"Well, he said, I'm back."
~Sam Gamgee to his wife, Rosie. Last line of The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien.
Our family has had quite a few adventures this July, from VBS to family visits to the British Virgin Islands, and back. We have a garden growing (and partially threatened by pests of various types & sizes... I just came in from spreading diatomaceous earth with a vengeance! We have lost so many of our gourds --squash, pumpkin, cucumber-- almost all of our potatoes, cauliflower & brocolli, all of our peas, and now some of our tomatoes are starting to pine. Sigh.), a toddler learning, a marriage deepening, and about twenty-odd books between the two of us a-reading. Since it would take too much time (and pictures, which I don't have ready yet) to try and catch up with our travels, gardens, and the brewing thoughts of my mind, I'll try to re-enter blog-world gently with a book list... I love books. I love lists. And I have about 20 minutes of nap-time left. :)
- The Help, Kathryn Stockett- my sister lent me this for the plane home and I liked it quite a bit. A book about a book (always fun), in this case a tell-all of Black Southern maids about what life is like for them in the earliest parts of the Civil Rights movements (1960s). As a White Southerner who has been blessed to grow up free from a lot of racial prejudice, this book was helpful in understanding why the racial lines are drawn so deeply in many parts of the South. It also makes me think about the political events in another light; the laws in the South at the time actually made the treating of Black Americans as equals illegal. I think we forget that sometimes. But it's there in the Jim Crow laws; not allowed to have the same toilets, not allowed to marry, not allowed to be served at the same grocery stores. We have come a long way, and I am thankful... and we still have so many remaining bits of filth- racism- left to eradicate. I highly recommend this for every Southerner to read. Only sad part to me was the seeming lack of any true Christians; even though many of the main characters are church-goers, religious and pray a lot, love for and trust in Christ is conspicuously absent, and the white hypocritical "Christians" literally sickened me. I was very convicted as a mom, too, by the insights this has into parenting. Well-written good thought-provoking story. 4 stars.
- By the Pricking of My Thumbs, and Partners in Crime, Agatha Christie- salt & sun equal mystery stories to me, so I grabbed a few paperbacks for our BVI trip and thoroughly enjoyed them. These are about the couple Tommy & Tuppence Berensford, a set of characters I'd never met before (my favorite has always been Hercule Poirot), and these books followed a bit different plot line than your typical Agatha Christie. Both were fun, the best part being the interplay between the husband and wife-- so realistic, affectionate, and quotable. The plots in Partners in Crime weren't too "wow" (I solved some of them myself, and others were unsolvable without inside information, which I never like). 3 1/2 stars.
- Unnatural Death, Dorothy L. Sayers- I do love Lord Peter Wimsey!! I appreciated the theological depth here too. (I wasn't expecting it, and when I saw it, I remembered "duh, Sayers was an Inkling! She might have read this to Lewis, Chesterton & Tolkien!) There is a great dialogue between a pastor and a middle-aged spinster employed by Wimsey on the nature of sin, and where responsibility lays. Lovable characters, gripping plot, believable mystery. Good stuff. 4 stars.
- Fablehaven: Keys to the Demon Prison, Brandon Mull- Book 5 in this very enjoyable series for kids. (Demons in this story are not spiritual, but rather fantastical, thoroughly evil beings.) Was impressed by the writing and by the moral depth this series provides. Not strictly Christian (there's an annoying "no religion has it totally right" passage in book 2), but definitely moral, with a view of death, growing up, right & wrong, and the afterlife that is quite in line with Scripture. 4 stars.
- Protecting the Gift, Gavin de Becker- a MUST READ for every parent. Not kidding. (I may compile a list of the 10 books I think every parent should read, hmmm...) I bought this after a friend recommended it, on the same day another friend of mine (lives in my neighborhood) and I were discussing how to teach our kids to be confident & friendly while still keeping them safe (especially our beautiful girls). This book presents fear as a (God-given) gift which is intended to help us stay safe. If we teach our children to honor that prickling of the hairs on their necks as well as arming them with the knowledge of what to do, we serve them well. The book is especially empowering to young moms, describing what amazing feats they have accomplished in order to protect their children (like literally beating an attacker with their bare hands with a baby on their hip), and passes on the clear message: your daughter could do this, too. Get it. Read it. Teach it to your kids. 5 stars.
- Heaven is for Real, Todd Burpo- We all read this as discussion-fodder on our sailing trip (our devotional topic was Heaven). If you're hoping for proof that Heaven is real, well, you should go back to reading the Bible. If you want to read an encouraging, faith-strengthening reminder of the way God cares for His own both now and forever, pick this up. I won't get into whether or not this little boy actually went to Heaven, or the New Heaven and the New Earth, or just had a vision. Whatever the case, the Lord is using it to comfort His saints, and this story is encouraging.
- Ragman and Other Cries of Faith, Walt Wangerin, Jr.- Wow. Wangerin is becoming one of Ryan's & my favorite shared authors. He is a master story-teller. I LOVE that he is writing outside of my own faith tradition (he is a Lutheran pastor I believe) and so he says things a bit differently, quotes different sources, and pulls in different traditions than I'm used to. Keeps me from getting jaded. This book is not a straight story; it's a collection of different genres-- drama, poetry, allegory, sermon, memoir, essay-- each beautiful and powerful in its own way. The collection is far from a haphazard anthology, but is instead itself an intentionally ordered mosaic meant to draw the soul to God as part of a community being drawn to God. The chapter on preaching is one I want to copy and send to every pastor I know!! 5 stars. Quotes WILL be showing up on this blog, I guarantee.
- Warbreaker, Brandon Sanderson- Ryan has been asking me to read this one by his new favorite fantasy author. Sanderson is a Mormon, and it seems Mormons are really good at creating complex worlds full of their own religions, types of magic, social orders and traditions. (Is it that those already creatively inclined are drawn to Mormonism, with its far-fetched beliefs and teaching that each man will become a god with his own world to shape... or does the belief stir up the creativity? Hmmm...) I appreciated the book for its characters, new cultures to explore, and mystery-- and totally clean (yay!). Interesting ideas about what makes religion 'true' and what motivates the religious. 3 stars.
- The Bartimeus Trilogy, Jonathan Stroud-- a children's fantasy series that Ryan really enjoyed. I liked it ok, but found it questionably near true Occult. The magic in these series is invocative; it calls upon powerful demons (invisible to most humans and residents of another reality), controlling them with spells and symbols, and forcing them to do what would be impossible for humans. This book obviously doesn't take place in our world, which helps keep it as distinctly fiction rather than potentially confusing kids. An engaging enough plot with plenty of wit and humor; a bit dark; shows power-lust for the wickedness that it is, and self-sacrificing love as the truest greatest power. Still unsure how to rate it.
In Progress (so far I LOVE them all!!!):
- Let Me Be a Woman, Elisabeth Elliot
- Bad Girls of the Bible, & Really Bad Girls of the Bible, Liz Curtis Higgs
- Undefiled, Harry Shaumberg
- Living in Light of the Gospel Story, World Harvest Mission
- When God Writes your Love Story, Eric & Leslie Ludy
- A Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp
- Elantris, Brandon Sanderson
- The Heart of Anger, Lou Priolo (I can't find my new copy anywhere-- did I loan it out already?)
Matched, Ally Condie
The Hunger Games, a trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Pure Excitement, Joe White
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
Any I should add?