Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts

Sunday, January 12, 2014


I've been inspired. I just finished reading "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak.



How is it even possible for someone to have the gift to make one ache, mourn, thrill, dread, die, and hope just by scratching words on a piece of paper?

Well done Mr. Zusak. Well done.

I'll give a much more thorough review later, because it's warranted, but just a taste of the haunting, insanely crafted sentences from this story, a story of a German girl during WWII, told by Death.

"The book thief saw only the mechanics of the words - their bodies stranded on the paper, beaten down for her to walk on. Somewhere, too, in the gaps between a period and the next capital letter, there was also Max."

"Three languages interwove. The Russian, the bullets, the German."

"A woman of wire had laid herself down, her scream traveling the street, till it fell sideways like a rolling coin starved of momentum."

I sat, paused, and stared off into space several times while reading this book. Mesmerized by the words, writing out my own impressions in my head. And mockingly laughing at myself as I found my thought-ed words to be mimicking the tone of the story - a bad mimicry, but one just the same. And I thought back to an email I wrote back in college - the friend I wrote it to responded with "your last email read differently, like you were channeling a poem or something." Ha, I had just read a bunch of LM Montgomery and had been subconsciously channeling Anne into my own thoughts. I've done that with Jane Austen too - read a few of hers back to back and you'll be thinking in early 19th century English before you can utter "wot wot?" Dickens will do the same. The power of a well-crafted sentence, a skillfully turned word. Think of how Shakespeare's phrases are still peppered throughout today's media - we quote them comfortably, admiring the way they capture exactly what we want to express at that moment.

As I sat thinking over my brain's sponge-like absorption of the written-voice, I thought - hmm, that also happens when I read my Bible. When I make the time to have consistent time in His written word. If the written word is powerful, oh the power of the words inspired by the Spirit, by Him! Imagine, just imagine, if His tone, His meaning, began constructing my thoughts, my sentences. If my written word was subconsciously structured to mimic His, if my spoken words reflected Him.

Mind blown.

Challenging thoughts my friends. Lord willing, not just thoughts, but thoughts that lead to actions.

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." - Heb 4:12

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Fun reading books

I've been busy with some house projects and vacation (a vacation that didn't allow a lot of time for reading!) but I managed to tackle these three fiction books that I definitely recommend:

1. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

While sitting in the movie theater, about to watch Star Trek Into Darkness, the trailer for "Ender's Game" played...and I turned to my friends and said "now that looks like a GREAT movie." They stared at me and about three of them said at the same time, "You've never read the book!?" So, of course, I borrowed the book from one of them and seriously cannot believe I have never read it before now.

The first 30-50 pages were a bit disturbing for's Earth after aliens attack and kiddos are being genetically engineered to be soldiers. And six year olds talk like soldiers...not exactly the type of language (both in word and content) that you would expect coming from a little kid, so that bothered me a bit...but by about page 50, something changed and I couldn't put the book down (I read it in one evening). I found out later it is required reading for the United States Marines...and I understand why. The book is all about military strategy, loyalty, calmness in the face of adversity, and clarity during high  pressure situations. Don't want to say too much, because that will give some things away. Just know, it's fun, unexpected, and a great read. Go read it before the movie comes out!

2. Autumn in Esereth, (The Esereth Chronicles, Volume 1) by Molly Meyer-Allyn

This book was a surprise. A mixture of space (and in a way, time) travel, medieval practices, and aliens. And it's a mix that works. I sped through the last pages...only to find a cliffhanger and desperately hoping the author is already printing out the second book! Without revealing too much,  Sara finds a book, and with a flash of light, her entire life and world is changed. Finding herself in the middle of an imminent civil war, Sara must determine her role, discern between the perspectives of the warring sides, and make a choice that is brutal in its finality. The character development is vibrant at times. Balu, a young boy who befriends Sara, and Hecate, the mysterious healer, practically leap off the pages with their endearing and quirky personalities, I could honestly see them in my mind. This is a fun read that touches on some deep philosophical questions regarding human nature and our purpose. Looking forward to seeing how this story unfolds.

3. 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson

This book is wonderful. If you loved using your imagination as a kid, you will love this book. If you always wished you had an imagination, you will love this book. Twelve-year old Henry has to spend the summer with relatives in a house that isn't all what it seems. On his first night there, he discovers a wall filled with cupboard doors...but what are they? Or rather...where do they lead to? This book is down-right fun! I laughed out loud, remembered what it was like to be a kid on adventures, and got completely drawn into the story. The conversations between the characters are so vivid and real, I felt like I was standing by them watching their interaction. This is the first book in a three-part series and I cannot wait to start on the second one! 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Arlington, 7, China, running, women's ministry

The post title summarizes the last slew of books I've recently read :)

On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery by Robert M. Poole

I bought this book for Kindle off of the "Books under $3.99" about a year ago. This book was FANTASTIC. When I visited Washington DC (er...9 years ago now :) ), Arlington Cemetry was one of my favorite places. Probably weird to say that about a cemetery, but I loved the history, thought, care, and precision reflected throughout the grounds. Robert M. Poole does an amazing job of telling the story of Arlington: how it went from being Robert E. Lee's personal property to a cemetery out of desperation to rid DC of an overabundance of Civil War dead, to how each of the Unknown Soldiers for each war were selected, how the burial of John F. Kennedy dramatically increased the annual visitors to Arlington, to how the Pentagon almost ended up being on part of Arlington. Over 150 years of history are told in a storytelling voice that makes you forget you are learning history and instead feeling like Arlington itself is a living, breathing character. Definitely worth a read if you like history or military history.

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker

I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I laughed out loud reading this book. My friend Christina told me I HAD to read this...and I am so glad I did...and now I say, you HAVE to read this. Jen Hatmaker lives in Austin and was convicted that there were some areas in her life where there was just TOO much of stuff. So she decided to tackle seven areas that were the most troublesome. As a foodie, she thought too much about food, ate too much, loved food too much. So she picked seven foods and ate only those for a month. The next month, clothes was the area (327 items in her closet). She picked seven and only wore those for a month. So on and so forth through all seven of the areas. Ms. Hatmaker journals throughout each month, documenting her thoughts, her experiences, and how others react to and support her...eccentric plan of 7. She is outrageously funny, honest, and real. You can imagine catching up with her over a cup of coffee. She states clearly at the beginning of the book that she didn't write it to make anyone feel guilty or to show how amazingly disciplined she is (she isn't she has bumps along the way), but warns she can't be blamed if you are also convicted about excesses in your life if you read it :). Love this book. Ms Hatmaker isn't just funny, but poignant, deep, and serious about why she is tackling these areas of excess and what she learns through each month. Loved how it made think about things that I've never spent much time pondering. Great read, challenging content. I think you will enjoy it.

The Little Woman by Gladys Aylward

After being introduced to Gladys in "Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God," I realized I wanted to read more details of her life and story. Called to China, with little education, no formal training, hardly any money, and no knowledge of the Chinese language, Gladys' journey to Yangcheng, China in the early 1930s is harrowing, inspiring, and a little bit crazy :). It also clearly shows that when the Lord wants someone somewhere, heaven and Earth are moved to make it happen. Her boldness, trust, faith and honesty as she lives in China during war, famine, and the start of the Communist regime, speak clearly through the pages, written in a simple (not simple-dumb, just every day honest speaking) voice. An encouraging read on trusting God even in the most seemingly impossible situations.

Running for My Life by Lopez Lomong

My friend Brian is running the Hood to Coast relay race this August to raise money for Lopez Lomong's cause, 4 South Sudan. As part of his fundraising, he sent out a copy of Lopez's book, with instructions to read it and pass it along to someone else. Lopez Lomong is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Stolen from his parents when he was six years old, his journey to escape from those who tried to force him to become a child soldier, survival in a refugee camp, and finally his adoption at age 16 into an American family, is eye-opening, touching, and real. You may remember Lopez as the US flag bearer in the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics.  Yup, Lopez went from being a Lost Boy of Sudan to an Olympic athlete and his story and heart for Sudan are inspiring and take-action provoking. A great story of struggle, survival, redemption, and the desire to pay it forward.

Women's Ministry in the Local Church by Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt

My pastor asked me to read this as I am currently praying about this topic (women's ministry) and how I might be able to serve in my church in this area. Exciting and scary at the same time...eek. I really enjoyed this book because to be honest, not really knowing what women's ministry is about (having never been involved in a women's program before), I was thinking that women's ministry was...fluffy. Let's get together and eat little cookies and drink tea I dunno, that's just the imagine I had in my head. I am silly, I know. Anyhow, this book talked about how women's ministry is about digging deep into the Bible, studying, understanding biblical womanhood and how this impacts our daily lives, both at home and in the church family. It's anything but fluffy. And that's what I am desiring...for women who are busy with families, careers, the normal daily stresses to be able to step back and spend some time studying, growing, encouraging one another, and growing to know and love God more deeply together, not as a separate entity from the church, but as part of the church. I've got about 48.2 bazillion ideas right now...continuing to pray through the end of May before meeting with my pastors again to discuss how this may (or may not) unfold.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Rediscovering reading

Although I consider myself an avid reader, I've found that I go through "extreme" phases of reading: from reading almost non-stop to taking months to labor through one book (as my book club partner has discovered :) ). After a several months long dry spell, the reading non-stop bug has bit again and I am thoroughly enjoying it!

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

My friend Leslie and I started a book's just the two of us right now, but we are enjoying it. This was the first book that we tackled and I was thrilled because it had been on my list for awhile. It's C.S. Lewis' retelling of Cupid and Psyche's story (Greek mythology) told from the perspective of Psyche's sister, Orual. Amazing writing, plot, character development. The book is broken into two parts and the second was challenging - I read it twice to try and figure out exactly what was going on (it's hard to discern if Orual is dreaming or really experiencing the situations she describes). Definitely enjoyed this one.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

This was the second book that Leslie and I tackled. Almost 900 pages of Russian literature. One of my favorite books is Crime and Punishment (also by Dostoevsky) so I was excited to start another of his that has been collecting dust on my "to read" stack. As with most of the Russian literature I have read Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn), the story isn't limited to the plot, but each of the characters expounding on religion, politics, and the state of society. The plot centers around three brothers, their issues with their father, each other, and murder. It provides a glimpse into what life what like during Dostoevsky's time and encourages the reader to ponder society then and now. The characters are over-the-top dramatic and I found myself wanting to smack them upside the head and tell them to get a hold of themselves :). They are well-developed, and I found myself, liking, despising, caring, and relating to several of them, but the drama was a bit too much for me. The length of the book wasn't too intimidating, since Dostoevsky is a talented story-teller and not too many parts drag, but I much prefer Crime and Punishment.

Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God by Noel Piper

I cannot say enough good things about this book. It's a collection of mini-biographies of women missionaries through the years, their struggles, and how the Lord provided above and beyond anything they could imagine and in some of the most dire and dangerous situations. The gut-punch quote of this book from Mrs. Piper: " I ask myself and you: what is it that keeps us from venturing into something that God has been putting in front of us? What is it that causes us to say "I can't possibly do that?" What am I afraid of? What do I lack? What are my weaknesses?...If we think we can't do what God is asking us to do, we're right. But God can." An inspirational, thought-proking, and spirit-lifting reminder of the sovereignty of God.

The Maze Runner Trilogy (The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure) by James Dashner

I literally read one of these books per day - I absolutely flew through them thanks to Mr. Dashner's amazing ability to make one turn the pages at lightning speed with a complicated, layered, and twisting plot and mysterious and believable characters. Along the lines of "The Hunger Games" and "Divergent", this is another young adult Dystopian society series. Out of the three series, I've enjoyed "Divergent" the most and his one probably ties with "The Hunger Games" because of the ending. I appreciate authors who can make those tough plot decisions and take a risk. The Maze Runner trilogy is more gruesome and scary than the other trilogies - I believe because of the content matter (a devastating disease is involved) and possibly because it's written by a man and the main character is male, just a different perspective than the other two series. I would read this at night and actually found myself jumping when the house creaked because I was in an intense and disturbing part of the book :). These are a great, fun, and quick read...and apparently a 4th book, a prequel, is in the works. Woot.

Counsel from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis E. Johnson

I picked this up at a conference last year to better educate myself on counseling others, as I was working with a couple of friends who were in challenging situations that were very much outside my realm of experience and ending up finding myself being counseled by this book! The emphasis on this book is bringing the focus of of a situation back to the cross and how it relates to Christ and where that person is in his/her relationship to Him. The importance of bringing things back to the Cross is stated clearly in this quote from the book: "We need to hear it (the gospel) again because if we have forgotten His work on our behalf, it will skew the way we think of Him, the way we think of ourselves, and the way we think of others." Highly recommend this book to help with counseling others and/or for yourself. 

Monday, June 4, 2012


Heart of Iron by Kyle Garlett

Excellent book on Kyle's battle against Hodgkin's lymphoma. The treatments for his cancer damaged his heart and required him to have a heart transplant...and then he decided to do an Ironman. I bought this book awhile ago and when I got to the account of his Ironman race attempts, I actually shouted a bit because I realized I had watched his story unfold during the Ironman coverage over the past two years! It was so neat to read all that he went through and to see his perspective on suffering and battling. I got goosebumps a couple of times when reading his description and examples of the beauty that is found in suffering. A good inspirational read.

This Momentary Marriage by John Piper

My friends gave this as their "party favor" at their wedding. Everyone (or family) in attendance received a copy. This book is amazing. A-mazing. It's about what God intended marriage to be and how couples should walk that out. I highly recommend singles to read this as well because it takes the "rose-colored glasses" romanticized perspective that we can all have about marriage and redefines it in a beautiful, challenging,  and godly way. There are some very encouraging chapters about the single season as well. Highly recommend for married couples and singles.

The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth

 Pretty sure I like this trilogy (or the first two books of it, book three isn't due out until Fall '13) better than The Hunger Games. Crazy right? There are some parallels one could draw between the two trilogies - Brave New World-esque/Dystopian society themes are there - but Roth uses factions instead of districts. There are five factions based on virtues - a faction for bravery, for selflessness, for friendliness, for knowledge, and for honesty. One is born into a faction but at age 16, a test is administered to determine one's propensity for their current faction or another, and they must chose between the two factions - stay with one's family, or leave them forever. Faction before blood. Great writing - the book moves fast. It's a use a friend's word, "saltier" than the Hunger Games books, so more appropriate, in my mind, for older readers. I'm looking forward to the 3rd book! Good summer reading.

The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

Yay for free Kindle downloads. This book blew my mind. A.W . Tozer only had a 6th grade education and this book was written in the 1940s, yet all of his examples make it seem like it was written for modern day. Convicting, encouraging, applicable - I could go on and on. Each chapter concludes with Tozer's own prayers, which are beautiful and sincere, and echoed my heart in many chapters. A great tool for regaining focus on what matters, God. Highly recommend.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Book droolage

Yup, another book that deserves a dedicated post.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian

I don't think I've ever underlined, bracketed, and side noted a book more - it looks like it was attacked by a Smurf (um, I used a blue pen...Smurfs are blue...anyways...).

Back in the fall, my church was going through Colossians and during one of the sermons, the pastor said "Jesus plus nothing equals everything". At the time, I was doing my own little side study on the fullness in God, so this statement was quite appropriate (mind blowing) for me at the time. And then I discovered a book had just been released with this same title AND it was based on Colossians. Oh, how excited was I!? (very, in case you were wondering).

I find myself often putting more importance and emphasis on things rather than on God. And this book addresses the question "why do we need anything more than what we already have in Christ?". Hence the title: Jesus + Nothing =Everything.

Here are some of the underlined snippets. I encourage you to read this book.

"Our performancism leads to pride when we succeed and to despair when we fail. But ultimately it leads to slavery either way, because it becomes all about us and what we must do to establish our own identity instead of resting in Jesus and what he accomplished to establish it for us"

"As A.W. Pink once wrote, "The great mistake made by people is hoping to discover in themselves that which is to be found in Christ alone"

"Progress in obedience happens only when our hearts realize that God's love for us does not depend on our progress in obedience"

"We're always to soak first in what God has already done before we set out to do."

"When we're captured and captivated by who Jesus is, we'll be empowered and equipped to resist the constant temptations to settle for anything less"

"The hard work of Christian growth, therefore, is to think less of ourselves and our performance and more of Jesus and his performance for us"

"Christian growth, in other words doesn't happen by first behaving better, but by believing better - believing in bigger, deeper, brighter ways what Christ has already secured for sinners"

"Real freedom happens when the rich resources of the gospel smash any sense of need to secure for ourselves anything beyond what Christ has already secured for us"

"The gospel grants us the strength to admit we're weak and needy and restless - knowing that Christ's finished work has proven to be all the strength and fulfillment and peace we could ever want, and more"

"When you understand that your significance and identity and purpose and direction are all anchored in Christ, you don't have to win - you're free to lose"

"sin turns us inward and the gospel turns us outward. The gospel causes us to look up and out, away from ourselves. It turns our gaze upward to God and outward to others, both to those inside the church and those outside it"

"In fact, real spiritual growth happens as we look up to Christ and what he did, out to our neighbors and what they need, not in to ourselves and how we're doing"

"Our natural tendency is to focus on ourselves - on our obedience (or lack thereof), on our performance (good or bad), on our holiness - instead of on Christ and his obedience, his performance, and his holiness for us"

"This means that for Christians, the level of passion with which God loves you is not determined by the level of passion with which you love him. The Son's passion for you secured the Father's passion for you"

"The determining factor in my relationship to God is not my past or my present, but Christ's past and his present"

"This freedom Jesus secured for me is not freedom from pain and suffer; rather, it's a freedom in pain and suffering"

"Where are we focusing our efforts? Are we working hard to perform? Or are we working hard to rest in Christ's performance?"

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Recent reads

Here are my recent reads:

1. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

I was disappointed by this one from Erik Larson (whom I usually RAVE about). A non-fiction account of the development of the wireless radio (the Marconi system) and an unsolved murder and how they are intertwined. The nerd in me had a couple of "!!!" moments:

1) I was fascinated by the story of Titanic as a kid, I watched the PBS special when they discovered it and was hooked. I've probably written at least six research papers on it throughout junior high and high school. The Marconi system was used on the Titanic to wire the Carpathia and the Californian for help, so learning more about the device was kinda cool.

2) Marconi interacted with Tesla and Kelvin. TESLA and KELVIN. ::enter nerd moment:: Even though I couldn't stand my Electricity and Magnetism (E&M) Physics class in college (seriously BLECH), I cannot imagine sitting in a room with all those amazing minds and dialoging about your recent scientific discoveries.

I had a really hard time getting into the story and had to force myself to finish the book - it just wasn't gripping and the stories weren't as melded as they have been in past Larson books. You can skip this one.

2) The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

My accountability partner, Jessica, and I, decided that we have finished this book :). We loved the story of Christian, but both of us are struggling getting through Christiana's story. Christian's story is all pen-marked up, me circling amazing nuggets of truth and Scripture applied. Christiana's has one pen-mark - I'm just not feeling it. I only have about 50 pages left of her story, so the perfectionist in me WILL finish it soon, but I decided to go ahead and blog about it (I'll wait to update Goodreads ;-) ).

Even though this book was written 350 years ago, Christian's story struck home in so many areas. And it was so awesome to see how Jessica and I were underlining the same parts! - God used this book to deepen our friendship and opened up opportunities for us to share the paths that God has led us on up to now - the growing times, the stumbling times with each other. Truly amazing. Each discussion of this book just led to us praising God for the work He has done in our lives. Highly recommend reading this book.

3) In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

To go along with my recent foray into World War Two history (ahem, Churchill), I thought this would be an interesting perspective. This one also took me awhile to get into, but it definitely picked up in the second half as Mr. Larson found his stride and his gift for making history a page turner kicked in. This is the account of the US Ambassador to Berlin during the time Hitler was rising to power. I learned a lot - the early Hitler stuff that isn't covered in school. And it was so thought-provoking - what are we turning our eyes from now because it is uncomfortable or "that couldn't possibly happened?". Ponder away. A weak beginning, but a respectable ending. Of the four Eric Larson books I've read, this one ranks 3rd.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Book Review!

Ah the first book review of the new year!

The Greener Grass Conspiracy by Stephen Altrogge

This book is about how we always think the grass is always greener on the other side. If we can just get out of our situation, things will be better. This is a book that I am reading twice. The first time, I couldn't put it down. I like to underline and make notes in books like these, but I couldn't because I was too anxious to turn the page! The author is hilarious - he writes with a sarcastic, self-effacing voice that shows that he is learning contentment even as he writes the book (truly, he and his wife were house searching during the time the book was written so he adds little "lessons learned" throughout the pages). The meat of this book is centered around this statement:

"The truth is, biblical contentment can't be learned unless something else is unlearned. Contentment can't be put on without first ripping something else out. The only way to grow in contentment is to undergo the process of identifying and destroying the idols in our lives. This always hurts, but the results are wonderful"

And his definition of idols (as side from the ones he says are in Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark :) ), is that the act of idolatry is loving anything more than God.

Throughout the book, Mr. Altrogge addresses contentment in trials, in everyday life, discusses complaining - each smacking you with conviction and a new awareness of the words that come out of your mouth or the thoughts that flit through your mind - and directs you to the only place where true joy can be found - in Jesus Christ. Excellent reading.

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

I really can't say enough good things about this trilogy. I read almost the entire first book on the plane ride from Houston to Phoenix. I'm a fast reader, but even that's a bit ridiculous. I could not turn the pages fast enough. The writing style is fantastic, told from the main character, Katniss Everdeen's, point of view. Throughout the trilogy, I actually gasped at a couple of points, surprised by some plot twists (oh yeah, and did a little arm pump towards the end when I guessed something correctly :) ). This triology is based on a Dystopian world - i.e. opposite of perfect (Utopian). It's set in the future. The US is no more, but is now a Capitol surrounded by 12 districts. Years ago, the districts rebelled against the Capitol, lost, and now, as a reminder that they should NEVER rebel again, the districts must participate in The Hunger Games. A forced "Olympics" of sorts - 1 girl and 1 boy (aged 12-18) are randomly selected from each district to compete. And it's a battle to the death. There, now you've read pretty much what they tell you in the movie trailer for the first book. If you ever read Anne McCaffery's "Freedom" series, you will enjoy these books. If you haven't, you will enjoy these books. Bottom line, you will enjoy these books. Read them. (please :) ).

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Recent literary delights

I just finished another trio of reads. Starting with my favorite of the trio:

Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand

I finally got my hands on a copy of the book and pretty much devoured the thing when I flew to San Francisco. THIS BOOK IS AMAZING. First off, I am a huge fan of Lauren Hillenbrand. Her "Seabiscuit" was absolutely fantastic and I had no interest in horse-racing whatsoever when I picked it up...I still don't really, but she made me appreciate it, I wasn't bored, and felt I "grew" from reading it. "Unbroken" is non-fiction, a true account of Olympic runner, Louie Zamperini, and his experience in WWII. Louie was a bombardier on a B-24 Liberator that crashed into the ocean. He survives for over 40 days in a rubber raft, in which in and his surviving comrades float thousands of miles into Japanese territory. He's captured and spends time in several Japanese POW camps. I write this all mater-of-factly, but Ms. Hillenbrand pulls you into what Louie is smell the gasoline and the alkaline smell of salt water, you feel the stillness and the chaos that Louie describes...I was a bit afraid I was going to fall asleep that evening and dream of war (I didn't, thankfully, but that is truly how vividly this story is told).

I won't lie, there are some tough parts in this book. We are talking about war and POW experiences after all...they are hard, horrific, and staggering, and my mind can't wrap itself around the cruelty that humans are capable of. However, this book (I am getting goosebumps as I type this) centers around the resiliency of human life, overcoming the odds, determination, focus, and finding the good in the small things, when all else seems lost. It is an amazing work of writing and I didn't want the book to end. Lauren Hillenbrand brings history to life on the pages - I am now so much better versed in the Pacific aspect of WWII and I feel like I actually know some of the soldiers that fought in it. Well done Ms. Hillenbrand, well done. 47 thumbs up on this one.

Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret - by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Hudson

Hudson Taylor was one of the first Christian missionaries to enter central China and this book is his autobiography, written by his son. I had heard Mr. Taylor's name referenced on several occasions, but was not familiar with the work that he did. I was astounded reading about the trust Mr. Taylor showed in God through severe trials. He truly left everything to the Lord. As a believer, who trusts her life to God and seeks to honor and give Him glory in everything she does, I still struggle with trying to take back control of certain areas of my life, rather than handing it over to God and letting Him lead's a daily battle. Mr. Taylor had an amazing capacity for looking at an issue, trusting it to God's sovereignty, and then praying for direction and guidance, and moving forward, rather than stewing or being anxious.

One excerpt that particularly challenged me was the following:

"Take time. Give God time to reveal Himself to you. Give yourself time to be silent and quiet before Him, waiting to receive, through the Spirit, the assurance of His presence with you, His power working in you. Take time to read His Word as in His presence, that from it you may know what He asks of you and what He promises you. Let the Word create around you, create within you a holy atmosphere, a holy heavenly light, in which your soul will be refreshed and strengthened for the work of daily life"

Very convicted on being still before God and waiting on Him. Very good read.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

This is a fiction work that tells the story of twin brothers growing up in Ethiopia and the chain of events that start from before they are born that shape their lives and paths decades later. Truly well written, Mr. Verghese characters are so real that I had to remember that this was a work of fiction, not non-fiction. I appreciated how Mr. Verghese intertwined the fictional lives of the characters with real historical events and issues that took place in Ethiopia - historical events and issues that here in America, we glance at in the news, or realize we never even heard about it and I now have a new appreciation and understanding of the struggles of other nations. The only aspect about this book that I didn't like was the sensuality. I really don't want to read about the thoughts 13 and 14 year old boys have about women. I know it happens, and Mr. Verghese was making his characters real...I just don't want to read about it, and that's just me. The writing style, flow, plot development and characters were all phenomenally well done.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

More books!

1) Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear (#2 in the Maisie Dobbs series)

I stumbled up on this book in Half Price Books when I was stocking up for my trip to Moscow. It's a mystery and the first few pages read like an Agatha Christie (LOVE) so I bought it. I didn't realize it was the second in the series, but I didn't feel like was missing out on anything. This was a great book and I intend to read the rest of the series. Maise Dobbs is a detective/psychologist in England just after World War I. She was a nurse during the war and has her own memories to fight as she works to help others. This particular mystery revolves around Maisie's client, Mr. Waite, who wants her to find his 30-something daughter, Charlotte, who has decided to run away from home and the tight leash he keeps on her. Throw in a few murders of Charlotte's friends and Maisie is afraid she won't find Charlotte in time. The plot was sufficiently intricate, mixing in colorful and likeable characters, the feel of 1920s England recovering from a horrible war, mystery, and suspense. Great read.

2) The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

After seeing this book recommended on several blogs, I decided to give it a shot.

This book almost got it's own post because it is absolutely incredible!!! I can't wait for more of Ms. Skloot's writing, because she is talented! This is a true story of Henrietta Lacks who had her cancerous tumor cells harvested in a time (1950s) when it wasn't required to get patient consent for...well...anything. Her cells never stopped dividing (hence the term "immortal") and that fact allowed scientists around the world to use them to advance medicine to mind boggling levels. Modern vaccines? Modern culture techniques? Thank Henrietta. And that's what this book is about, Henrietta. Her cells (called HeLa) are so well known, but she is not and that is what Ms. Skloot set out to rectify. And rectify she did. This book is wonderful balance of personality and warmth and science and hospitals. Her rich character descriptions of Henrietta and her descendants, her descriptions of American medicine in the 1950s-70s (the good, the bad, and the extremely disturbing and ugly), the honest and transparent emotions of the Lacks family as they learned of what their mother's cells have done for science, it's just a solidly written book. Don't let the cell talk scare you away, it's well balanced and explained incredibly well in layman's terms - you'll find you've learned about cell biology before you realize it, but more importantly, you will know the Lacks family. Read this.

3) The Long Run by Matt Long

My friend Erin V. recommended this book to me. It's a true story of New York firefighter Matt Long. He's a runner and triathete and one morning while he was cycling to work, a city bus made an illegal turn and crushed him. And he lived. His story is inspiring and real. That's what I loved about it the most - the realism in this book. Mr. Long didn't cut out the gory details (his descriptions of his injuries had me reading one handed - one had on the book, the other over my gaping-in-shock-mouth). He is real in his descriptions of the vulnerability and humiliation he experienced during rehab, the mental struggles involved in dealing with new physical limitations, and the vast hurdles that were set before him to overcome. Inspiring.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Remember in my last post I mentioned that I wanted to read some of Churchill's memoirs of WWII, but wasn't willing to tackle all 6 volumes? Well, last week I was perusing the bookshelves in Half-Price Books in hopes of snagging a copy of Lauren Hillenbrand's latest book ("Unbroken"). I was unsuccessful. However, my disappointment was short-lived because I found this beauty: an ABRIDGED version of Winston Churchill's Memoirs of The Second World War for $6.98!!! Oh happy day! So I bought it. And it's only 1000 pages. ;-)

Monday, July 4, 2011

A couple of books

No, this is not turning into a book review blog -I've just had such a streak of great reads that I feel compelled to force my book-nerd excitement on you all :)

Two things inspired me to learn more about Winston Churchill -
1) Reading "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society", which takes place in England, post WWII.
2) Nerd moment - an episode of season 5 Doctor Who that takes place during the Blitz and features Churchill.

I started thinking about how much I don't know about this man, who played such an important role in history. After putting out a few feelers, my friend and history buff, Lindsey, recommended this biography to me. I was surprised by how short it was (I mean, biographies are usually tomes right?) - this was only 160 pages. From the start, I wasn't a fan of the writing style. It felt rushed, as though Mr. Johnson wanted to keep the book to 160 pages and was going to cram in as much information as he could. The flow of the book was choppy, jumping from Churchill fact to Churchill fact, but not so much so that it made me want to stop reading. I did learn a lot about Churchill and I appreciated how both Churchill's flaws and successes were discussed in the book. He was a person, not perfect. I discovered that Churchill was a prolific writer and I would like to tackle one of his tomes (yes, tomes is the apppropriate descprition for his books- for example: "The Second World War" consists of 6 volumes and 5000 pages!) in the future. Because of the nature of "cram everything into a 160 pages" of this book, some of the topics that I was interested in (specifics about the Blitz and Churchill's role) were glossed over and considering the length of "The Second World War" I think it will cover all and more of what I want to know :) (although I don't plan to read all 6 volumes). So, overall, good intro to Churchill.

"The Westing Game" by Ellen Raskin was also recommended to me by Lindsey.

Summary: A man, Sam Westing, dies in a mansion. Sixteen people living in an apartment complex next to the mansion receive letters summoning them to the mansion. Upon arriving at the mansion, these sixteen people are told that they are they are heirs, but only if they can solve who killed the man - the catch? It's one of them. The one who can figure out "who dunit?" is the true heir...of 200 million dollars. The group is broken into teams of two and each team is given four clues. The book is all about them trying to piece together the clues so that they can win the grand prize. Excellently written and a fun read, this young adult mystery kept me guessing until the end - lots of twists and turns, with a few surprises through in for good measure. "The Westing Game" is well-deserving of the Newberry award it received in 1979.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Book droolage...

I have to dedicate an entire post to this book. That's how much I liked it.

"The Devil in the White City" is comprised of two different historical events that are intertwined: the Worlds' Fair in Chicago, 1893...and the serial killer, H.H.Holmes.

True to his other books, Mr. Larson mixes historical fact with personal accounts (gleaned from letters and circa 1890 newspapers), recreating 1890s Chicago so vividly that you can almost smell the coal smoke and the Union Stock Yards. If you are like me, and completely oblivious, besides the name, of the Worlds' Fair - I highly encourage you to read this book. This Fair was beyond anything the world had ever seen at this point and how they accomplished it on such a short timeframe and in such grand completely boggles my mind. They built an entire city in 2.5 years time that by the end of the fair (it was open for 6 months), nearly 1/2 of America's population had visited ::jaw drop::

A couple of interesting trivia points from this book:

Elias Disney, Walt Disney's father, was a carpenter who worked on the Worlds' Fair buildings and his stories of the park, it's beauty and magical feel, inspired Walt...hmm, wonder what Walt went on to build? :)

The Ferris wheel was created to "out Eiffel Eiffel". In 1889, Paris hosted the Exposition Universelle, and it was for that Exposition that the Eiffel Tower was built. America needed to create something to rival France's tower...and thus, the Ferris wheel was invented.

Shredded Wheat and Cracker Jack were introduced at the Fair.

The whole point of the fair was to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus' voyage. And prompted the President to create Columbus Day, October 12th.

I think one of the reviewers on the back cover states it best " So good, you find yourself asking how you could not know this already".

Phenomenal book.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Here are some books I have recently read:

1) Issac's Storm by Erik Larson

This is a non-fiction book about the huge hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900. Excellently written - it reads like fiction, not non-fiction. It was weird reading this book and knowing exactly the area that was being described, having been on those beaches and walked those streets (I live about 30 miles from Galveston). And having experienced the aftermath of a hurricane (thankfully not as deadly as the 1900 storm) made the book more personal. As the storm gets closer and closer to Galveston, the intensity and suspense in book grows, I found myself reading faster and faster :). I was almost shouting out loud at some of the characters as they made life and death decisions and was astounded by how far meteorology has come since those times. Mr. Larson manages to jam-pack his works (I'm currently reading his "The Devil in the White City" right now - about the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893 and can't wait to read his new one "The Garden of Beasts - Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin" that recently came out) not only with historical trivia, but with personal accounts from those who lived in that time. It doesn't read like a history book. Love this author!

2) Radical - Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream - by David Platt

I think every Christian should read this book. It was a big lightbulb moment book for me, challenging and convicting in several ways. I don't think I can do this book justice in a review, but the long and short of it is a challenge to look at your faith from what the Bible tells us to do and not manipulate it to fit what our culture tells us to do. Convicting.

3) Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Easily the weirdest book I have ever read. It was disgusting. It was fascinating. Mary Roach gives the detailed history of cadavers and their use in research - from the early days of grave robbing and apothecary uses, to modern time anatomy lab, car crash and land mine research, and she does it, like several other reviews have noted, in a humorous and yet respectful way (I especially appreciated her chapter on organ donation). Her writing style, like Erik Larson, reads like fiction, rather than a dusty old history book. She mixes in run of mill historical facts with some sensational trivia about cadavers. If you have a sensitive stomach, I wouldn't recommend this book - there were definitely some "ewww" factors to this book. But if you are looking for an interesting, outside-of-box, gross-your-friends-out-with-some-morbid-factoids, gaining an appreciation for all of those scientists and doctors out there who work with cadavers to make our lives better book, then you should read this book.

4) Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I read this on the flight back from Moscow. This book was well written, I like Sara Gruen's style. The story is told in past and present - an old man reflecting on his experiences in the circus. The chapters that take place in the present were heart-wrenching (I got teary) as the main character, Jacob, candidly expresses his opinions of aging and assisted living and I enjoyed learning about circus life, the lingo and the social hierarchy that exists. Some of the harsher scenes in the book (sensual and animal abuse) were a bit much for me though and I found my skimming (and at times skipping!) some parts. I'm glad I read this book for the historical perspective it provides on circus life, but I found the main plot to be pretty run-of-the-mill and "been there, done that".

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Preparing for Easter

My friend Jessica and I have been reading through this book over the past couple of weeks. It's a book that Nancy Guthrie compiled from various sermon excerpts, from pastors such as Augustine, Luther, Owen, Sproul, Mahaney, Edwards, and Keller, to name a few. The sermon excerpts focus on Easter and the work of Christ on the cross (Ms. Guthrie has a similar compilation in "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus- Readings for Advent" in preparation for Christmas- which is fantastic).

The book has 25 readings and we backed that out from Easter for when to begin reading one-a-day. This book has been amazing, convicting, renewing, and oh-so-focusing on what Easter really means. The other night, Jessica and I easily spent a half an hour going back and forth, each sharing a particular excerpt that was particularly encouraging/jaw dropping/convicting. Here are a couple of my favorites:

In the excerpt "The Silence of the Lamb" by Adrian Rogers, he addresses why Jesus was silent before Pilate and his accusers. Why didn't he defend himself?

"The Bible teaches us that when Jesus Christ took our sin, he took all of the punishment that goes with that sin. A part of that punishment is shame. Had Jesus defended himself and protested his innocence, he would have suffered no shame, and that would have left us guilty. Jesus could not prove himself innocent and then die in our place the shameful death that we deserve. Thank God that Jesus was willing to be counted a sinner before God, that we might be counted as righteous before God!"

In "Gethsemane" by R.Kent Hughes, he speaks on Jesus being arrested in Gethesemane and how that this wasn't a surprise to the Lord. He knew who was to betray Him, He knew that he was to be arrested. Gethesemane is in actuality a beautiful example of God's sovereignty and faithfulness (sorry for the long excerpt, but it is SOOO good!):

"The surroundings of Christ's final hour clearly display his sovereign control. The intensity of his agony and he sovereign resolve to bear it, his control over his captors, his protection of his own, his grace to the wounded, all proved he is an omniscient, all-powerful God. Christ was in control when life was falling in, when things looked the worst.

How does this related to us? Though Christ's Gethsemane was infinitely beyond human experience, Gethsemanes are part of believers' lives.

Gethsemane was not a tragedy, and neither are our Gethsemanes. This does not do away with the woulds of affliction in this life, but it is encouraging to see that behind human tragedy stands the benevolent and wise purpose of the Lord of human history. Life may be dark at times, tragedy may come, and at times the whole world may seem to be falling a part. The wheel may appear ready to crush us. But this is not the end. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28), even in Gethsemane."


I highly, HIGHLY recommend this book for those of you who want to focus your heart and mind on the Easter (or Advent) season from a Biblical perspective. So thankful for resources like this!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Way with Words

I am reading this fantastic book called, A Way with Words, by Christin Ditchfield. I heard about it through Carolyn McCulley's blog after she sang it's praises.

This book discusses our speech, how women speak WAY more than men (okay, so that wasn't new information :) ), and how we need to be so very careful of how we use our words.

So far this book has been extremely convicting and practical. The author uses both real-world examples and Biblical examples to describe how we, specifically as women, can use our words to manipulate, encourage, tear down, show kindness, and alienate.

She quotes many historically famous women, some I have heard of (Sojouner Truth, Eleanor Roosevelt...) and some I haven't. My favorite quote so far that really struck a chord:

"The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment" - Dorothy Neville

I highly recommend this book...and I am only on chapter 2!

Friday, September 10, 2010

More finished books...

Added to the finished pile:

The Good Earth- Pearl S. Buck
Good writing, story of a farmer's life in China...had a very "solid" feel...a bit on the depressing side, because of how matter of fact/truthful it was. Glad I read it.

Born to Run- Christopher McDougall
Excellent book! Not convinced of the merits of barefoot running, but it did get me to add chia seeds to my diet and to contemplate short short distances of barefoot running in the grass...once I start running again that is :)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society- Mary Ann Shaffer
This was a fantastically awesome book that will probably end up on my "all time favorites". It's set in post WWII London and it's about a writer who corresponds with a town on one of the Channel islands. The entire story is told through the letters they exchange. I feel like I know every single character in the book personally. Very well done.

Currently reading Wuthering Heights...nope I have never read took a bit to get into it, but as one of the characters in the Potato Peel Pie book said "when Cathy's fingers touched the window, I was hooked"...exact same thing happened for me (and yes, it was the Potato Peel Pie book that made me want to read Wuthering Heights...I love when books inspire you to read other books! :) )

Saturday, July 31, 2010

In the finished pile...

So besides some telework and movies, my only other activity option has been reading. Here's what I've read in the past two weeks. Please let me know if you have other recommendations!

The 4 books in the Twilight series
Confession- I skim-read because I didn't like them. I don't like her writing style (it did improve somewhat as the series went on), there isn't really much of a plot, and Bella just bugs me. A lot. Sorry to all you fans out there, but at least I now know what everyone is talking about when they ask "Edward or Jacob?".

The Winding Ways Quilt (Jennifer Chiaverini)
This one wasn't the best in the Elm Creek Quilt books, but meets the "just some fun easy reading" description.

The Help (Kathryn Stockett)
This book rectified the damage done by Twilight's one-syllable-word sentence structure. Beautiful, rich writing that made the characters leap off of the page (cliche I know, but oh so true). I love putting a book down and feeling that I have learned something along the way. Thanks for the recommendation Lindsey!

The Great Train Robbery (Michael Crichton)
Kind of like Ocean's 11 meets The Italian Job. Quick read, entertaining, and I learned some random stuff about trains and dog-fighting. Another good recommendation from Lindsey.

Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston)
I know, this is a modern classic, but I never got around to it until now. I enjoyed it- love the voice she wrote it in- at first it was challenging to pick up the rhythm of the dialogue, but once I got it down, the story feels like it is singing at you.

The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls)
Sad, reluctantly funny at times, and a must read. I absolutely love how this memoir was written: honest and unapologetic "this is how it was". I had a hard time putting it down. Lindsey, I am sensing a pattern...

Currently reading: The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck).