Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Book Review: The Shock of Night by Patrick W. Carr

When I saw that Patrick W. Carr had another book coming out, I knew that I would read it because I enjoyed his last series The Sword and the Staff so much.  The Shock of Night has a new protagonist in a new world, but the writing is just as good.  Willet Dura has recently become the king's reeve, basically, the king's own detective.  He is very good at what he does, so when a man is murdered and the religious groups want the king to leave it alone, he asks Willet to investigate, quietly, of course.  Willet does and becomes drawn into experiences that he never thought possible and gains a kind of power he really doesn't want.

I really enjoyed this latest book from Carr.  His heroes are flawed men:  the hero from his last series was a recovering alcoholic, whereas some people think Willet is insane.  (I'll leave it for the reader to decide if they are correct.)  But Willet uses his mind and talents and discovers what others are unable and/or unwilling to find.  And watching him grow into his newfound ability is fun to watch, especially when he uses it against those who try to manipulate him.

If you're interested in this book, you should start with Carr's prequel, a free e-book By Divine Right which tells how Willet becomes the king's reeve.

I look forward to seeing how Willet's tale progresses in the rest of this series!

I want to thank Bethany House for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Book Review: The Stone of Ebenezer by Susan Van Volkenburgh

The Stone of Ebenezer by Susan Van Volkenburgh tells the fictionalized story of when the Israelites took the Ark of the Covenant into battle with the Philistines -- and the Philistines captured the ark.  This tale follows the Israelite soldier Nagad as he witnesses the capture, and it also follows four Philistine soldiers who observe the devastating effects that God wields upon the Philistines until they return His Ark.  The last third of the book also deals with the return of the Ark and the subsequent defeat of the Philistines.

I did not enjoy this book; I could not read it fast enough to get it over and done with.  While the story was fine (not good, not bad), the writing left much to be desired.  The author tried to write poetically, to the extent that a few times I read and reread a passage and could not fathom what she meant, other than that the sun came up.  It also seemed as though she used a thesaurus, looking for new words, without actually knowing what they meant or how they should be used.  A good editor could have fixed that along with some of the grammatical errors.  Maybe that's what she needed.

If you enjoy reading fictionalized Biblical history, you might enjoy this book -- if you can overlook the problems that I just couldn't.

I want to thank BookLook Bloggers for my (kindle) copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Finished Object Friday and an Update

I made both of these baby blankets for friends who are also having babies.  Since both of them are due before I am, I had plans to make blankets for them before I discovered that I was pregnant. I must admit that I'm happy to be done with these two blankets so that I can work on one for my baby.  :)  The pattern for the first one, the yellow one, came from Knit Baby Blankets.  The second one came from Afghan Medleys to Knit, and it's not actually a baby blanket pattern.  :)  My mother suggested taking the pattern for a scarf and making it bigger, and it came out lovely, don't you think?

As for me, I am doing well.  I feel pretty good most of the time, although I am easily tired.  I guess that's what happens when you get pregnant at my age.  ;)  Things are keeping me busier than I have been, and most of it has been good.  School takes longer this year with three children to teach, and Sarah Beth has more work to do because of her CC Essentials class.  With Mary not napping -- most of the time, we take advantage of the free afternoons to get together with friends at the park or even just to run extra errands.  And my almost daily nap takes time, too.  :)

On top of all of that, I realized last month that we don't have room for the new baby's paraphernalia, and we should because we have a nice, big house.  I was inspired by Marie Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I've been going through my closet and the library, sorting through things.  Both rooms look so much better!  If you're thinking that I shouldn't be doing this right now, well, maybe you're right.  But I actually enjoy it, and I'm doing it in small windows of time so I don't wear myself out too much -- and neglect the rest of my life.  

With all of that, I barely have any time to get on the computer some days, but that's okay.  I try to keep up with my blog reading even though I'm not writing much.  I hope that things slow down -- but I really don't think they will.  I'd better get used to this level of busy-ness!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Book Review: The Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert

The Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert tells the story of Gretl: how she escapes from a train carrying a load of German Jews to Auschwitz during World War II, then stays with a Polish family for a few years before ending up in South Africa, adopted by a loving family.  The author does a great job describing the different cultures Gretl adapts to, especially the one in South Africa which is the one with which I am the most unfamiliar.  I especially enjoyed watching Gretl make the journey from watching others' faith to making Christianity her own.

I absolutely loved this book!  From the very first page, I was enthralled, and I couldn't read it fast enough.  The writing style of this author is wonderful, and I wish more of her books were translated into English.  The pictures that she paints and how she describes the characters' feelings are extraordinary, and I can't recommend this book more highly.  As an added benefit, it is clean!

I want to thank BookLook Bloggers for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Happy Reformation Day!!

This post was originally published October 31, 2012.

Tomorrow we will celebrate Reformation Day, the day the Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenburg.  On Sunday, when we celebrated Reformation Sunday, there was a short explanation in the bulletin of exactly what the Reformation is.  I hope my church doesn't mind if I post it here.
On October 31, 1517, a German monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed his theological convictions (The 95 Theses) to the Castle Church door in Wittenburg.  Luther's intent was to foster debate and reform regarding the church's practices, so that they might align with the principles of Scripture.  This act helped spark a revival in the Church and a reformation in Western culture.  This movement became known as the Protestant Reformation. 
The spiritual heritage of Reformed and Presbyterian Churches is traced back to this era.  On the Sunday prior to this anniversary we celebrate Reformation Sunday.  Today Reformed Churches and Christians seek to follow the five mottos of the Reformation:  1) Sola Scriptura -- Scripture Alone, 2) Solo Christo -- Christ Alone, 3) Sola Gratia -- Grace Alone, 4)  Sola Fide -- Faith Alone, 5) Soli Deo Gloria -- Glory to God Alone.
We heard a sermon on the five Solas, and it was a wonderful reminder.  In case you enjoy these types of reminders like I do, I thought I would expound a little bit on these battle cries of the Reformation with some help from the notes I took from the sermon.
  • Sola Scriptura -- Scripture Alone.  The Bible alone is the final and absolute source of knowledge about God, our sinful condition, and how those two things can be reconciled.  We take for granted the fact that we have the Bible in our own language, but men died in order to procure that for us.  (John Wycliffe, John Huss, William Tyndale)
  • Solo Christo -- Christ Alone.  Our salvation is of Christ, and Christ alone.  As John 14:6 says, Jesus is the only way to God.  
  • Sola Gratia -- Grace Alone.  We are saved by Christ alone through grace alone.  Just as we had no choice in being born to our earthly parents, we had no choice in being adopted into God's family.  According to Ephesians 2:5, while we were dead in our sins, God made us alive.
  • Sola Fide -- Faith Alone.  We are saved by Christ alone through grace alone by faith alone.  That's all there is to it.  Such a simple idea and yet so hard to grasp.
  • Soli Deo Gloria -- Glory to God Alone.  Why did the reformers endure so much?  Why were they willing to die for these beliefs?  To bring glory to God and only to God.
Do you celebrate Reformation Day?  How so?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Book Review: Grit to Great by Linda Kaplan Thaler & Robin Koval

Grit to Great:  How Perseverance, Passion, and Pluck Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval contains many stories of how people with ordinary abilities were able to do exceptional things because they were determined to do so.  Along with the inspiring stories, the book is filled with suggestions on how to develop "grit" so that you can stick with your dreams in order to make them come true.

Honestly, I decided to review this book because I want to help my children develop "grit."  I want them to learn to stick with things until they get them accomplished.  But I learned a few things about myself, one is that I have more grit than I thought.  :)   Also, I enjoyed reading this book more than I thought I would, and I would recommend it to anyone who desires to do more than maybe they think they can, anyone who wants to learn to persevere.

I want to thank Blogging for Books for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Book Review: On This Foundation by Lynn Austin

On This Foundation by Lynn Austin continues the biblical story told in the earlier two books in this series, the story of how the exiled Jews return to Jerusalem from Babylon and rebuild it.  This book focuses on Nehemiah and how God used him to build the walls around His city.

When I saw that I had the opportunity to review this book, I leaped at it!  I love Austin's books, and this one was just as good, if not better.  Her Bible-based books are so accurate, and I really appreciate her attention to detail.  I skimmed through the book of Nehemiah just to get an overview of the story, and found almost everything she included in the book.  As a matter of fact, I thought the story of Chana and her sisters helping their father rebuild the wall was just added to give us a strong heroine to admire, but no!  One of the rulers of Jerusalem did have daughters who helped on the wall.

I really enjoyed this book.  The character development was wonderful as we watch Nehemiah struggle with his desire to protect his brothers along with his need to let them be the men God wants them to be.  And Chana goes through an amazing renewal as she learns to put aside her grief and embrace the life that God wants her to lead.

So, yes, I recommend this book!

I want to thank Bethany House for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.