Book Review: Promise Me This

In the novel Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke, Owen and Annie Allen have been raised by their manipulative Aunt Eleanor in England ever since their parents died. Now Owen has trained himself as a gardener and is about to set off for a new life in New Jersey with their aunt and uncle on their father’s side. He can’t take Annie with him yet, which makes her furious. But he removes her from Aunt Eleanor’s house to a school until he can send for her.

As Owen gets ready to sail on the Titanic in a week, he meets a young street kid, Michael Dunnagan. Owen has compassion on him, shares his food, and gives him odd jobs until time to leave.

Michael picks up another job making deliveries to the Titanic. He muses that in a ship that size, he could hide away and escape from his abusive uncle.

Within just a few days at sea, Owen discovers Michael and takes him into his quarters. He shares his food as well as his plans and dreams to start a new life in New Jersey and send for Annie as soon as possible.

Then comes the fateful night the Titanic hits the iceberg. Owen sends Michael off with the women and children and wraps him in the jacket where he had sewn his precious seedling samples in the lining. Michael fights with everything he has to stay with Owen, but Owen insists and bodily pushes Michael to safety.

After a series of events, Michael finds his way to Owen’s aunt in New Jersey and tells her all that has happened. She takes him in and tells him about the trouble she faces which Owen had not yet heard. In their grief, they decide to try to make a go of Owen’s plans. Michael is determined to bring Annie home.

Annie is devastated, angry, and bitter, not only that Owen died, but that Michael lived instead. Back in Aunt Eleanor’s clutches, Annie finds herself responding in kind and becoming more like her.

When Michael first writes to Annie, she sends the letter back. But soon a tentative friendship begins. Annie trains as a nurse while she waits to go to NJ. And then WWI breaks out.

My thoughts:

When I reviewed Cathy’s Saving Amelie, which became one of my top ten books of last year, I mentioned wanting to read more of Cathy’s books. A couple of people mentioned this story. When I discovered it was partially based on the Titanic, I planned to start it in conjunction with our visit to the Titanic museum.The book did enhance my visit and vice versa.

Cathy mentions in her afterword that there was a Titanic passenger named Owen Allum who was a gardener, but not much else was known about him. I enjoyed reading how she created his and Annie’s stories and what influenced her.

The Titanic section is just the first part of the book, however. I loved the example of laying down one’s life for another as Owen did. And then Michael and Annie each had to learn what it meant to love others and to receive love.

Some of my favorite quotes:

No matter what pain, what hard things come to us in life—and pain and trouble come to all of us—no matter what dark roads we walk or poor choices we make, it is not the end of the story.

It’s no good being fearful. Worry won’t change the future a whit, and it misses the joy of this glad day.

Each morning, when we wake—if we wake—we pick up whatever it is we’ve been given to carry for that day, with the sweet Lord Jesus in the yoke beside us to tote the load. Each night we lay it down, giving it into God’s hands. If it’s still there in the morning, we pick it up and begin again. If the burden is gone or if there is something different, we know where to start.

“Growing is a patient thing, lad,” Daniel explained. “You must give all living things time to adjust to their new surroundings, their new soil, then time to grow, as well.”

Does your hate make you happy, my dear, or does it continually eat through you, a cancer of its own making? Does the constant fueling of that angry fire not exhaust you and take away from living the wonderful life you’ve been given?

I loved the characters (including some not mentioned here) and the story. I loved how Cathy pulled us in to empathize with them in their anger, pain, and hope. Highly recommended.

January-March 2020 Reading List

Years ago, someone who is no longer blogging used to host a “Fall Into Reading” and “Spring Reading Fling,” where participants would share what they planned to read for the next few months and then come back and share what they actually did read. I always enjoyed reading those and added to my TBR list exponentially.

Susanne misses those posts, too, and has decided to start up an informal quarterly reading list sign-up. I thought this might be a good way to break up my larger reading plans into smaller goals. You can find more information here and join in here, if you’d like.

Planning for the month or the quarter just involves looking through the unread books on my shelves, in my Kindle app, and in my audiobook library and deciding which I want to read next. It helps condense the reading decision time by doing it this way rather than every time I finish one book and look for another.

My two biggest challenges are the Back to the Classics Challenge and then two others that focus on reading books we already own (Mount TBR) or have had on our reading list a while.

For classics:

  • I’m currently listening to The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle.
  • Next up will be Sanditon, Jane Austen’s last, unfinished novel. Masterpiece Theatre has made a series based on the book, but I want to read the book before watching the program. I’ve put this one on hold at the library.
  • Hard Times by Charles Dickens
  • I might start Larkrise to Candleford by Flora Thompson next. My copy has three volumes in one, so it’s rather large. But I have also been wanting to watch the series based on these stories as well, and want to read the books first.

I’ll be hosting my last Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge Feb. 1-29 and will share on Feb. 1 what I am reading for that challenge. I have one book on hand and am considering another.

From my current stash:

I just finished Panosian: A Story of God’s Gracious Providence by Chris Anderson. Next are:

Nonfiction:

  • Good Tidings of Great Joy: A Collection of Christmas Sermons by Charles Spurgeon (currently reading)
  • Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam (currently reading).
  • The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home by Denise Kiernan about the Biltmore House. I loved what she did with The Girls of Atomic City, so I’m eagerly looking forward to this book.
  • Anne Morrow Lindbergh: Her Life by Susan Hertog

Fiction:

  • Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke, a novel involving a couple of people on the Titanic, one who survived and one who did not, and those who wished the results had been reversed (currently reading).
  • The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix
  • The Shopkeepers by Nancy Moser, a sequel to The Pattern Artist and The Fashion Designer, novels about a young women going into those professions in the early 1900s.
  • Castle on the Rise by Kristy Cambron, sequel to The Lost Castle, a novel involving three different timelines touching an old castle.
  • The One True Love of Alice Ann by Eva Marie Everson, a novel set in 1940s Georgia about a girl waiting for the one she loves to come home from WWII.

Those should keep me busy for a while! I’m looking forward to all of them. I probably won’t finish them all this quarter, but whatever I don’t finish will just go on next quarter’s list.

What’s on your reading horizon?

(Sharing with Susanne, Global Blogging, Senior Salon, Hearth and Soul, Happy Now, InstaEncouragement)

Book Review: Panosian: A Story of God’s Gracious Providence

Dr. Edward Panosian is one of the most beloved professors of my alma mater. But Panosian: A Story of God’s Gracious Providence by Chris Anderson would be beneficial to more than those who knew the doctor as a teacher. It’s not only the fascinating story of God’s hand in one family’s life. It’s the story of a people that were almost completely wiped out in the nearly forgotten Armenian Genocide.

Dr. Panosian taught several history and church history courses at Bob Jones University, but he’s most well-known for History of Civilization. Nearly every freshman took that course. For me, that class was the first time history “clicked” for me as something other than meaningless names and dates.

Students quickly became aware of Panosian’s distinctive voice and mastery of his subject. He pointed out God’s hand throughout history and made history interesting and relevant to students.

Soon students came to know their professor’s kindness, warmth, humor. He is known for many famous sayings, which Anderson lists in the book. He was a fixture riding his bike around campus.

When Dr. Panosian introduced himself the first day of class, he mentioned that he was Armenian. I thought something like, “Huh. I’ve never heard of anyone from Armenia before.” In those pre-Google days, I was, sadly, not curious enough to look up Armenia then. But there was a reason I had never heard of Armenians.

Armenia was a small Christian part of the Ottoman empire, a mostly Muslim entity. Armenians were persecuted for decades, but their ill-treatment culminated in mass murder, rape, exile, forced marches after WWI. Dr. Panosian’s great-grandfather was murdered by a mob in his family home, in front of his wife and children. His grandmother could not escape with all the children. She took one ill son with her to America, and the rest were taken to an orphanage run by German missionaries in Beirut. She didn’t see them or hear from them for nine agonizing years. That they survived and were found is miraculous.

Dr. Panosian’s father’s story is also told, and then we learn how God led Dr. Panosian to his university, wife, and calling.

Betty Panosian taught speech, particularly storytelling. For years she told and read classic stories that were heard on a local radio station Friday nights. She has narrated a few books, and she and Dr. Panosian read Scripture on Scripture Meditations 1 and 2 CDs (some of the latter can be heard here).

Some might be familiar with Dr. Panosian through the university’s Unusual Films productions or through his multiple roles in various Shakespeare plays. His foray into acting had an amusing beginning.

Dr. Panosian also, at someone’s suggestion, created presentations of famous people in history, like Martin Luther, telling their story from a first person point of view. He has given these presentations at a number of churches around the country.

I have several places marked in the book. Here are just a few quotes:

After risking everything to come to America, and after enduring grueling journeys across the Atlantic in cramped and squalid ships, immigrants now had to fret about whether they would actually be let in. It wasn’t a given. Ellis Island was a place of inspection, interrogation, and sometimes quarantine. For some, it was a place of rejection. Imagine arriving so close to the American “Paradise,” only to be sent back to the very country you had fled. For some, Lady Liberty was a sentry, not a hostess. Debates over immigration policies are nothing new. If anything, the debate over granting asylum to refugees was more volatile a century ago than it is today (p. 62).

Betty Panosian tells how she needed a tutor to help her catch up in a class she missed part of to participate in a radio program: “I looked around the class to see who made the As, and I saw Ed. He always knew everything. And so I asked him if he’d help me; and he’s been helping me ever since” (p. 127).

When Dr. Panosian taught his last History of Civilization class after 48 years, he quipped, “This is the end of the history of civilization  as we have known it” (p. 144).

You might recognize author Chris Anderson’s name from his penning hymns like “His Robes for Mine” and “My Jesus Fair.”

I got both the paperback copy of this book plus the audiobook when it came out later. The audiobook is read primarily by Anderson, with Dr. Panosian reading parts. Betty Panosian and a few other voices contribute as well. It was so good to hear the Panosians’ voices again.

Here is a book trailer for this volume:

This trailer is a bit longer, with Dr. Panosian telling some of his story.

Though this book will have special meaning to those who knew the Panosians personally, I think anyone could gain much by reading it.

Reading Plans for 2020

There are some books you don’t get around to reading unless you plan to. Participating in some book challenges has helped be more purposeful in my reading. But I have found I also need flexibility. I don’t want to feel pressured and tied down by a reading list. I want the freedom to pick up books discovered during the year, new releases, etc. But I also want to read more classics and more books from my own shelves or list of recommendations. There are two main reading challenges I participate in every year, and sometimes I try a few others as well. Thankfully the books can overlap several challenges: otherwise I could probably only do one or two.

So this year, I’ll participate in these challenges:

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge begins here February 1-29. This will be my last year to host it. I have one book in mind for it this year, which I’ll share Feb. 1.

Tarissa at In the Bookcase hosts the Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge in June.

Tarissa also hosts the Literary Christmas Reading Challenge November through December.

Karen at Books and Chocolate is hosting the Back to the Classics challenge again this year. Books have to be 50 years old for this challenge and fit into the following categories. We don’t have to determine them all at this point, but I’ll list a few I have in mind.

1. 19th Century Classic: Hard Times by Charles Dickens
2. 20th Century Classic
3. Classic by a Woman Author: Eight Cousins by Louisa My Alcott
4. Classic in Translation (originally written in something other than your native language): Possibly Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. I read it a long time ago but can’t remember much about it.
5. Classic by a Person of Color
6. A Genre Classic
7. Classic with a Person’s Name in the Title: The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens.
8. Classic with a Place in the Title: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire by Howard Pyle
9. Classic with Nature in the Title: Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott
10. Classic About a Family (multiple members of the same family as principal characters)
11. Abandoned Classic (one you started but never finished). Possibly Billy Budd by Herman Melville. I was supposed to read that for a college class but never finished.
12: Classic Adaptation (Any classic that’s been adapted as a movie or TV series): I might try Larkrise to Candleford by Flora Thompson. It’s long, but I’ve been wanting to read it and see the series.

Most of these books would fit in many of the categories, so I might change them around as I decide on the rest of the titles.

Karen draws a name from participants at the end of the year to receive a $30 gift card towards books, and the number of categories you finish determines how many entries you get.

mount-tbr-2017Bev at My Reader’s Block hosts the Mount TBR Challenge to encourage us to read the books we already own.. Every 12 books read is another level or “mountain” climbed. We don’t have to list the books yet, but we do have to commit to a level. I am committing to Mt. Vancouver (36 books). I’ve been able to reach that pretty easily the last couple of years. The one main rule here is that the books have to have been owned by us before January 1, 2020.

Bev is also hosting the Virtual TBR Reading Challenge, like the Mount TBR except that the first one requires you to own the books you’re reading. The virtual one can include borrowed books or books on your to-be-read list that you don’t own yet. I haven’t done this one before, but I think I can commit to Mount Rum Doodle, 12 books.

The Backlist Reader Challenge sign-up link

The Backlist Reader Challenge is new to me this year. It encourages reading books on our want-to-read list, whether we already own them or not. The only caveat is they have to have been published before 2018 and be a book you’ve already been considering. Lark will give away a $15 Amazon or Book Depository gift certificate at the end of the year. Since most of the Mount TBR and Virtual Mount TBR books will qualify for this challenge, I’m going to aim for 30.

The Audiobook Challenge is new to me, too. But since I listen to several a year (usually classics), it should be easy. I’m aiming for the Stenographer level (10-15 audiobooks). there will be a couple of giveaways with this challenge, on June 30 and December 15.

Yet another new one to me is the For the Love of Ebooks Challenge, which, as the name implies, involves reading ebooks. A good chunk of my TBR books are in my Kindle app, so I think I could do the Semi-Pro status (10-19).

Finally, I am going to try the Nonfiction Reading Challenge since I read several a year anyway. I’m only going to aim for the Nonfiction Nibbler (6 books), though, since I am not interested in all the categories for the next level.

Thanks to Tarissa and Lisa for introducing me to a few that I hadn’t heard of before.

I would never do all these except that they can overlap, and many involve types of reading I already do. There are still several other interesting challenges out there that I decided against!

Do you participate in any reading challenges or make reading plans for the year?

The Last Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge

Forgive me, I should have had this up a week or more ago. It’s been busy, and we were out of town for a bit.

With the month of February comes the annual Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge, which will take place February 1-29. Since this is a leap year, we have an extra day!

Last year I shared why I thought Laura Ingalls Wilder was still worth reading.

The idea is to read anything by or about Laura Ingalls Wilder. Some have also incorporated some LIW activities during that month. It’s not required, but I love to see and hear about it.

I chose February for this challenge since her birth and death both occurred in February. If you’re looking for something other than the Little House books, I posted a Laura-related book list here.

I’ll have a sign-up post here on February 1st. You can join in any time during the month. You don’t have to have a blog to participate, but if you do, I welcome you to post about the books you read or any activities you might do. I’ll have a wrap-up post here on Feb. 29 where you can share your individual posts and/or a summary post. If you don’t have a blog, you can let us know in the comments on that post what you read. If you do your reviewing on GoodReads, yo can link that post as well.

No need to share now what you are going to read: you can save that for our sign-up post Feb. 1. I just wanted to give you a heads-up that the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge is coming!

You may have noticed the title of this post mentioned the last LIW reading challenge. I’ve enjoyed hosting this challenge since 2012. I’ve thought about ending it the last couple of years due to waning participation and coming to an end of Laura-related things I wanted to read. But each year I’d come across another interesting book or two and decide to keep on. Now, however, I believe it’s time for me to draw this challenge to a close. If someone else would like to take it up next year, I’d be happy for you to do so.

For now, we’ll have one last hurrah here. I’m sure I’ll read the whole series again some time in the future. I have at least one other book in mind for this year’s challenge: I’ll let you know what it is on the February sign-up post, and I look forward to seeing your choices then, too!

Book Review: Seasons of the Heart: A Year of Devotions from One Generation of Women to Another

Seasons of the Heart: A Year of Devotions from One Generation of Women to Another was compiled by Donna Kelderman from the writings of “twelve godly women from both Great Britain and America who lived from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries” (from the Preface).

Some of these women’s names are familiar. Susannah Spurgeon was the wife of oft-quoted pastor C. H. Spurgeon and had a thriving writing ministry herself. Frances Ridley Havergal was the author of several hymns we still sing today, like “Take My Life and Let It Be.” Harriet Newell and her husband sailed out with Adoniram and Ann Judson to India as America’s first foreign missionaries, and she died just a year later. Her writing was published posthumously.

I did not know the rest of the ladies, but Donna has a page-long biography of each one at the end of the book. She says in the preface that the ladies came from a variety of backgrounds. Some were married, some were single. Some had children, some did not. Some were widows. Many faced a variety of health issues. Some faced persecution. Some were published authors in their day. Some of the writing is taken from journals or letters.

One thing true of all the women is that their writing is saturated with Scripture. Donna notes that some of the letters and journals were written informally with Scripture, hymns, etc. incorporated from memory without chapter and verse notations. That’s my biggest takeaway from this book: to minister to others spiritually, we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and filled with His Word.

I have many places marked, but here are just a few quotes (there are no page numbers, so I’ll note the dates the quotes are from:

Sermons, instruction, and good books are all useful and blessed of God, but do not only be contented with what good men say or write about the Bible. Read it for and apply it to yourselves, seeking the help of the divine Spirit. Thus, draw water for yourselves out of the wells of salvation. Take each of you your own pitcher to the eternal fountain … the “water of life,” which we are to take so “freely,” is far best also at its source. Search the Scriptures, therefore, for yourselves. Despise no helps to understand the Scriptures, but above all read God’s Book quietly and with prayer, and think about it (Elizabeth Julia Hasell, January 28).

Shine on us, shine in us, shine through us—and in such light there will be living warmth (Ruth Bryan, February 28).

To know that He is ours, and that we are His. To draw near in faith telling Him all that is in our hearts, conscious of having the ear and heart of Jehovah toward us. Is this not true substantial happiness? (Mary Winslow, March 16).

May this trial be as a lattice through which Jesus will show Himself to your soul … [Concerning those delivered through the parted sea] It might be that “little faith” looked at the walls of water and feared they would give way, but those fears did not make the promise of no effect, though they might rob the soul of comfort (Ruth Bryan, March 26, emphasis mine).

Many times the Lord has had to disturb our nest and bring us out of some earthly refuge that was becoming too easy and too dear to our soul. But, as music sounds the sweetest when heard across the waters, so do God’s dealings make the purest harmony in our hearts when they reach us over the waves of trial and affliction (Susannah Spurgeon, April 7).

The ground of Paul’s belief was not something, but Someone. Simply, I believe God! This belief, of course, includes all His messages … (Frances Ridley Havergal, May 8).

It is no light matter when He calls the understanding, the will, and the affections each to bring their favorite objects and deliver them up to the fire that must either purify or consume, but this He will do to everyone that He has formed for Himself (Sarah Hawkes, May 9).

Time has not altered Christ’s heart, no, nor all the weaknesses and provocations He has seen in you; but having loved you freely and fully, He will love you eternally (Anne Dutton, May 29).

We often pray, “Lord, increase our faith.” In answering this prayer, the Lord places us in such circumstances as call it forth (Mary Winslow, June 6).

Oh, never shrink from the probing of our beloved Physician. Dearer and dearer will the hand become as we yield to it. Sweeter and sweeter will be the proofs that He is our own faithful Friend, who only wounds that He may perfectly heal (Frances Ridley Havergal, June 13, emphasis mine).

If by many poor attempts I may be used to stir up but one warm loving remembrance of Him, I shall be thankful. Satan is ever striving to divert the mind from this object. He will allure or alarm, he will use what is pleasing or painful, anything to keep the soul from delighting in Jesus, from looking unto Jesus, and believing in Him for life and salvation (Ruth Bryan, July 16, emphasis mine).

The soul that has learned the blessed secret of seeing God’s hand in all that concerns it cannot be a prey to fear; it looks beyond all second causes straight into the heart and will of God and rests content because He rules (Susannah Spurgeon, August 3).

I cannot tell you how sad it is to my heart when I find this savor lacking in some who have been long in the Lord’s ways, and active in serving Him too. They are cumbered with many things, and too little alone with Jesus, without which we shall become like salt which has lost its savor. It matters not what great works there be if the spice of love be lacking (Ruth Bryan, October 23).

Religion composed of mere desires will not do for a dying bed (Mary Winslow, October 27).

The spiritual sloth that arises from indifference and the spiritual debility that arises from unbelief are equally dangerous to the soul (Susan Huntington, November 6).

Like as the natural sun may be obscured from our view by some passing cloud, so may the comforting rays of the Sun of righteousness be for a time obscured by some mental cloud through which our faith is unable to penetrate. And then we soon begin to fear and say, “My beloved has withdrawn Himself!” To the law and to the testimony, therefore, we will turn rather than to sense and feeling, and, under the darkest cloud, rest upon His blessed word of promise—”I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” It is in order to produce, or rather to exercise, this stability of faith that we are suffered sometimes to walk in darkness. Every true Christian has his winter and summer seasons. It is only in that blessed country, toward which we are hastening, that there is one unclouded day (Sarah Hawkes, November 12, emphasis mine).

Praise has the power to lift the soul above all care as if on wings (Susannah Spurgeon, November 25).

There is no true separation from the things which Jesus calls us to leave without a corresponding separation unto things which are incomparably better (Frances Ridley Havergal, November 26).

Donna said that she “lightly updated” the language from the originals. I looked up the original sources of some of these in order to quote them, and that made me immensely appreciate Donna’s editing. In just a few places, the language is still a little hard to plow through, but it’s not insurmountable.

My one slight disappointment is that, this being a book by women for women, there were hardly any passages pertaining specifically to women. I believe women’s books shouldn’t just focus on what are called the “pink passages” of the Bible relating to women. We should read and study the whole counsel of God: all of it speaks to us. But since it does contain some special passages for women, it would have been nice to have  little Titus 2 teaching.

Nevertheless, in encouraging a close walk with God, diligent study of His Word, faith in Him through every circumstance, and vigilant combat against sin, this book will touch all areas of life. This is a book I can highly recommend.

(Sharing with Booknificent)

King Lear

Shakespeare’s King Lear has decided he’s old enough to “shake all cares and business from our age, Conferring them on younger strengths, while we Unburdened crawl toward death.” Retirement was not prevalent in those days, though—especially not for kings. And though Lear speaks of crawling towards death, he’s still vigorous enough to want to retain his title, a certain amount of power and authority, and 100 knights. So his first mistake in the play is trying to slough off responsibilities he should have maintained.

Lear’s second mistake is pitting his daughters against one another to appeal to his vanity. He wants to hear how much they love him, and he’ll divide up his kingdom proportionately according to their answers. Daughters Regan and Goneril lay the flattery on pretty thickly. But Cordelia, his youngest and favorite, refuses to play along though she loves him (and will later prove to be the only one of his children who truly does).

So Lear banishes Cordelia. Kent, one of his most trusted advisors, tries to talk sense into the king and is banished as well.

Regan and Goneril then scheme with their husbands to crowd Lear and and take over fully.

A subplot involves Gloucester, a lord with one legitimate and one illegitimate son. Not only is Gloucester immoral, he makes lecherous jokes about his illegitimate son’s mother right in front of the son. The illegitimate one, Edmund, resents his position and treatment and makes up a story that his brother, Edgar, is plotting against their father. Gloucester shows a lack of wisdom and discernment by believing Edmund outright without checking on the facts.

So there are parallels in both families with good kids vs. bad kids, power struggles, old men acting foolishly, younger people acting treacherously.

King Lear is a tragedy, so most of the characters do not fare well by the end. Some exhibit unspeakable cruelty. But a few—Cordelia, Kent, Edgar, a couple of servants—show kindness and compassion even though they are the most wronged.

One of the play’s themes is seeing clearly. When Kent stands up to Lear, he encourages him to “See better, Lear.” Gloucester’s eyes are gouged out in what many consider one of the most violent scenes in play history. It’s only after losing his physical sight that he begins to see the truth about himself and his sons. It’s only after Lear is turned out that he begins to understand he was foolish.

There are a number of other themes throughout the play: power, generational conflicts, loyalty, forgiveness, justice.

I listened to an audiobook version called SmartPass Plus Audio Education Study Guide to King Lear. It seems to be geared for high school students. A Passmaster gives an introduction, takes a “student” back to Shakespeare day and discusses aspects about him, the times, the Globe Theatre. Then the Passmaster provides commentary and explanation all throughout the play. I admit it got a bit tedious having the dialogue interrupted every few lines. But I am so glad I listened to this version. The acting was excellent. I got much more from hearing the tones and inflections than I would have just from reading. And the commentary did provide valuable insight. Not only did the Passmaster explain what was going on in the play, she couched some of the activity and dialogue in the times, explained the difference between what words meant then vs. now, etc.

In some ways the introductory material in the audio version gave me more than I needed to know to understand the play. But I did enjoy the information about the Globe Theatre. It appeared round and had a thatched roof around the outside. The middle was open to the sky, and the cheaper tickets allowed people to stand in the middle, under the open roof. More expensive seats were in tiers under the thatch roof.

A classic play was one of the categories for the Back to the Classics Reading Challenge. After considering a couple of options, I decided to listen to King Lear. My alma mater used to put on one or two Shakespeare plays a year, and Lear was one of my favorites. So I really enjoyed hearing it again.

I knew that Shakespeare could be bawdy in places. My school had sanitized their productions, but this version does not. I wouldn’t have caught some of crudity without the Passmaster explaining what some terms meant then.

But overall, this was an excellent production of a great play. It has so many layers, I am still thinking about them days later.

Have you read or seen or listened to King Lear? What’s your favorite Shakespeare play?

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent)

Literary Christmas Reading Challenge Wrap-up 2019

A Literary Christmas: Reading Challenge // inthebookcase.blogspot.comTarissa of In the Bookcase hosts the Literary Christmas Reading Challenge each year in November and December. The basic idea is to read Christmas books!

I didn’t get to all the books I would have liked, but I enjoyed finished these (titles link back to my reviews):

I started Good Tidings of Great Joy: A Collection of Christmas Sermons by Charles Spurgeon but am only about halfway through. I thought I could read a short section at a time, like a devotional book. I could, but I just didn’t get as much from the sermon until I read each one as a whole. Since they’re a bit long, I’m having to wait til Saturdays when I have a bit more time to read them in one sitting.

I always enjoy reading Christmas books in December. It’s even more fun to do so with this challenge. Than you, Tarissa, for hosting it!

My Top Ten Books of 2019

Forgive me for doubling up on posts this week. The year is running out fast, and there are a few things I wanted to post before the end of it.

I just shared the 76 books I read this year. I enjoyed most of them. A few of them had disappointing elements, but I was still able to glean a few good things from them. Some had subjects I considered highly valuable. Others had excellent writing. Many had characters that touched my heart. But for the ones I chose as my favorites, all of those elements came together.

Some of these are decades old; others are brand new. But of all the books I read this year, these are my favorites (titles link back to my reviews):

AmelieSaving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke. In this novel, Rachel Kramer’s father is a genetic scientist working with Hitler in the early days of the Reich.  As she learns more about her father’s research, she’s horrified by the implications. An old friend is afraid for the life of her daughter, Amelie, who is deaf and thereby a blight on her husband’s Aryan bloodline. She asks Rachel to take her daughter away before harm comes to her. Rachel and the girl are blocked from leaving Germany and must find a place to hide. They’re helped by an American journalist, who knows more than the country will let him report.

There were so many good parts to this book. I had not read Cathy before, but I am definitely looking up more of her work.

MoonI’ll Watch the Moon by Ann Tatlock. Set in the years just after WWII, this novel focuses on 9-year-old Nova. She lives with her mother and brother in a boarding house. Her mother is beaten down by loss and hardship. The other boarding house residents form a patched-together family. One theme of the book is that every heart has its secrets sorrows, and some of these are revealed as the story progresses. And, as their stories come to light, and Nova goes through her own set of hard circumstances, another theme emerges: we often can’t explain why things happen the way they do. But we can trust God is with us. This book was so beautifully and tenderly written, I immediately  went on to read everything else by Ann that I had collected in Kindle sales.

Every Secret Thing by Ann Tatlock. Elizabeth Gunnar becomes a teacher at the academy she had attended. One of her teachers, Mr. Dutton, had encouraged and nurtured her love of literature and inspired her to become an English teacher herself. Something terrible had happened to him that the school officials covered up, and the story comes out in bits and pieces. Elizabeth is still trying to come to terms with all that happened all these years later. Elizabeth speaks often of what she calls “moments of being.” She borrowed the phrase from Virginia Woolf, who described them as “a sudden shock, a welcome shock, in which she sensed something beyond the visible, or, as she wrote, the shock ‘is or will become a revelation of some order; it is a token of some real thing behind appearances.’” Elizabeth felt those moments were God manifesting Himself or trying to get our attention. A crisis with one of her students has ramifications for Elizabeth as well. I loved the era this was set in, close to my own high school days. Overall this is a beautiful, redemptive story and one of my favorites of Ann’s.

Sarah’s Promise by Leisha Kelly. Leisha’s series about the Wortham family during and after the Depression was a treasure. This book is the last in the series, as the characters who were children in the first books have grown up, and a couple of them are about to marry. Their faith has been tested by loss and heartache. They’ve had good examples in the Worthams, but now need to venture out on their own journey of faith. Sarah wants what’s safe and familiar, but Frank feels God pulling him in a new direction. Frank has suffered a lifetime of being “different,” and his father’s verbal abuse has undermined his confidence. But God brings along someone to minister to him at his lowest point.

annabel leeAnnabel Lee by Mike Nappa. Mike is another new-to-me author, and this story had me on the edge of my seat all the way through. Annabel Lee lives with her uncle, called Truck, and his scary dog in small-town Alabama. Suddenly one day Truck takes Annabel to an underground bunker, leaves the dog with her, and tells her sternly not to open the door for anyone, including him, without the safe code. An old friend of Truck’s named Samuel and his ex-partner Trudi get involved. A mysterious “Dr. Smith” seeks Truck’s information and whereabouts. The Mute is an ex-military sniper friend of Truck’s who’s trying to find Annabel and rescue her. I loved the banter between Trudi and Samuel as well as the riveting story.

Princess

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Somehow I had never read this. Seven-year-old Sara Crewe has grown up in India with her beloved father. Now the time has come for Sara to go to a boarding school in England. The school headmistress fawns over Sara because her father is rich, and many of the girls dislike her for those reasons. Sara herself seems unaffected by her wealth, She tries to act like a princess, not because of riches but because a princess would always do the right and honorable thing. When tragedy and misunderstanding occur, Sara is demoted to a servant, but still tries to act as a princess would. She’s not perfect: she struggles with her temper and pride. This is a sweet riches-to-rags-to-riches story, and I loved the theme that the way we act and treat others shouldn’t depend on how much money or status we or they have.

On Writing Well by William Zinsser is on just about every list of recommended books for writers I’ve ever seen. There’s not much I can say about it without quoting great chunks of it. If you want to write, especially nonfiction, this is a classic you should read.

Read the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding and Living God’s Word by George H. Guthrie. I got this book because I enjoyed the author’s blog. Most of the chapters are the result of interviews Guthrie conducted with experts in various fields of Bible study. he covers everything from “Foundational Issues,” like how to read it, reading it in context and for transformation. etc.; the various genres in the Old Testament: stories, laws, psalms and proverbs, and prophets; the different types of literature in the New Testament: stories, Jesus’ teachings, epistles (letters), and Revelation.

Engaging the Scripture: Encountering God in the Pages of His Word by Deborah Haddix covers the same subject matter as Guthrie’s book, but there are several differences. I don’t want to pit them against each other, as they are both good in their own ways. I love Deborah’s emphasis on engaging the Scripture—not just reading an assignment, not just searching for information, but deepening our relationship with God.

Suffering Is Never For Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot, released just this year, is “a very slight adaptation” of a series of talks Elisabeth gave at a conference years ago. Many years ago I read a different book by Elisabeth on this topic, A Path Through Suffering. At first I thought this was a republication of that book by a different name. It’s not, though. Some of the information probably overlaps, but they are two different books, both worthy to be read and extremely helpful.

That’s my top ten this year. What were some of your favorite books read in 2019?

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Senior Salon, Sherry, Hearth and Soul,
Purposeful Faith, Happy Now, InstaEncouragement, Carole’s Books You Loved,
Anchored Abode, Worth Beyond Rubies, Booknificent, Grace and Truth)

Books Read in 2019

Reading, as you know, is one of my favorite pastimes. By my count, I read 76 books this year. I didn’t distinguish between Kindle, paper, or audiobooks. Most of the classics were audiobooks, but I usually looked up parts in a Kindle or library or online Gutenberg version. I think I had a good variety of fiction and nonfiction, old and new.

Here’s what I read this year:

Classics:

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner

How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott

King Lear by William Shakespeare

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington.

The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Christian Fiction:

All the Way Home by Ann Tatlock

Among the Fair Magnolias by Dorothy Love, Tamera Alexander, Elizabeth Musser, and Shelley Gray

Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa

Baby, It’s Cold Outside by Susan May Warren.

Canteen Dreams by Cara Putnam

The Carousel Painter by Judith Miller

Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock

Christmas Stitches: A Historical Romance Collection: 3 Stories of Women Sewing Hope and Love Through the Holidays by Judith Miller, Nancy Moser, and Stephanie Grace Whitson

Close to Home by Deborah Raney

The Christmas Heirloom by Karen Witemeyer, Kristi Ann Hunter, Sarah Loudin Thomas, and Becky Wade

A Constant Heart by Siri Mitchell

Every Secret Thing by Ann Tatlock

The Fashion Designer by Nancy Moser

A Flower in Bloom also by Siri Mitchell

Home at Last by Deborah Raney

I’ll Watch the Moon by Ann Tatlock

Jessie’s Hope by Jennifer Hallmark

Katie’s Dream by Leisha Kelly

Kill Order by Adam Blumer

A Place Called Morning by Ann Tatlock

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay

A Promise in Pieces by Emily T. Wierenga

Promises to Keep by Ann Tatlock

Rachel’s Prayer by Leisha Kelly

The Returning by Ann Tatlock

A Room of My Own by Ann Tatlock

Rorey’s Secret by Leisha Kelly

Sarah’s Promise by Leisha Kelly

Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke

She Makes It Look Easy by Marybeth Whalen

Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlikely Friends on the Passage to Freedom by Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey

Sweet Mercy by Ann Tatlock

Till Morning Is Nigh: A Wortham Family Christmas by Leisha Kelly

Travelers Rest by Ann Tatlock

Yuletide Treasure, two novellas by Lauraine Snelling and Jillian Hart

Other fiction:

Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis by Patti Callahan

Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy

Murder in an English Village by Jessica Ellicot

The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper

Strange Planet by Nathan W. Pyle, review coming soon.

The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright

Nonfiction:

Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior

Buried Dreams, Planted Hope by Katie and Kevin Neufeld

Christians Publishing 101 by Ann Byle. A writer’s conference in book form.

Daily Light on the Daily Path compiled by Samuel Bagster, not reviewed, read yearly for decades now.

Engaging the Scripture: Encountering God in the Pages of His Word by Deborah Haddix

Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave by Joanna Gaines

Honey, I Don’t Have a Headache Tonight by Sheila Wray Gregoire

How to Understand and Apply the New Testament by Andrew David Naselli

I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel.

Journaling for the Soul: A Handbook of Journaling Methods by Deborah Haddix

Laura Ingall’s Wilder’s Fairy Poems, compiled by Stephen Hines

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Songbook compiled and edited by Eugenia Garson

The Little Women Treasury by Carolyn Strom Collins and Christina Wyss Eriksson

Love Is Not a Special Way of Feeling, a reprint of Charles G. Finney’s Attributes of Love

Loving People: How to Love and Be Loved by John Townsend

On the Way Home and The Road Back by Laura Ingalls Wilder

On Writing Well by William Zinsser

Read the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding and Living God’s Word by George H. Guthrie

Seasons of the Heart: A Year of Devotions from One Generation of Women to Another compiled by Donna Kelderman.

Suffering Is Never For Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot

There’s a Reason They Call It GRANDparenting by Michele Howe

In just a moment I’ll post my top ten books of the year.

Do you make a list of the books you read each year?

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See also:

Why Read? Why Read Fiction? Why Read Christian Fiction?
Finding Time to Read
Why Listen to Audiobooks?

(Sharing with Senior Salon, Sherry, Hearth and Soul, Purposeful Faith, Happy Now, InstaEncouragement, Carole’s Books You Loved, Anchored Abode,
Worth Beyond Rubies, Booknificent, Grace and Truth)