflix release of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I mean, since I just confessed the movie kick I've been on and managed to mention Lily James in the same breath, I might as well come clean about this. I adored The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (more about that in a gushing recap to come), and I am psyched for the movie. Even though I just watched the trailer and I'm already feeling very skeptical of the creative license taken to make this into a film, I'm a fan of Lily James (and the rest of the cast I was catching glimpses of in the trailer) and I think it's worth a viewing. 

... Mission Impossible 6 tonight! (No, I will never call 4, 5, and 6 by their lame names, and yes, I know we pretty much already covered this in the last section, but it is now 1:08 AM: you get what you get.)

Eating...

... Publix buffalo chicken dip on Tostitos Bite Size tortilla chips. If you don't know the delicious goodness that is this perfect snack (or breakfast, don't judge me), then you aren't living. Get down to the Southeast and get on my level.

... Luigi's Lemon Italian Ice. Because Florida summer. 

... leftovers for days, y'all. I don't know why we seem to be in leftover heaven lately, but we have been and you won't hear me complaining. I think I've subconsciously been cooking in bulk just so I won't actually have to cook every day. 

Listening...

... to Relient K's Air for Free album. It's such a chill summer jam album, and I love it.

... to Train. Whatever album I land on. They're just my go-to. 

... to my entire iPod on shuffle. This is not something I typically do because I have over 10,000 songs on it or something crazy like that, but once every 6 years or so, I just get in the mood to have the whole thing on shuffle and that's the mood I'm in now. It's pretty fun.

... to Despacito. Honestly, I don't know the entire literal translation of this song, and if it's inappropriate, I apologize but don't tell me because it will be a very long time before I stop dancing around to this. 

Feeling...

... so very proud of my littlest sister who just signed her letter of intent to play college tennis on a scholarship because she is the bomb and doing it huge. (Also, I can't believe we're all officially and legally adults now. Is this real life? And can I possibly be this old?)

... bereft of sweet nephew snuggles. I need more in my life. Like yesterday. A six hour drive is too far away, and they're trying to take him to Germany?! I ain't doin' it.

... a teensy bit proud of myself because as of last night, I have read 26 books so far this year and 16 of those are even from my original 2018 book list. Not too shabby, and we still have five months to go. 

Loving...

... my family. 

... my friends.

... my church.

... my life.

... my bed. It's 1:32 AM, and I am done

What's currently going on with you?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"Ma says I'm getting too old to dream. Do you think I am, Miss Shirley?"

"Nobody is ever too old to dream. And dreams never grow old."

~Pauline Gibson & Anne Shirley in Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery~

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : Tuesdays with Morrie

I should have gotten this post up last week, but sometimes blogging is just a drag, y'all. Reading Tuesdays with Morrie, however, was anything but a drag. 

This sweet little memoir was first published in 1997 and since that time has been translated into 31 languages in 36 countries. I'd call that a hit. The writer, Mitch Albom, has not only authored several popular books, he is a top sports columnist, ESPN sports panelist and commentator, and radio host. I'm not sure if he ever sleeps.

In Tuesdays with Morrie, Albom recounts the time and conversations he had with his 78 year old college sociology professor, Morrie Schwartz, leading up to his death from ALS. In their Tuesday meetings, they dealt with such topics as Death, Fear, Aging, Greed, Marriage, Family, Society, and Forgiveness. 

While there was a lot of wisdom in this book and some valuable life lessons, it fell flat for me because the most important issues of life and death—God's relationship to man, Heaven, Hell—were skirted around and dealt with in an abstract and philosophical rather than concrete and practical way. This book ultimately left me feeling so sad because this man I'd come to know and love through its pages came to the end of his life grasping at a lot of beautiful philosophies but—if Tuesdays with Morrie is true—ignorant of the Truth. According to Albom in Tuesdays with Morrie, Morrie Schwartz was a "religious mutt" borrowing feely from all religions. Though he determined to meet death with dignity after he was diagnosed with ALS, when he closed his eyes for the last time,  what did he meet? 

I loved this book. I want to spend the last days of my life with dignity, loving my people and laughing a lot. I want to be brave like Morrie. 

But let me be perfectly clear: there is only one Truth and His name is Jesus. He is the only Door to Heaven, and the people who choose not to surrender to Him before death will be eternally separated from Him in a place of eternal torment called Hell. I know that's offensive and alienating and extremely unpopular. Many would call me hateful and narrow-minded for these beliefs. But the most loving thing I know to do is tell the truth. And that's it.

I would recommend Tuesdays with Morrie, but there's a more important Book that has all the answers Morrie didn't. Read that one first. And if you don't have one, please feel free to contact me for a copy. I will put it in the mail today.

Have you read Tuesdays with Morrie? What was one of your favorite lessons from Morrie?

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Entertainer Book Tag

Last week, Sabrina from Tired Mom Reading tagged me to answer some fun bookish questions. So here I am not procrastinating at all and answering them within a week of reading her post. Yay me! 
Six Questions from Sabrina

1. What is your favorite book-to-movie adaption? Least favorite?

Oh boy. Thanks for starting with such an easy question, Sabrina. All the movies just popped into my head. Okay, for favorites I think I'll go with The Help or A Walk to Remember. (We weren't supposed to pick just one, were we??) 
For least favorites, the first trainwreck that popped into my mind is Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story, but I can't even count that because adaptation of WHAT? Not any Anne book I've ever read. Ugh. So officially I'll go with The Hobbit trilogy. I thought the first movie was pretty good, but the second one was so abysmal I didn't even bother watching the third one. 

2. You're hosting a dinner for your three favorite heroes/heroines. Who will be there, what will you talk about, and does everyone leave alive?

Christy (Miller) Spencer, Katie (Weldon) Lorenzo, and Sierra (Jensen) Bryce obviously. We will talk about literally everything under the sun, and we will particularly encourage each other in our roles as wives. Of course we will all leave alive with our next Girls Night Out already on the calendar.
*These are all characters written by Robin Jones Gunn for anyone this reference is lost on.*

3. What is a book you would recommend to everyone and why?

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom because not only is it full of beautiful truth, suspense,  and adventure, it's all true and the events in the book happened during such an important time in world history that we ought never forget about. And BONUS along the same lines, I'd also recommend Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand to anyone. Both are excellent.

4. Who are your fictional book crushes?

Gilbert Blythe, Todd Spencer, and Mr. Knightley are probably my top three. Need I elaborate? I think not.

5. What book series do you wish there was more of? How about less of?

This is another tough one. I wish the Anne of Green Gables books could just keep going forever and ever, generation after generation. I'd also love some more Little Women in my life. 
The "less of" is a little harder. Do we have to have read the books to know we want less? I can honestly say I wish the Twilight and 50 Shades books never existed, but I haven't actually read them.

6. Where is your favorite place to get books?

I love to find little hole-in-the-wall used bookstores. My all-time favorite was Booktraders in downtown Winter Haven, but sadly, it closed. My current local favorite is The Book Shelter in Lake Wales. I hope they stick around. 

Thanks so much for tagging me, Sabrina! I'll tag Lyndsey @ The Bolden JourneyCaroline @ Big World :: Small GirlChristina @ Remember to be Tandy, Alison @ The Juggling Act, and Jen @ "Just a Mom's" View. My six questions for y'all are:

1. Do you re-read books? What was the last book you re-read?
2. What book are you most proud of finishing?
3. What are some of your hobbies aside from reading?
4. What is your favorite read (so far) of 2018? Least favorite?
5. Bookmarks or dog-ears?
6. Who are your read-everything-they-ever-wrote favorite authors?

Full disclosure: I totally cherrypicked these questions from other Entertainer Book Tag posts I ended up reading when I fell down the blog hole after Sabrina tagged me. 

If I didn't tag you, but you decide to do this on your blog, please come back and leave the link to your post so I can read your answers, and if you don't have a blog, feel free to answer any or all of these questions down in the comments and we can talk all things bookish!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Casual Fridays

Y'all. Casual Fridays have just died over here. Forget about it. So much time has passed. Where do we even start? I'll tell you where:
07/04/18
Because freedom and true love and the freaking 'stache. We spent our 4th of July eating way too much food and admiring Cody's magnificent facial hair. RIP The Mustache of 2018. Also, we played Euchre. Because I finally gave in and learned to play and now I'm addicted and can't stop. If you know this game, come play with me. 

Now for a proper bookish start to this post:
Here are some of the gems I've picked up at The Book Shelter lately. I think I've had pretty good self-control (considering the first time we went, I ended up with 14 books), but Cody's still a little fearful whenever I announce I'm heading for The Book Shelter. I've been back twice since that fateful anniversary trip, and along with all these fantastic books (including that Beth Moore Esther workbook which had nary a mark in it) I also scored the entire series of Parks & Rec on DVD. Because not only do they sell books, they sell board games and movies and video games—oh my! Have you read any of these? If I had to choose between Their Eyes Were Watching God, Rebecca, The Language of Flowers, or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society for my 2019 book list, which one should make the cut? ("All of them" is an entirely acceptable answer.)
I'd probably be going to The Book Shelter a lot more frequently if I wasn't running off to the beach every spare day I get. Most of my trips have been solo, but I did manage to drag my BFF with me one day, and we ended up witnessing a totally casual wedding. (#memories) When we noticed they didn't have anyone to take a picture of the whole group, I sashayed my little bikini-clad body over to offer up my services as an impromptu photographer, much to the chagrin delight of my best friend. The family was very appreciative even though Christina wanted to melt into the sand. As you can see, my toenails haven't been entirely neglected this summer. That purple home pedi was flawless, but the beachy coral pedi was smudge city which has brought me to a new conclusion about smudgy pedicures: the nail polish brand matters. Anyone else find this to be true? 
I alluded to this in my God Is Able recap, but I didn't mention that my husband totally surprised me with these fun summery porch furniture cushions and they are making me so happy. Our porch chairs have been cushion-less since Irma, and I've been loving being able to (comfortably) spend more time outside this summer. 
06/04/18
I set a new world record Yahtzee score. (Ignore all of our confused faces, I was trying to figure out how to do a screenshot. #technicaldifficulties) But really though. 620??? That has to be a world record, right? Right?!
07/15/18
And speaking of my fellow Yahtzee Nazis (I just came up with that. Can I trademark it? Or is it offensive?), I squeezed in the quickest weekend roadtrip to see some of my favorite people recently. They're just extremely lucky I didn't smuggle my nephew home with me. Serious tears when I had to drive away from that baby. They're moving to Germany and even though they're really psyched about it, I'm still hitting my knees every morning asking God to make the Army change its mind. #sorrynotsorry Check Little Miss Thing eyeing her daddy like, "Gosh, you're so embarrassing, Dad!"
07/26/18
I got a few sweet hours with my other favorites yesterday. Thing 1 and Thing 2 are getting real good at faces-on-command. I treasure every second with these precious girls, and I hope they always love coming to Auntie Hannah's house. 
The puppies are doing good. Although between the two of them, I've cleaned up more puke this week than I would have preferred. Colonel likes to eat baby wipes so all trash cans have long been placed out of reach of either mangy mutt, but this week he managed to snitch two wipes that were literally sitting right next to me while I was changing a diaper and naturally they came back up a couple days later because baby wipes are not digestible, y'all. Don't eat them. Major regurgitated his breakfast Wednesday for no apparent reason. Perhaps he felt left out? The world may never know, and I am so over it.
Last summer around this time, I started a segment on the blog entitled "Adventures in Coloring" because my husband got me this insane grown-up coloring book. In the entire year since then, I have managed to complete two more pages. Two. And recently started a third. I'm obviously slaying. My hubby thinks the fish lips page doesn't even look finished because of how much I left white, but look at those teeny tiny scales, y'all! Haven't I done enough?!
I let some random stranger at a Fantastic Sam's hack up my hair a couple weeks ago because I was so bored with it, but, as is usually the case, I was immediately remorseful. It's hair. It grows. Whatever.
And if you've actually made it to the end of this post, I have a serious question for you. I have Mere Christianity and Othello lined up for my August reading, but I can't decide on which novel I'd like to tackle next. Should August include The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Hinds' Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard, or Song of Deborah by Bette M. Ross? Help!

Did you make it this far? How's your summer been? To sum up: nail polish brand recommendations, 2019 book list choices, Yahtzee props, coloring encouragement, August novel vote. Annnnnd GO.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"I don't like reading about martyrs because they always make me feel petty and ashamed...
ashamed to admit I hate to get out of bed on frosty mornings and shrink from a visit to the dentist!"

~from Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery~

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"Whether or not God CHOOSES to do something is a question of His sovereignty, not His ability.
Whether or not He WILL do it is His business.
But believing that he CAN—that's our business."

~Priscilla Shirer~

Monday, July 16, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : The Good Earth

Okay, for some reason, I'm having a really hard time with this recap and I'm not sure why. I loved The Good Earth. It's probably the best novel I will read this year. (That is, if we're not counting my re-reads because nothing will ever touch Anne Shirley, y'all.)

The Good Earth was written by Pearl S. Buck in 1929, first published in 1931, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. Buck later went on to become the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938. Though Buck was born in West Virginia to American parents, she was raised and lived mainly in China from the tender age of 5 months old until her early 40s. Personally, I think that qualifies her to write about China though she has often been criticized for The Good Earth by many Americans who claim it is a collection of racist stereotypes. I would argue that Buck's life proves the point that she was anything but racist what with all her advocacy for minority groups and her humanitarian work.

In The Good Earth, we follow the life of a peasant Chinese farmer, Wang Lung, from the day of his wedding to a slave woman named O-Lan to the end of his life. The Good Earth is beautiful, tragic, poignant, lyrical, and full of wisdom. All throughout my reading of The Good Earth, I couldn't help but compare it to many Biblical stories. Wang Lung reminded me so much of King David and much of the novel read like a New Testament parable.

There were many times while reading this book that I felt so frustrated with Wang Lung, but for the most part I was just captivated by this truly beautiful portrayal of life. I started this book at the end of June thinking it would kind of transition me into my July reading, but once I began I couldn't put it down and ended up finishing it in June.

I would definitely recommend it. And since I'm still having trouble stringing my thoughts into a cogent blog post, here's another photo of my copy of this novel with my Japanese tea set (which seems wrong seeing as how Chinese/Japanese relations have always been tense at best). I will most certainly be revisiting The Good Earth in the future.
Have you ever read The Good Earth or anything else steeped in Eastern culture? Did you love it as much as I did? 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"Novelists should never allow themselves to weary of the study of real life. 
If they observed this duty conscientiously, 
they would give us fewer pictures chequered with vivid contrasts of light and shade; 
they would seldom elevate their heroes and heroines to the heights of rapture—
still seldomer sink them to the depths of despair; 
for if we rarely taste the fullness of joy in this life, 
we yet more rarely savour the acrid bitterness of hopeless anguish..."

~from The Professor by Charlotte Brontë~

Monday, July 9, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : God Is Able

Not to start out with too much silliness, but that photo is real, y'all. That's my book on my happy summer chair cushions. Is it just me or does it look like some fake stock photo I stole from the internet? No? I'm ridiculous? Fine. On to the recap.

God Is Able was originally published in 2013 and is by one of my favorite Bible teachers, Priscilla Shirer. In this excellent book, Priscilla breaks down two of the most extravagant verses in the Bible: Ephesians 3:20-21.

"Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen."

With an introduction, seven distinct chapters each dealing with a word or phrase from the verses, a conclusion, and weighing in at a mere 157 pages, this book is simple and wouldn't take very long to read. I deliberately made myself slow down with this one, reading it more like a devotional than just another quick book to check off my list.

The thing I most appreciated about this book is how she really broke down the verses into those seven sections. My dad (who is only the greatest preacher alive: no brag, just fact) is always challenging me to slow down and meditate on Scripture. Literally taking it one word at a time and letting the richness of God's Word penetrate down deep into my soul. I find that really difficult to do. It's more natural for me to want to use an hour to read as much as I can than to take that hour and meditate on just one word or phrase. And the first chapter in God Is Able was all on that one tiny first word: "Now..."

Not only did she really break the verses down into bite-sized pieces, she filled each chapter with personal and practical testimony of God's magnificent ability. She didn't just theorize and philosophize and wax eloquent about the potential of God's ability, she shared ways she's witnessed His ability in her own life and in the lives of people she personally knows. What is one of the best ways we bring glory to God? We testify. And Priscilla really did that well in this book.

But she didn't just leave it at encouraging stories and anecdotal evidence, she backed everything with Scripture and more Scripture, drawing from the Old and New Testaments to illuminate these two truly astounding verses smack-dab in the middle of Ephesians.

I really liked that this book wasn't a theological mind-bender that takes determined concentration and effort to read, but it was still challenging and encouraging. This book draws your attention to God and His ability, and it gives Him all the glory. I would highly recommend it.

What books help you slow down and meditate on God's Word? What books have encouraged and challenged you in your spiritual development? 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A Tuesday Confession

I really cannot stand listening to female sports commentators.
Like, if we have to have them, can't we just stick them all in women's basketball and keep them out of the good stuff?
I'm not advocating that we give back our right to vote or anything, I just think there are some jobs better suited for men and this is one of them.
Does this make me a backwards, anti-feminist, "toxic masculinity" championing woman with a 1950s housewife mentality?

So be it.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : The Professor

Can we even believe it's July already?! The year is officially half over. Christmas is basically right around the corner, you guys. Somebody please make it slow down!

The first book I finished in June was The Professor by Charlotte Brontë. The Professor was actually the first novel Charlotte Brontë ever wrote. However, it was the only one of her completed novels that she was not able to get published during her lifetime, and honestly: I get it. It wasn't my favorite. From what I understand, she re-worked a lot of this novel into Villette which I own but have not read yet, so it will be interesting to compare the two when I ever get around to it.

This novel is about the young William Crimsworth (who I'm still not sure if I was supposed to like or not) and the story is written as a first-person narrative from his perspective. Through a series of events, he basically cuts ties with all his relations, moves to Brussels, and becomes an English teacher. 

The plot was mediocre (at best), none of the characters were likable (save one), and there was just enough French in this book to make me extremely frustrated that I don't understand French. My biggest and most important recommendation for you if you ever decide to read this book is to get an edition that has the French translated into English in the footnotes because there were times I was reading the book when I just wanted to scream. I was able to put enough together contextually to follow the story, but I'll tell you what, that's the first and last book I'll be reading from Kennebec/Chivers Press. (I bought this book in one of those $3 warehouses you see cheap billboards for on big-time roadtrips. Now I know why the books are so cheap.)

All in all, I wasn't impressed with The Professor, and I wouldn't really recommend it. Sounds like Villette would be more worth the time, and someday, I'll either confirm or deny that supposition on ye olde blog. Until that day, I say if you want to read Charlotte Brontë, go for Jane Eyre. 

Do you like the Brontë sisters? Which of their novels are your favorites? Least favorites? I have three left to complete my Brontë reading: Villette, Shirley, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Any suggestions on which should come next?

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"Was it through reason that I arrived at the necessity of loving my neighbour and not throttling him? 
I was told it as a child, and I joyfully believed it, because they told me what was in my soul. 
And who discovered it? Not reason. 
Reason discovered the struggle for existence and the law which demands that everyone who hinders the satisfaction of my desires should be throttled. 
That is the conclusion of reason. 
Reason could not discover love for the other, because it's unreasonable."

~from Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy~
Artwork : Del Parson

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A Tuesday Confession

I actually hate this VAR crap.
It makes the refs lazy and slows down the gameplay.
Just let the beautiful game be played the way men have played for generations before now.
I really don't think a 93% accuracy rating is so bad and using VAR to bump that up to 99% isn't worth the disruption to the game.
This technology is not our friend, people.
Make the refs to do their job and make the players respect the refs' decisions.

How hard is that?

Monday, June 25, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : Anna Karenina

I have finished reading my first Russian novel. I realize this is not a very big deal in the grand scheme of things, but I'm feeling more than a little proud of myself for this small life accomplishment. It took me four solid months (February-May) to complete this 817 page monster but, to put that in perspective, I also read 11 other books (and started on 2 more) during the time I was working my way through this one and I really think that if I had given this novel my undivided attention, I could have read it in a much shorter span of time. 

Anna Karenina was written by the famed Leo Tolstoy and first published in serial installments from 1873 to 1877 with the first complete version of the novel appearing in 1878. Widely regarded as a pinnacle in realist fiction, Fyodor Dostoyevsky declared it "flawless as a work of art", William Faulkner described the novel as "the best ever written", and in a Time poll as recent as 2007 it was voted by 125 authors as the "greatest book ever written". Pretty high praise.

There are no less than 11 major English translations of Anna Karenina with the 1901 Constance Garnett translation (later revised in 1965 by Kent and Berberova) and the 2000 Pevear and Volokhonsky translation being the two foremost translations according to scholars. I read the Pevear and Volokhonsky version and while I often found myself wondering how much of the author's tone and impressions might have been lost in translation, I found the novel to be very readable and would recommend this translation to anyone looking to read Anna Karenina. 

The book itself is divided into 8 parts which are each broken up into several small sections (the longest having 35 sections and the shortest having 19). 

In Anna Karenina, we meet a myriad of characters but the main stories center around Anna herself and a man named Levin. While these two main characters do interact in the book, their stories are mostly separate from one another. Anna's story is mainly about her adulterous affair with the affluent bachelor Count Vronsky while Levin's story details his life as a wealthy country landowner, his marriage, the birth of his first son, and his struggle to accept the Christian faith.

The novel explores a variety of topics including gender, morality, religion, politics, and social class. Tolstoy's themes emerge naturally from the lives of his characters and I was constantly questioning what the author's personal views and motives for writing the novel might be. Tolstoy doesn't explicitly moralize and leaves it up to the reader to draw their own conclusions about the behavior of his characters. 

I was very impressed with Tolstoy's ability to capture the human experience in his writing, and I understand why this novel is considered a pinnacle in realist fiction. I could relate to the characters' experiences and emotions, and I often found myself wanting to slap Anna for her poor choices or getting impatient with her jealous inner diatribes against whoever she was mad at. I sympathized with Levin during his little marital scrapes and got annoyed with him whenever he went off on one of his whiny rants. Tolstoy had a gift for writing the human condition accurately but simply. 

The name game in this novel got very confusing, not only because my brain isn't used to complicated Russian names but also because the same character could be referred to by any number of complicated Russian names at any point in the book. Bless the translator who would just simplify this and call each person by one easy nickname for the entirety of the novel. (Scholars disagree with me on this, but I don't care. These names are ridiculous, y'all.) I also couldn't care less about the politics in the story. Parts 3 and 7 were particularly slow as I slogged through the evaluations of the feudal system that existed in Russia at the time and the political meetings several of the male characters attended to vote politicians in and out of office. Shoot me. 

I was also extremely underwhelmed by the ending of the novel. A seemingly minor plot point (Levin's faith) turned out to be the entire subject of the conclusion of the book and while it was interesting to peek into the Russian religious views of the 19th century, I was left feeling disappointed with some of Levin's spiritual conclusions particularly as they related to differing religious beliefs. The novel ended somewhat abruptly for me despite its crazy 817 page length. 

So would I recommend Anna Karenina? Not necessarily. Russian literature isn't for everyone. I personally have eight Russian novels on my Life List, and I think Anna Karenina was a great one to start with. If you're looking to branch into the Russian authors or round out your reading life that way, I definitely would recommend Anna Karenina. If you're wondering if this novel is indispensable to a well-rounded list of classic literature, I'll have to reserve my opinion on that until I get a few more of these Russians under my belt. Ultimately I'm glad I read it, and I sincerely hope I didn't peak too soon by choosing "the greatest book ever written" for my first Russian novel. 

Have you read any of the Russian greats? Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Pasternak, Nabokov? Which ones are an absolute must? Which one should I tackle next? Have you read Anna Karenina? What did you think of it? I can't wrap up this post without giving a shout-out to my little band of lit lovers who read this one with me. Y'all kept me going, and I'm looking forward to our discussion of this beast of a novel!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"Sometimes people are beautiful.
Not in looks.
Not in what they say.
Just in what they are."

~from I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak~
Photo Credit : Jennifer Couzin-Frankel

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A Tuesday Confession

Even when the USA is in the World Cup, my loyalties lie not so secretly with Brasil.
Does this make me a total Benedict Arnold? 
I don't even care.

! VAI  VAI  VAI  BRASIL !
2006 FIFA World Cup

Monday, June 18, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : I Am the Messenger

I Am the Messenger was not even on my radar. But it caught my eye the other day at Barnes & Noble  when I saw that it was by Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief. I picked it up because I was so impressed with The Book Thief when I read it a couple years back, and the plot of I Am the Messenger sounded intriguing. 

In this 2002 novel by Australian author Markus Zusak, we meet Ed Kennedy, underage cabbie and hopeless loser. When he accidentally stops a bank robbery one day, he gets singled out to become the Messenger. Aces start arriving with nebulous assignments on them, and Ed has to start growing up.

Well as it turns out, the historical context of The Book Thief seems to be what set it up for success. I did not appreciate I Am the Messenger nearly as much. While Zusak did write with the same unconventional, slightly disturbing style that came off so well with Death being the narrator in The Book Thief, the plot of I Am the Messenger was not as gripping and the conclusion turned out to be just as nebulous as Ed's assignments throughout the story. Hardly satisfying for all the buildup. 

I liked the way the book was cleverly divided into five parts, the first four parts being the four aces with chapters from ace to king and the fifth part being the Joker. I liked Ed's coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. I liked how Ed's character developed while completing his mysterious assignments. I liked the general mystery throughout the story.

I didn't like the unnecessary profanity. I didn't like the casual attitude all the characters had about sex and the sometimes graphic way it was described in the novel.  I didn't like that the mystery was sort of weakly wrapped up in a way that was more disappointing than fulfilling. 

All in all it was a pretty fun and entertaining read though not one I'll be likely to revisit. The pros and cons ended up weighing in pretty even making it a somewhat mediocre book, in my opinion. If you ever read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts, particularly about the ending. I think if the ending had been stronger, I'd be able to forgive some of the other things I didn't care for throughout the story. 

Have you read any of Zusak's work? Apparently, he has written five books with a sixth set to be released later this year. What do you think of him?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"Just because God can doesn't mean He will.
But just because He hasn't doesn't mean He won't.
The bottom line is that He is able
And because He is able, and because He is love, 
our hearts are completely secure in every situation."

~Priscilla Shirer~

Monday, June 11, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : A Walk to Remember

I finally read A Walk to Remember. It's been a favorite movie of mine for years, but I had never read the novel until a few weeks ago after I picked it up in my new favorite little used bookstore. Like The Wizard of Oz, I just can't separate this book from its movie counterpart so I'm going to be talking about both in this recap. Here we go. 

A Walk to Remember was first published in October of 1999 and is the third of Nicholas Sparks' many novels. It received mixed reviews from critics but despite that, it was on the bestseller list for ten months. According to Sparks, A Walk to Remember was his favorite novel to write and the only one to actually make him cry while writing it. Probably because his own sister was the inspiration for this story.

In the novel, we get the sweet high school love story of Landon Carter and Jamie Sullivan which breaks all our hearts when we find out that 17 year old Jamie has terminal leukemia. 

Now, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect going into this read. Like I mentioned before, A Walk to Remember has been a favorite movie of mine for many years and I've seen it countless times. I had people tell me the book was so much better (not hard to believe, that's usually how it works), and that I would cry a lot while reading it (also realistic since I cry at the drop of a hat). 

Surprisingly, I remained pretty dry-eyed through the majority of the book....until the last chapter in which I sobbed my little heart out. To my relief, I found that the movie really did maintain the integrity of the book despite the modernization. In the book, the story is set in the late 50s while the movie updates the story to be set in the late 90s to appeal to a teenage audience. I wouldn't necessarily say the book is so much better: actually, I think they're pretty equal. This is probably due in large part to the fact that Sparks is a screenwriter as well as author, he had already sold the film rights to Warner Bros. before the book was even published, and the book is simple and easily adaptable to film in my opinion. There were a few things that were changed (like Landon's father's character) and some things that were omitted (like the collection of Jamie's donation jars around town), but I appreciate where they took the story on film as opposed to other famous film adaptions that break my heart (I'm looking at you 2005 Pride & Prejudice). 

All in all, I would recommend the book and the movie. I read the book in a day so it's not a huge investment of time to read it, and I'll love that movie forever so there's that. The messages that love changes you and love is sacrificial are right and worth remembering. I'm not ready to fall down the Nicholas Sparks hole and read all his novels after reading A Walk to Remember, but I'm glad I read this one. 

Have you read any of Nicholas Sparks' books? What's your favorite movie to watch for a good cry? 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"One person of integrity can make a difference, a difference of life and death.
As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true.
As long as one child is hungry, our life will be filled with anguish and shame.
What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone;
that we are not forgetting them,
that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours,
that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs."

~Elie Wiesel~

Monday, June 4, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : Sisterchicks Do the Hula!

Sisterchicks Do the Hula! was the last book I read in April (yes, I know we're so behind with the recaps), and it was just what I needed after reading Night and The Kite Runner. I chose this book because I needed to knock out another book from my 2018 list (I subjected myself to The Kite Runner without it even being on my list!), but I also needed something full of beauty and light and I knew Robin Jones Gunn wouldn't let me down. 

In Sisterchicks Do the Hula!, best friends Hope and Laurie are determined to celebrate their 40th birthdays together in Hawaii, even when one of them unexpectedly finds herself expecting a new addition to her family. 

This is the second of Robin Jones Gunn's Sisterchicks books that I've read, and while Sisterchicks in Sombreros might have slightly edged this one out for my favorite so far, I still loved Sisterchicks Do the Hula!, and I especially loved it after the other dark reads I got mired in during April. 

For those of you who know me or have followed this blog for any length of time, you know that Robin Jones Gunn is one of my very favorite authors. For those of you who may be new around here, I've been reading her books since I was in middle school. She has a series about a girl named Christy Miller and from the very first book I ever read about Christy, I was hooked on Robin Jones Gunn. In the first Christy book, it's the summer of Christy's 15th birthday and Robin has continued to write about this character until she is grown up, married, and having babies. Her most recent book about Christy came out just last November. 

Since I've been an adult, I've branched out into Robin's non-Christy related work and I love all of it just as much. I was super-psyched to grab 4 of her 8 Sisterchicks novels on my church's free table a while back, and I've been doing my best to not just sit and read them all (which would inevitably lead to a blissful swan dive back into the world of Christy and all the rest of Robin's work). I think I've been doing a pretty good job with the self-control so far though I've been sorely tempted to re-read her Glenbrooke series lately. 

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, I love Robin Jones Gunn and I have zero qualms about recommending any of her work to all my girlfriends out there. (I just don't see men appreciating her books the same way we women do, but hey, if any of you fellas want to read them, I say go for it.) Her books never fail to encourage my heart and lift my focus upward, and I'll always be grateful to her for that.

Have you read anything by Robin Jones Gunn? What author do you find yourself turning to when life gets yucky? Which Sisterchicks book should I read next? The two I have are Sisterchicks Down Under! and Sisterchicks Go Brit!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere."

~Elie Wiesel~

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : The Kite Runner

Oh y'all. I know this book was a #1 New York Times bestseller for over two years. I know all the reviews are stellar. I know everyone thinks it's so powerful and important and real. 

But I hated it. I really, really, really did not like it at all. Maybe reading it right after reading Night was not my finest decision and maybe that somehow affected my reaction, but I will not be picking up any more of Hosseini's books.

The Kite Runner was published in 2003 and is the first of Khaled Hosseini's three novels. After the success of this novel, Hosseini quit his career in medicine to become a writer full-time. 

The Kite Runner is about a boy named Amir and his horrible life. Like seriously, his life is just awful from pretty much the beginning of the book to the end. When you have a story filled to the brim with child rape, dysfunctional father/son relationships, the ravages of war, profanity, senseless executions, misplaced hope in an empty religion, child suicide, and let's just throw in infertility and nearly impossible inter-country adoptions for good measure, you have a story I don't want any part of. 

I've been processing this book and my reaction to it for weeks now and trying to pinpoint exactly why I am so strongly against it. Arguments that people have given me in defense of this book include the "realness" of it, the "redemptive" qualities in it, the attention it draws to a country and region that is in such constant and seemingly endless turmoil. I guess I can get where people are coming from. Maybe. A little. I wrote just last week on this very blog that I think it's important to read about the depths human depravity can reach, to educate ourselves, to remember. Knowledge is power. 

But this story is fiction. And I think my intense distaste for this book stems from the knowledge that these awful things do happen in real life. So why do we want to make up more bad stories with sad, hopeless endings and read them? Do you know what I mean? There's enough horror and tragedy in this world without creating more of it. I personally didn't find any redemptive qualities in this book. It was depressing to the very last word. I can't feel good about characters who have suffered through the very worst of human wickedness and have no higher eternal hope at the end of the story. That's not a good read for me. 

I read this book because of all its accolades and because friends whose literary opinions I trust recommended it to me. But I can't personally recommend it. The writing itself wasn't anything extraordinary or earth-shattering, and I was sorry I read it. Good luck to you if you decide to. 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Casual Fridays

First things first: I got a little "Currently Reading" widget on the blog! (It's the little things, y'all. And go me for even knowing what a widget is, right?!) Look over to the right of the screen and check it out. (If you read my blog on your phone, it's very likely that you'll need to scroll to the bottom of the page and click on "Web View" in order to see all the extras I have on the side of the blog. I wouldn't personally know because I'm back to that flip phone life, but that's usually how it works.) I created a GoodReads account solely for the purpose of getting that little widget for my blog. So if you ever just want to stop by and check on what I'm actually reading, you can! I'll do my best to keep it up to date. 

And now I will proceed to talk about my anniversary which may get me all sappy and romantic and braggy about my amazing husband so if that totally makes you gag, feel free to skip this part because I so get that. (But don't miss out on the crazy book haul which I will definitely be talking about later in this post.)

Our anniversary fell on a Saturday this year, and my sweetheart's schedule had him working the three days leading up to it (he's an emergency room nurse so his schedule is whack). So Friday night after another long 12-hour shift, he stopped by the store to pick up some goodies for our 4-day weekend. Usually, this means that he will walk in the door with flowers for me and I would be lying right now if I say that a teeny tiny corner of my heart wasn't a bit disappointed that that wasn't the case Friday night. 

However, I wake up at 4 in the morning alone in bed and go out in search of my husband. He intercepts me in the hallway and says he needed to get a drink of water or some such nonsense like that and sends me back to bed. Well, after several minutes of him still not coming back to the bedroom, I walk out to the front part of the house to find him arranging the most gorgeous dozen red roses you ever saw and setting up the table with this banner from our wedding day that I thought had never survived the drive away from the church. Enter scene of Cody being so exasperated that I ruined his sweet surprise and me having an emotional meltdown because I actually married the best guy on the planet and I can't even handle it. We ended up staying awake and exchanging cards (which were not identical but they both said "Happy You & Me Day" on the front—stop it), reading our love letters out loud to one another (more waterworks: we wrote these as a part of our pre-marital counseling and they are framed and hang in a prominent place in our home—even if you're already married and didn't do this, I highly recommend it; it's the sweetest), and dancing to our song (I warned you how sappy this could get, don't hate me). The whole morning is my new favorite memory and I never want to forget a single detail. 

I love you, Cody Aaron Hancock, and I don't deserve you. 

Anyway (for those of you trying to get past all the mush, here's where you should tune back in), later that morning, we drove out to Lake Wales to check out a new little used bookstore I've been hearing whispers about, and we hit the mother lode, y'all. We walked out of there with no less than 14 books, and that was only after me getting through one shelf. You guys, I cannot recommend this place highly enough. It's called The Book Shelter and they're only open on Fridays and Saturdays from 10AM-6PM, but you need to check it out. They have a fantastic selection (obviously), great incentives (we got a free book just for finding the silverfish—ask me what this means), and the prices are insane (to put this in perspective, the stack of books from The Book Shelter on the left side of the roses cost less than the four new books from Barnes & Noble on the right side of the roses). I can't even, and yes I'm going to list all the books we got because I know you want to know. If you decide to check it out, tell them I sent you. 

And now for the books. The stack on the left side from top to bottom are as follows:

A Walk to Remember : Nicholas Sparks
Hatchet : Gary Paulsen
Dogsong : Gary Paulsen
Mrs. Dalloway : Virginia Woolf
The Joy Luck Club : Amy Tan
The Devil in the White City : Erik Larson
Housekeeping : Marilynne Robinson
Lila : Marilynne Robinson
Gilead : Marilynne Robinson
The Idiot : Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Scarlet Pimpernel : Baroness Orczy
Love in the Time of Cholera : Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Beloved : Toni Morrison
East of Eden : John Steinbeck


And the new ones from Barnes & Noble because we don't just throw tradition to the wind even when we've already bought 14 books somewhere else:

Present Concerns : C.S. Lewis
The Woman in White : Wilkie Collins
I Am The Messenger : Markus Zusak
The Hunt for Red October : Tom Clancy

Cody only chose three out of all of these. I have a problem. We also walked down the street from The Book Shelter and finally spent a gift card I've literally had since our wedding. Six years seemed like long enough to hang onto it. And, of course, we had our date night to The Melting Pot and Barnes & Noble. Six years and it just keeps getting sweeter. 
The Melting Pot : 5/19/2018
Have you read any of the books from my list up there? Can you guess which three Cody picked out? Can you guess which two I've already read since Saturday?