Book Review: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Cold Outside

Dottie Morgan just wants to be left alone. Even at Christmas. Especially at Christmas. A part of her died when her son, Nelson, died in WWII. She’s not been well-favored in the town of Frost, Minnesota, since she ran off and married a “Dapper Dan” stranger, only to return pregnant and alone when her husband went to jail and later died. She and the town had held each at arm’s distance ever since. She felt that even God was keeping His distance from her because of her mistakes.

And then a blizzard trapped four other people in her house.

First Violet Hart came to tentatively ask Dottie about using the star she and Nelson had once made for the Christmas dance. But Violet got into an accident right in front of Dottie’s house and had to be tended to. Violet had been in the WAACs during WWII, a crack mechanic, but people didn’t respect her service. Now, even when she changed a light bulb or fuse, people wondered why she did a man’s job. But Violet had always felt more comfortable with mechanical issues than typical women’s pursuits. She had met one young man, Alex, overseas and corresponded for years. She had hoped he’d come to visit, but when her last letter came back stamped “Return to Sender,” she could only conclude he wasn’t interested, and she’d end up an old spinster like Dottie.

Jake Ramsey was the inadvertent cause of Violet’s accident when he tried to catch her. He had been Alex’s best friend all his life. When Alex died, all his belongings came to Jake, including Violet’s letters. Jake sort of took over Alex’s place, writing in his stead. In the process he began to get to know Dottie and then to love her. But how would she react when she learned that Alex had died and Jake had pretended to be him?

Gordy Lindholm had been Dottie’s neighbor across the street for as long as they could remember. He had loved her once. Still did, in fact. But she had married someone else. He had loved Nelson like his own, but Dottie resented that Gordy had taught Nelson to shoot and then inspired him to be a soldier. Dottie and Gordy had maintained a distant truce over the years, but he watched out for her, filled her wood bin and such. Now he heard the accident and went over to see what was wrong when the blizzard suddenly blew in. He could probably make it home, but it looked like he could be of help at Dottie’s house – if she’d let him.

Arnie Shiller had to stay after school as punishment for daydreaming. Darkness and cold descended on him as he made his way home, and then a sudden snow storm. He tried to make it home, but when that seemed impossible, he strove to make it to his designated Storm House, Mrs. Morgan’s.

Susan May Warren deftly weaves all these lives together in  Baby, It’s Cold Outside. I had started this before Christmas, but then set it aside to finish a library book that I could not renew due to holds on it. After Christmas I planned to put this book away for next Christmas. But I picked it up and read a few pages where I had left off – and got hooked into the story.

Susan has managed to write a tale of five wounded souls with all their flaws, unrecognized virtues, and issues without it becoming sappy or trite Christmas fare.

I loved this book. I loved each person’s story, their interactions, misunderstandings, and journey to make peace with God and each other.

And there were some brilliant moments throughout. As one example (in a slight spoiler), Arnie has been out in the cold too long when he is finally discovered. As they try to warm him, Jake explains that as feeling comes back into Arnie’s limbs, they’re going to be painful at first before they get better. In an aha moment, I realized that the exact same thing was happening to Dottie inwardly. All the emotions she had numbed since her son died were being rubbed back to life by all the circumstances and conversations, and at first they caused nothing but pain. I love that Susan made that parallel without being blatant about it, setting it up to dawn on the reader. She explains in her afterward another parallel or symbolism in the storm house itself.

A few quotes:

God doesn’t expect us to be strong without Him…we’re supposed to need Him, and there’s no disgrace in that. In fact, weakness just might be the mark of a man of God. Don’t call yourself weak because of the things you can’t do. Call yourself weak when you don’t let God take over, do His work in your life…That’s the point of Christmas, isn’t it? Our weakness, His strength? Him coming to our rescue? (pp. 225-226).

Hope, however fragile, is the one thing that keeps us from getting lost…We can’t stop the pain. We can only apply the comfort of God to it (p. 281).

Excellent book, even after Christmas.

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Book Review: Among the Fair Magnolias

magnolias Among the Fair Magnolias contains four different stories set in the Civil War-era South.

“A Heart So True” by Dorothy Love takes place in Pawley’s Island, SC. Abby Clayton’s father plans to run for governor and expects Abby to marry a distant cousin, Charles. But Abby’s previous encounters with Charles have turned her against him. Besides, she loves the country doctor. Will she end up marrying Charles out of duty, or will he show his true colors and convince her father Charles is not the man for her?

In “To Mend a Dream” by Tamera Alexander, Savannah Darby takes care of her sister and brother after the deaths of their parents and loss of their Nashville home. She works for a seamstress and suddenly finds herself tasked with sewing curtains for the new owners of her family’s home. This is an opportunity to find a box her father had told her he had hidden away on the property.  Bostonian Aidan Bedford had visited the area and bought the place after an unusual conversation with an enemy soldier whom he nicknamed Nashville. Aiden has brought his fiance to see the place and decorate it to her tastes, but the more time they spend together, the less sure he is of their engagement. But something about the seamstress working on their curtains intrigues him.

In “Love Beyond Limits” by Elizabeth Musser, the Civil War is over, the slaves are now working as freedmen and sharecroppers in Georgia, and Emily couldn’t be happier. She spends most of her time teaching former slaves how to read. Not everyone shares her joy, however: the Klan is dangerously active in the area. An old friend seeks Emily’s hand, but she can’t accept him because she loves another: one of the freedmen. But she can’t express her love because it would be dangerous for the man she loves. (This one had an unexpected double twist at the end!)

In “An Outlaw’s Heart” by Shelley Gray, Russell Stark has been on the run for years. He had defended his girlfriend, Nora, from an attack by his drunken father and killed him in the process. Both his mother and Nora told him to go, and he has spent most of his time with an outlaw gang. Now he’s come home to Fort Worth to find his mother seriously ill and his former girlfriend caring for her. Nora is still single but seeing another man, someone Russell thinks is hiding something. But will anybody believe an outlaw? And can he ever put his past behind him and move on?

Some of the characters in the stories were from other books by the authors, but I didn’t feel I was missing anything in the stories by not having read the previous books.

I got this book mainly because I love Elizabeth Musser’s writing. But I enjoyed all these stories, the lessons learned, and the journeys of faith for each one.

Reading Plans for 2019

I mentioned on last year’s list of books read that I like to find balance in my reading: some intention, but some flexibility; some classics, but some modern; some already on my shelves, but some new-to-me. It seems that these particular challenges have helped me find that best balance, plus they are fun to do together. They can overlap with each other, thankfully – otherwise I could only choose one or two.

So here are my reading plans for this year.

L. M. Montgomery Reading ChallengeCarrie hosts an annual Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge in January. I’m reading Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy. I was wary of it when I first heard of it, but then I read that the LMM estate was wary, too, yet liked it in the end. So I am reading out of curiosity but hoping it’s good.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge is hosted right here during the month of February! More information is here as well as an extended book list. On Feb. 1 I’ll post a sign-up post and share then what I’ll be reading.

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Tarissa at In the Bookcase hosts the Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge in June, so I will share at that time what I will read for that challenge.

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Tarissa also hosts the Literary Christmas Challenge for the last two months of the year. The main rule: read Christmas books!

btcc reading challenge 2019

Karen at Books and Chocolate hosts the Back to the Classics Challenge. She comes up with categories and we come up with a classic at least 50 years old to fit each category. She also gives away a prize – a $30 gift card to Amazon.com or The Book Depository. You get one entry for the prize drawing for six categories completed, two entries for nine categories completed, and three entries if you complete all twelve. We don’t have to name the books, but it helps me to do so, and we are allowed to change during the course of the year. As with each of these challenges, more information is provided at the links above. So the classics I am considering for this year include:

  1. 19th Century Classic: Probably The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
  2. 20th Century Classic (published between 1900 to 1969): How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
  3. Classic by a Woman Author. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  4. Classic in Translation (written originally in a language different from your own): Possibly Anna Karenina by Tolstoy after Carol’s review reassured me that it’s not what I had thought it was.
  5. Classic Comic Novel. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
  6. Classic Tragic Novel. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  7. Very Long Classic (500 or more pages): I’m considering Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell
  8. Classic Novella (250 or fewer pages): Possibly Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald. My copy has 192 pages.
  9. Classic From the Americas (includes the Caribbean). I may finally tackle The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzergerald or maybe The Last of the Mohicans by Janes Fenimore Cooper.
  10. Classic From Africa, Asia, or Oceania (includes Australia). I don’t know of anything offhand for this category, so I may borrow Karen’s idea of Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge.
  11. Classic From a Place You’ve Lived. Not sure about this one yet, but my choices are TX, SC, GA, and TN. Any suggestions?
  12. Classic Play. Probably either The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde or Our Town by Thornton Wilder.

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Adam at Roof Beam Reader hosts the TBR Pile Challenge to encourage us to get to those books on our shelves, Kindles, or TBR lists. For this one we have to name the books we are going to read, along with two alternates (in case we can’t get through a couple on our list). The books for this challenge have to have been published 2017 and earlier. And! Adam offers a prize: a drawing for a $50 gift card from Amazon.com or The Book Depository! Tempting for any book lover! So here is what I plan to read for this challenge:

  1. How to Understand and Apply the New Testament by Andrew David Naselli
  2. There’s a Reason They Call It GRANDparenting by Michele Howe
  3. The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright.
  4. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. Just received recently, but on my TBR list for a while now.
  5. Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior
  6. On Writing Well by William Zinsser. On my TBR list for a very long time.
  7. Katie’s Dream by Leisha Kelly. Loved her first two books and am eager to read this one.
  8. If I Run by Terri Blackstock
  9. Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlikely Friends on the Passage to Freedom by Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey
  10. Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa (2016)(Finished 1/13.19)
  11. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
  12. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

My alternates will be Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohkle and Close to Home by Deborah Raney

As I finish them, I’ll come back and link the title to my review. I’m including the publication dates as well to make it easier to make sure they qualify for the challnge.

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Bev hosts the Mount TBR Challenge to also encourage us to read the books we already own, but with a few differences. Every 12 books read is another level or “mountain” climbed. We don’t have to list the books yet (although some books for the above TBR challenge will count for this one as well), but we do have to commit to a level. I am committing to Mount Blanc (24 books). The one main rule here is that the books have to have been owned by us before January 1, 2019. But that means every book in my house and Kindle app on Jan. 1, even the ones I just got for Christmas, count! I appreciate that because too often I push my newer books back behind the ones that have been sitting there for a while.

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. I am not sure about this one yet.

A new-to-me challenge that I have heard of but not participated in before is Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge. The categories appealed to me, plus some of them overlap with my other challenges. I couldn’t quite tell if she had a graphic for participants to use for the challenge. My picks for this one:

A book you’ve been meaning to read: I could fill pages with this category. I’ve had The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright on my shelf for a few years. Since it’s supposed to be love letters, I’ll probably plan to read it in February around Valentine’s Day
A book about a topic that fascinates you: I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel
A book in the backlist of a favorite author: On Writing Well by William Zinsser is recommended by just about every book on writing that I have read.
A book recommended by someone with great taste: On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books by Karen Swallow Prior, recommended by Michele. Many on my TBR list are from Michele.
Three books by the same author: I loved two books by Leisha Kelly last year, so I plan to read her next three: Katie’s Dream, Rorie’s Secret, and Rachel’s Prayer.
A book you chose for the cover: This is not something I usually do, so I’ll have o see if any covers catch my eye this year.
A book by an author who is new to you:There’s a Reason They Call It GRANDparenting by Michele Howe, after seeing it on Michele’s review.
A book in translation: Possibly Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
A book outside your (genre) comfort zone: Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa. It’s described as a “fast-paced thriller” and looks a little scary. I don’t remember who recommended it to me, but something they said inclined me to get it.
A book published before you were born: How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

So – I think that will keep me busy for quite a while. I’m excited to get started!

Do you have any reading plans for the year?

Literary Christmas Wrap-Up

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Here’s what I finished reading for Tarissa’s Literary Christmas Challenge this year (each title links back to my review):

I enjoyed them all, but my hands-down favorite was The Christmas Hirelings.

I didn’t end up reading everything on my original list. However, I did add a couple not on my original list that I received for free this month (can’t beat that!) I tended to read more from my Kindle app and listened to a couple on audiobook. My paper book reading was taken up by trying to finish a non-Christmas library book. I did start Baby, It’s Cold Outside by Susan May Warren and will finish, but probably after the end of the year. Everything else I’ll save for next December.

Thanks, Tarissa, for hosting the challenge! I like to read a few Christmas books in December anyway, but it’s nice to link up with others doing the same thing and see what they’re reading.

 

Favorite Books of 2018

Yesterday I shared a list of the books I read this year. Now I want to highlight my favorites from that list. Only a few were actually published in 2018, but all but one were new to me.

It’s hard to choose! Some had great subjects, great characters, great plots, or great writing. These are the ones that resonated with me the most.

In no particular order, here are my favorite books read this year:

Nonfiction:

ConscienceConscience: What It Is, How To Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ by Andrew David Naselli and J. D. Crowley. Many people are confused about what exactly a conscience is, and what’s for, and how it works. This book was highly helpful, readable, practical, and informative. One quote: “Feeding excuses to your conscience is like feeding sleeping pills to a watchdog” (p. 64).

TrustTrust: A Godly Woman’s Adornment by Lydia Brownback is a treasure of short but purposeful chapters. “Out of his love for you, he is well able to prevent the thing you are so afraid of, and out of that same love he might allow it. Either way, whatever happens, he only allows what is going to work for your eternal happiness and blessing and his glory” (p. 26).

ScarsThe Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering by Vaneetha Rendall Risner. Vaneetha is one of those people, like Job or Joni Eareckson Tada, about whom you wonder, “How much more can they take?” She was once bitter toward God for what He allowed. But once she realized He had a purpose in everything and trials were His tools, she began to view them in a different light. “I’ve often been devastated when he tells me no, but as I submit to his will in those situations—even with disappointment and tears—he assures me he’s working for my good. I see only part of the picture. He has a purpose in his denials. The Father said no to the Son [in Gethsemane]. And that no brought about the greatest good in all of history. God is not capricious. If he says no to our requests, he has a reason—perhaps ten thousand. We may never know the reasons in this life, but one day we’ll see them all. For now, we must trust that his refusals are always his mercies to us” (emphasis mine).

Anger

A Small Book About a Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace by Edward T. Welch. Though I wish this had been laid out like the author’s Running Scared (one of my favorite books of 2015), it’s packed full of great and convicting content. “Jesus…enlarged the boundary of murder so that it includes all kinds of anger. In order to do this, He links them at the level of the heart, where they share the same lineage of selfish desire. We want something–peace, money, respect–and we aren’t getting it. The only difference is in our choice of weapons” (p. 18).

WOTW

Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible With Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin was a reread for me, but it’s still my favorite book of its kind.

Classics:

He Fell In Love With His Wife

He Fell in Love With His Wife by Edward Payson Roe. This 1886 novel is not the first or last about a marriage of convenience in which the participants actually do fall in love with each other, but it’s full of humor, warmth, and pathos. I loved the characters and the story and bought more of Roe’s books after reading this one.

Christmas HirelingsThe Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. An 1894 classic Christmas story that I think could rival Dickens’ Christmas Carol.

Fiction:

Guernsey
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society By Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I’ve heard for years how good this is, but I just got to it this year. And it’s every bit as good as I’ve heard. An author discovers that the island of Guernsey was occupied by Germans during WWII. A group of neighbors there invented a literary society first as a cover for getting together to eat a pig which was supposed to have been given to the Germans. Then they had to continue meeting to keep up the ruse. In the meantime, they got to know each other. The author comes to visit them and learn more about their stories. (The movie is wonderful. too!)

Hands
My Hands Came Away Red by Lisa McKay. This is another that was well-spoken of a few years ago, but I just got to it in time for its re-release this year. A group of teens on a backpacking mission trip to Indonesia is stranded when fighting unexpectedly breaks out and their hosts are killed. The kids have to hike through the jungle, facing all kinds of dangers, pushing themselves beyond their limits, struggling with their faith.

JuliaJulia’s Hope by Leisha Kelly. Set in the Depression, a family without resources whose one hope falls through finds an abandoned house. They ask the owner, an elderly woman who could no longer live there alone, if they could live in the home in exchange for fixing it up. In time they offer for her to come back to the home as well, eventually forming a new family. There are many great layers to this one: the father and husband earning back his self-respect, his wife learning to forgive, neighbors helping even when they don’t have much to give. I loved the way the author got me into the characters’ heads and got them into my heart.

Fly AwayFly Away by Lynn Austin. An uptight, introverted Christian professor retired against her will is resentful and depressed and doesn’t know what to do with herself. A laid-back, gregarious atheist grandfather pilot finds he has cancer, and plans to “take off and forget to land” rather than put his family through his slow, painful demise. When they meet, sparks fly. But when she learns his situation, she knows she needs to tell him about the Lord. Her various attempts, first to find someone else to do it, then trying and failing to give him a tract, are comical but sad. I loved the journey on both sides.

Before we were yoursBefore We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. This novel is based on true circumstances. In the first half of the twentieth century, Georgia Tann operated a children’s home by stealing poor children and brokering adoptions for a price – effectively selling children. This story involves one family’s being torn apart, scattered, and trying to find each other again. Some commented on my review that the book sounded too sad to read, especially when one gets emotionally invested in characters. But it ends in a good place. And, sadly, human trafficking still goes on today, and we need to be aware of it. Besides being a riveting story, the writing is gorgeous.

It took a lot of thought to reduce my favorites to the top twelve above. But there were so many good books I read this year, I can’t help including a few more “honorable mentions”:

  • Adam Bede by George Eliot didn’t sound like something I’d be interested in with its love triangle. But I loved Eliot’s other books so much, I gave this one a chance – and I am glad I did. I love the way Eliot gets us into her characters’ heads.
  • Alvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne by Douglas V. Mastriano. True story of a man who went from a conscientious objector due to his faith to winning the Medal of Honor for capturing 132 Germans in WWI. Fascinating story, both for his personal growth, the incident in the Argonne, and his life afterward.
  • Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas. The author got in the way of his story a bit, but otherwise this was a great biography of Wilberforce.
  • Come Back, Barbara by C. John Miller and Barbara Miller Juliani. Father and daughter tell her prodigal story. Probably most valuable for what he learned about his own mistakes and limitations.
  • Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped in His Own Body by Martin Pistorius. Hard to read in places, but an amazing story.
  • The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron. I love that Kristy tackles subjects no one else in Christian fiction does.
  • The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron covers three different timelines, all connected to a castle in France.
  • The Pattern Artist by Nancy Moser. A maid with a knack for clothing design leaves her employer during a visit to America to try to make her own way.

What were some of your favorite reads this year?

(Sharing with Semicolon, who invites us to share our end-of-year book lists for her last Saturday Review of Books, and Literary Musing Monday, and Carole’s Books You Loved)

Books Read in 2018

I like to read with some intentionality rather than picking books up at random through the year, but I also need flexibility for the unplanned. I enjoy chipping away at the books already on my shelf and Kindle app, but it’s fun to get in on the buzz of a favorite author’s new release or a book currently making the rounds. This year I felt that I hit the perfect reading balance between all those factors. Some of the reading challenges I participated in helped me read with purpose, but I left room this year to incorporate new finds or whims along the way.

I’ll probably finish a couple more books before the end of the year, but I wanted to get my list finished in time for Semicolon‘s last Saturday Review of Books, in which we can post our end-of-year book lists. Today I’ll share all the books I read this year: tomorrow I’ll choose the top 10 or 12 or so. The titles link back to my reviews.

Classics:

Adam Bede by George Eliot

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace

The Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

He Fell in Love With His Wife by Edward Payson Roe

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Villette by Charlotte Bronte

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Nonfiction:

Alvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne by Douglas V. Mastriano

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas

Classics of British Literature by John Sutherland was not a book, but a series of lectures about British literature. But since a PDF of his lectures was also provided, and I consulted them frequently, I’m going to count this as a book.

Come Back, Barbara by C. John Miller and Barbara Miller Juliani

Conscience: What It Is, How To Train It, and Loving Those Who Differby Andrew David Naselli and J. D. Crowley

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

Drawing Near to the Heart of God: Encouragement for Your Lifetime Journey by Cynthia Heald

Finding Christ in Christmas by A. W. Tozer

Full Assurance by Harry A. Ironside

Gospel Meditations for Mothers by Chris Anderson, Joe Tyrpak, Hannah Anderson, and others

Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped in His Own Body by Martin Pistorius

Helen Roseveare: On His Majesty’s Service by Irene Howat

Heaven Without Her: A Desperate Daughter’s Search for the Heart of Her Mother’s Faith by Kitty Foth-Regner

The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron

Homebody by Joanna Gaines

Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs, a biography of Louisa May Alcott

More Than These: A Woman’s Love for God by June Kimmel

Overcoming Your Devotional Obstacles: 25 Keys to Having Memorable Devotions by John O’Malley

Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel

Reclaim Your Life from IBS: A Scientifically Proven Plan for Relief without Restrictive Diets by Melissa G. Hunt

Reshaping It All: Motivation for Physical and Spiritual Fitness by Candace Cameron Bure

The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering by Vaneetha Rendall Risner

A Small Book About a Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace by Edward T. Welch

A Spectacle of Glory: God’s Light Shining Through Me Every Day by Joni Eareckson Tada

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon, Wife of Charles H. Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes, Jr

30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents  by Kathy Howard

Trust: A Godly Woman’s Adornment by Lydia Brownback

Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible With Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin

Christian fiction:

Anchor in the Storm by Sarah Sundin

Another Way Home by Deborah Raney

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

Back Home Again: Tales from the Grace Chapel Inn by Melody Carlson

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Borders of the Heart by Chris Fabry

The Christmas Bride by Melanie Dobson

The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love through the Generations by Karen Witemeyer, Kristi Ann Hunter, Sarah Loudin Thomas, and Becky Wade

Coming Unglued by Rebeca Seitz

Emma’s Gift by Leisha Kelly

Florian’s Gate by Davis Bunn

Fly Away by Lynn Austin

Hidden Places by Lynn Austin

I’ll Be Home For Christmas: Four Inspirational Holiday Novellas by Lenora Worth, Belle Calhoune, Jill Kemerer, and Allie Pleiter

The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

Homeless for the Holidays by P. S. Wells and Marsha Wright

Julia’s Hope by Leisha Kelly

Looking Into You by Chris Fabry

The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron

The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin

My Hands Came Away Red by Lisa McKay

My Father’s House by Rose Chandler Johnson

The Pattern Artist by Nancy Moser

Perfect Piece by Rebeca Seitz

Scrapping Plans by Rebeca Seitz

Sins of the Past by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Lynette Eason

Someday Home by Lauraine Snelling

The Song of Sadie Sparrow by Kitty Foth-Regner

Tea With Emma by Diane Moody

Twelve Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep

When the Morning Glory Blooms by Cynthia Ruchti

Other Fiction:

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book VI: The Long-Lost Home by Maryrose Wood

Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell

A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society By Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Mozart’s Sister by Nancy Moser

I dipped into, but did not read completely Foods That Harm, Foods That Heal by the editors of Reader’s Digest, The Christian Writer’s Market Guide-2018 edited by Steve Laube, Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White.

I laid aside two books I had started, but found enough objectionable content that I did not want to finish.

By my count, that’s 78 books. I’ll have to double check, but that may be a record! Usually I am in the 50-60 range.

It’s been a wonderful year for reading!

 

Two Reading Challenge Wrap-ups

I have been finished with these two challenges for months, but just have not written the wrap-up posts for them until now.

Karen at Books and Chocolate hosts the Back to the Classics Challenge for reading classics at least 50 years old.

I enjoy this challenge because I was not exposed to many classics as I grew up, and this challenge inspires me to expand my horizons and explore books I might not otherwise read. I’m happy to report that I have read all 12 classics on my list (I actually read 13, but no extra points for extra books. 🙂 ). The titles link back to my reviews:

  • A 19th century classic. Villette by Charlotte Bronte (1853)(Finished 6/30/18)
  • A 20th century classic (published before 1968). The Story of My Life by Helen Keller (1903)(Finished 3/31/18)
  • A classic by a woman author. Adam Bede by George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans)(1859)(Finished 5/19/18)
  • A classic in translation (Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language.) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (1870)(Finished 1/26/18)
  • A children’s classic. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911)(Finished 2/3/18)
  • A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction, which she goes on to say can be a detective or spy novel. The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton. (1908)(Finished 1/18/18)
  • A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (Finished 2/17/18)
  • A classic with a single-word title (no articles). Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (Finished 3/12/18)
  • A classic with a color in the title. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (1961)(Finished 3/17/18)
  • A classic by an author that’s new to you. He Fell in Love With His Wife by Edward Payson Roe (1866)(Finished 4/8/18) and Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs (1933) (Finished 6/25/18)
  • A classic that scares you (due to its length or it intimidates you in some way). The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. (1831)(Finished 8/4/18).
  • Re-read a favorite classic. Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace, (1880)(Finished 4/17/18)

Karen allows for three children’s classics, and I am counting Where the Red Fern Grows, The Secret Garden, and Journey to the Center of the Earth for those. I’m not counting 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea because nothing I read about it indicated it was written for children.

Karen likes for us to let her know how many entries we earned for her drawing: I earned three. She also requests an email here: mine is barbarah06 (at) gmail (dot) com.

I enjoyed all of these except Journey to the Center of the Earth, but I think my favorite is He Fell in Love With His Wife. Adam Bede would be a close second. Frankenstein was the biggest surprise.

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Adam at Roof Beam Reader hosts the TBR Pile Challenge to encourage us to get to those books on our shelves, Kindles, or TBR lists. For this one we had to name the books we were going to read, along with two alternates (in case we couldn’t get through a couple on our list). The books for this challenge had to have been published 2016 and earlier.

I read thirteen books altogether. Titles link back to my reviews.

  1. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (Finished 2/3/18)
  2. The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton (Finished 1/18/18)
  3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (Finished 3/12/18)
  4. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (Finished 3/17/18)
  5. Adam Bede by George Eliot (1859)(Finished 5/19/18)
  6. He Fell in Love With His Wife by Edward Payson Roe (1866, Finished 4/8/18)
  7. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (1870, Finished 1/26/18)
  8. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (Finished 2/17/18)
  9. Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His own Body by Martin Pistorious (2013, Finished 1/8/18)
  10. Going Like Sixty by Richard Armour. Set this one aside, disappointed in the content.
  11. Sins of the Past by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Lynette Easton (2016, Finished 3/28/18)
  12. Another Way Home by Deborah Raney (2015, Finished 4/16/18)

Alternates: Anchor in the Storm by Sarah Sundin (2016, Finished 5/7/18) and Mozart’s Sister by Nancy Moser (2006)(Finished 1/28/18)

I enjoy both of these challenges and plan to participate in them again next year. Karen already has the 2019 Back to the Classics Challenge categories here.

I’m still working on the Mount TBR Challenge and the Literary Christmas Challenge.

Laudable Linkage

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Here’s my latest list of good reads found online recently:

Should Christians Abandon Christmas? HT to Challies. “When churches ‘ignore’ Christmas, how much preaching and teaching are they likely to receive on the incarnation?” “The abuse of something shouldn’t be allowed to destroy its proper use.”

On the Death of John Allen Chau. Good points all, especially the first one: “We don’t need to rush to judgment.”

3 Internet Accusations Against Missionaries, HT to Challies.

Singleness Is Not a Problem to Be Solved, HT to True Woman.

Gospel Hope for a Weary Mom, HT to True Woman.

Pastors: Preach, Don’t Rant, HT to Challies. Good advice for writers and teachers, too.

The 50% Lie, HT to Challies. Turns out it has never been true that 50% of marriages end in divorce, by any way of measuring. “Imagine the difference to our collective consciousness about marriage and divorce if we began to say ‘Most marriages last a lifetime’ [8 out of 10] rather than ‘Half of marriages end in divorce.'”

Why J. I. Packer Reads Mystery Novels (Or, In Defense of Light Reading), HT to Challies. “Light reading is not for killing time (that’s ungodly), but for refitting the mind to tackle life’s heavy tasks (that’s the Protestant work ethic, and it’s true).”

And finally, a smile found on Pinterest:

Happy Saturday!

Literary Christmas Reading Challenge

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Tarissa hosts the Literary Christmas Challenge in December: actually, it started in November, but I like to hold off on Christmas reading til after Thanksgiving. The main rule: read Christmas books! And link up your posts about them (via a blog, Goodreads review, etc.).

Here’s what I am planning to read this month:

Finding Christ in Christmas by A. W. Tozer (99 cents for the Kindle app as of this writing. Tozer always makes one think.)

Tozer Christmas

Homeless for the Holidays by P. S. Wells and Marsha Wright.

Homeless

Christmas Stitches by Judith Miller, Nancy Moser, and Stephanie Grace Whitson. I’ve read many of Judith and Nancy’s books, so I am looking forward to this Christmas collection.

Stitches

Baby, It’s Cold Outside by Susan May Warren

Cold Outside

I’ll Be Home For Christmas: Four Inspirational Holiday Novellas by Lenora Worth, Belle Calhoune, Jill Kemerer, and Allie Pleiter. This is not showing up on Amazon anymore, but you can read more about it on Goodreads here. I’ve not read any of these authors, but I used to follow a blog that Lenora contributed to, so that’s probably what prompted this purchase.

Home

If I should finish all these and I’m not tired of Christmas stories at that point, I’d love to get Terri Blackstock’s Catching Christmas and Michelle Griep’s Once Upon a Dickens Christmas series, Twelve Days at Bleakly Manor and A Tale of Two Hearts. I’m trying to read what I have already accumulated through sales before I add any more.

And that’s it for this year! Do you plan to do any Christmas-themed reading this month?

Book Review: Florian’s Gate

FlorianIn T. Davis Bunn’s novel, Florian’s Gate, American Jeffrey Sinclair is bored in his job. His mysterious uncle, Alexander Kantor, has a glowing reputation in the antiques business in London. Alexander never reveals where his exquisite pieces come from, but their high quality always fetches good prices and willing buyers. When Alexander invites Jeffrey to become his assistant, Jeffrey jumps at the chance, quickly learning both the details and the instincts needed.

Jeffrey hires a part-time helper who rapidly becomes a valuable assistant, Katya. Jeffrey falls head over heels for her, but she is guarded around him. He senses her past contains pain, but she’s not willing to reveal it to him yet. Plus she is a believer, but he has turned his back on God after a family tragedy.

When Alexander asks Jeffrey to take a trip to Poland, Jeffrey is thrilled to be trusted enough to be asked. There he meets Alexander’s brother, Gregor, and begins to learn some of Alexander’s sources. Poland is still reeling from being trampled underfoot by WWII and then Soviet occupation. At first Jeffrey thinks everyone looks sad and depressed, understandably. But he soon finds an underlying resilience in their character. Alexander, Jeffrey, and Gregor visit some of the most unlikely places to find some of the poorest people with great treasures they’ve been holding on to for years but are now in desperate enough straits to sell.

Surprisingly, Alexander comes face to face with his own painful past, which Jeffrey learns of for the first time. When Alexander is incapacitated for while, Katya comes to assist and translate. What Jeffrey learns through all these experiences helps him understand his uncle and Katya and helps him come to grips with his own past as well.

A few quotes from the book:

Dissatisfaction tends to lift one’s eyes toward the horizon. Those who are comfortable rarely make the effort to search out something better. They may yearn for more, but they do not often receive it. They are too afraid of losing what they already have, you see, to take the risk. And there is always risk involved, Jeffrey. Always. Every major venture contains a moment when you must step off the cliff and stretch your wings toward the sky.

Even in the darkest of hours, people have a choice. They can turn toward self, or they can turn toward God. They can turn toward hate, or they can turn toward forgiveness and love.

The world says there is no greater tribute you can grant yourself than to say, I can make it on my own. My perspective says there is no greater deception. The power within our own will and our own body and our own confined little world is comfortable, and it is tempting. It gives us a wonderful sensation of self-importance. Thus most of us will try to live outside of God until our own strength is not enough. Yet the way of the cross is the way of inadequacy. We need what we do not have, and therefore we seek what is beyond both us and this world.

There are an infinite number of lessons to be drawn from the cross, my boy….All human hope lies at the foot of the cross. In the two thousand years since it first rose in a dark and gloomy sky, it has lost none of its luster, none of its power, none of its divine promise.

Normally Bunn’s stories involve quick-moving plots and page-turning intrigue. There was intrigue here, but a different sort than I am used to from him. His mother’s former ownership of an antiques gallery and management of others informed his knowledge of antiques. He says at the beginning of the book that each piece he describes is real. The different Polish people and stories that he shares are based on real people and situations in his wife’s family in Poland.

I thought the story ended somewhat abruptly, but then I found that this book is the first of three in the Priceless Collection series. So maybe some day I’ll find out what’s next for Jeffrey, Katya, and the others.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved)