Book Review: Clear Winter Nights, by Trevin Wax


I wanted to read this book because I was intrigued by the concept of “Theology in Story,”  as it says on the book’s cover. Clear Winter Nights largely consists of conversations about faith and life between a retired-pastor grandfather and his college-aged grandson. I think there is value in this book, but the writing style put me off. It is very simplistic and not “literary” at all. I felt like the author had a checklist of all the issues he wanted to insert into the story and was marking them off one-by-one as he wrote. There are just too many topics covered in rapid-fire succession over the course of 147 pages.

The book’s greatest strength is probably the extensive “Conversation Guide” in the back. I can see this book as providing material for discussion in a high school youth group or college-aged small group.

Disclosure: I received a free Advance Reading Copy of this book through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review.

Book Review: Quiet, by Susan Cain


This book was fascinating and a pleasure to read. I am certain that I will re-read it again and again. It isn’t really a book about how introverts can act more extroverted; rather, it is a celebration of the unique characteristics and strengths of introverts. I found it to be extremely helpful and hopeful. Susan Cain possesses the ability to sort through complicated research and make it easy to understand and useful in everyday life. I particularly appreciated the many personal examples and case studies that give expression to the thoughts and experiences of introverts.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review.

Book Review: A Noble Groom, by Jody Hedlund


I have read all of Jody Hedlund’s books, and I’m sorry to say that, while she is a talented author, A Noble Groom did not draw me in as much as her other books. The biggest issue with this one is that the characters seem formulaic. Annalisa and Carl each have their one main skill/hobby (storytelling and scientifically tinkering around, respectively), their one main circumstantial obstacle to overcome, and their one main area in which they experience inner, personal growth. Their romance is sweet, but nothing remarkable. They fall in love because they are both decent, kind people who happen to be in the right place at the right time. I do think Jody Hedlund does a good job in this book of bringing to life the poverty and hardship experienced by German immigrant settlers in the nineteenth century.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Cease Striving and Look Up

Today I read this blog post by Sally Clarkson about “De-Cluttering Your Soul,” and one of the verses she listed to consider when taking an inventory of one’s soul is Psalm 46:10. The way Sally wrote it out in her post is “Be still (cease striving) and know that I am God.” This is a familiar verse to me, but it was the parenthetical note that caught my attention, impelling me to meditate on the words “cease striving.”

This phrase is a concise reiteration of a concept that God gently impressed upon me a few days ago when I was pulling out all the stops to try to figure out a solution to a particular problem. I was staying up too late, neglecting responsibilities, and focusing all of my attention on trying to find some way, any way, to make happen the thing I desperately wanted to happen. But I came to the end of myself. I had used up all my resources and ideas, and I was still empty-handed.

Then I remembered to look up, and my soul was flooded with peace. I remembered that God is a Father who delights to give good things to His children. I remembered (how easily I forget) to be anxious for nothing, but to present my requests to Him, so that His peace will guard my heart and mind.

That thing that I was making important, making urgent, making an idol, was instantly relegated to not-first-place. It’s not even second or third or fourth place. It’s still on my list somewhere, but I believe that it is also on God’s list now. I don’t need to worry or obsess over it any more. I have ceased striving, and I am confident that He is God. I’ve asked Him for help, and I trust that, in His time, He will answer my prayer.

A New Purse, A New Year

I bought a new purse today. Since high school, I have toted variations of the same tiny purse—a few pockets here and there; room for keys, a cell phone, a wallet, and not much more. But lately, I have wanted to carry more than my little purse would allow. I’ve overloaded it, struggled with it, and been frustrated with its inadequacy. So today I upgraded to a larger, more appropriate handbag, one that I hope will make my life a little easier and a little better. It is sitting empty, awaiting the transfer of the contents of my old purse, ready to hold those things and more.

In a few minutes, I’ll be ringing in a new year. The old year is filled to capacity. It was a time of growth and stretching. At times I felt overloaded, I struggled, and I was frustrated with my own inadequacy. But I gained a little more wisdom, a little more understanding, a little more compassion, a little more peace, a little more faith. Those are things I will carry with me into this new year, which is wide open and waiting to be filled.

Book Review: The Air We Breathe, by Christa Parrish


There was so much tragedy in the first few chapters of The Air We Breathe that I had to put it down for a couple of days, and I was a little afraid to pick it up again. But because I had read and appreciated Christa Parrish’s other novels (my reviews: Home Another Way, Watch Over Me), I trusted her enough as an author to know that it would be worth persevering through the hard stuff to get to hear what she wanted to say in this book. And I was not disappointed.

Christa’s books are not always easy to read, but they are honest. She accesses her characters’ deepest emotions and presents them in a way that is beautifully, startlingly raw and vulnerable. She always writes with warmth and compassion.

In this book, I thought she did a particularly good job of incorporating spiritual content in an appealing, unexpected manner. This is Christian fiction done right.

The Air We Breathe is, in my opinion, Christa’s best-written and most “literary” novel to date. She is a talented author, and I look forward to reading more from her.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Review: Where Lilacs Still Bloom, by Jane Kirkpatrick


Although Jane Kirkpatrick employs descriptive language and interesting dialogue, there is very little plot to this book. If you think of it as a biography, then you will be in the right mindset to read it. Where Lilacs Still Bloom is charming and inspiring, but it is not a riveting page-turner. However, it is a pleasant enough read, especially for those who enjoy gardening.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Review: Over the Edge, by Mary Connealy

This is the third book in the Kincaid Brides series. Having read the previous books, I was excited to have the opportunity to read and review this one. Mary Connealy wraps up most of the loose ends from the other two books (leaving room open, however, for a fourth book). There is plenty of action, and the book is engaging and entertaining until the end, but I have to say that her writing in this book seems rushed and forced, more so than in the first two books of the series. It seems like she tried too hard to build romantic tension, and after a while, I got tired of reading how much Seth really, really wants to be intimate with his wife. Thanks, I understood it the first time and don’t need to be reminded on every other page.

I also felt like the character of Seth’s wife, Callie, was really underdeveloped. Connealy could have done so much more with her, but instead Callie is basically a one-dimensional spitfire and polecat who literally snarls and growls. Really? I have never heard a woman snarl and growl like a wild animal. There is one scene where Callie says she is ugly, and I thought Connealy was going to go deeper with that, maybe go more into why Callie felt ugly–not just on the outside, due to present circumstances, but on the inside, because of past hurts. I expected Callie to go through some change and healing, just as Seth must, but it doesn’t turn out that way.

If you have already read the first two books in this series, it is probably worthwhile to read this book as well. Overall, the Kincaid Brides books make up a fun series.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

It’s Summer!

The kids have been enjoying the warm weather and splashing around in their kiddie pool in the back yard.

I fell off the grain-free-sugar-free-for-60-days wagon partway through. I started out with good intentions, but I never got back on track after that bout with stomach flu. I definitely felt great when I was eating that way, and I am trying to keep my grains to a minimum now, but I just don’t have time to make two different meals for myself and the rest of the family, so the thing I am focusing on now is portion control.

I only have six more months of college left. I will graduate in December. Going back to school has been demanding and stretching in every possible way. I feel like I’ve been run through the wringer emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, and I definitely am not getting enough sleep or caring for my body the way I wish I could, if I had more time. But this is where I’m at, and God is growing me. I’m starting to finally pull through a spiritual slump/crisis of faith that I’ve been going through for the past, oh…well, probably since I went back to school, so a little over half a year.

My plans for after I finish school include focusing more on homeschooling my kids (especially character training and responsibility/chores), becoming more proficient at guitar and/or harp, regularly inviting people over (a.k.a., actually cleaning the house), exercising more, and reading books for fun (my to-read is getting really long).


Grain Free Sugar Free Day 40

For the most part, I have stuck very well to my grain-free, sugar-free diet. I did allow myself to have one slice of my daughter’s birthday dessert last week. And the past few days have been crazy. All five of the members of my family, including myself, came down with a horrible, nasty stomach bug of some sort. We’ve done about eight or ten loads of laundry in the past couple of days, if that tells you anything. It was really, really awful. Yesterday, I was able to hold down liquids, so I drank some ginger ale and Recharge (an all-natural sports drink). Today, I’m feeling a little better, but I felt like I really needed to eat something easy on my stomach, so I had a piece of toast with honey. Totally the opposite of grain free sugar free, but I didn’t feel like I could handle anything rich. Anyway, once I am back to normal, I will continue my grain free sugar free diet.