Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Books of 2013 - March

Here's the list for March. Joining Goodreads is definitely helping me keep up with my reviews & opinions better than my Commonplace book does (although I still use it and love it). High marks for this month go to #1, #10, & #17 if you'd like to jump right to the books that I really loved in March.

1. Unglued. Non-fiction by Lysa TerKeurst. The review I left on Goodreads: Encouraging, honest, and practical. I do not think Mrs. TerKeurst is the most gifted female theologian or expositor of our day, but that's OK. She does what she does very well and this book came along at just the right time for me.

2. Endless Night. Fiction by Agatha Christie. The review I left on Goodreads: Different from the usual Christie fare in subject, voice, and conclusion. Unfortunately not as shocking now as it was when it first came out (so many different reviews talking about "the twist" at the end thereby ruining the surprise). Always enjoyable to read a master mystery writer, though.

3.Inspired You. Non-fiction by Marian Parsons (Miss Mustard Seed). My Goodreads review: Beautiful photos, inspiring & encouraging words. One of the better examples of a blog turned book.

4.Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus. Non-fiction by Elyse Fitzpatrick & Jessica Thompson. My Goodreads review: Paradigm changer: stop trying to be the perfect parent in order to raise the perfect child (or children). Instead, grow deeper in your knowledge and confidence in God's grace to us through His son Jesus. Share that grace with your children. Rest.

This book made me think, challenged me, and also helped me to identify how much of an idol my parenting has become to me.

The downside: practical examples are just not present in this book. And the sample dialog is far too wordy. Surely no child would allow their parent(s) to stand in front of them pontificating about grace for an indeterminate period of time. (end of Goodreads review)

I really wanted Philip to read this one too, so we could discuss it, but it had to go back to the library before he got around to it. As I said, it was challenging. I think there were things I disagreed with but I would have liked to talk to someone else in order to figure out exactly what those were. And I stand by my analysis of the downside: the sample dialog (for parents to share with their kids) is usually impractical and horribly long.

5. City of Shadows. Fiction by Ariana Franklin. Goodreads: Engrossing plot, memorable characters, well done historical research. Franklin makes the time (post WW1 - pre WW2) and place (Berlin, among a few other locations) come alive. Drawbacks for some readers: graphic, violent content and steady use of objectionable language. The suspense, mystery and growing dread of the rising Nazi party (and Hitler) is well done but the "twist" at the end is unnecessary at best.

This is a well written book, but, as I said in my review, it would definitely not be for every reader. There were several things I wish the author would have left to the reader's imagination. I understand that Berlin 1920-1930 was a decadent, sinful place. I wish the author hadn't felt those sins needed to be spelled out quite so clearly.

6. The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World. Non-fiction by Sophia Dembling. Goodreads: Excellent description of life as an introvert. Would be good for extroverts to read as well. The author has a great sense of humor and the chapters are short, making this an informative but fun read.

I saw myself in pretty much every chapter of this little book (minus any of the ones that talked about drinking). This is definitely my tribe.

7. The Sea King's Daughter. Fiction by Barbara Michaels. I picked this one up because Michaels also writes - as Elizabeth Peters - the fantastic Amelia Peabody mystery series. She definitely has a knack for writing interesting characters, plots, and dialog but this one is dated (first published in 1975) and doesn't really hold up well. {Goodreads}

8. Lady of Ashes. Fiction by Christine Trent. My Goodreads review: The nicest thing I can think to say about this book: the author obviously did a lot of research. Unfortunately, she was not skilled at making interesting characters, a plot with coherence, or any actual tension. Her main character is tedious and the supporting characters are cardboard cut-outs. If she wanted to write a non-fiction book about funeral habits of the Victorians, she ought to have done so.

There is far too much telling and not enough showing in this book. There wasn't enough believable dialog. It was full of clumsy attempts to portray actual historical figures. (The Queen Victoria sections alone were cringe worthy.)

Mark this one down as "disappointing"

9. A Complaint Free World. Non-fiction by Will Bowen. My Goodreads review: OK but not great. How can a pastor not talk about the necessity of God's help in improving both our attitudes and our lives? This is more like a different take on the "power of positive thinking" type of book.

10. What Women Want: The Life You Crave and How God Satisfies. Non-fiction by Lisa Bergren & Rebecca Price. My Goodreads Review (I gave it 5 stars): Excellent, practical advice. Great Bible study to be done alone or with a group at the back of the book and lots of suggested resources. Highly recommended.

11. Deconstructing Penguins. Non-fiction by Lawrence & Nancy Goldstone. My Goodreads review: Book about teaching kids (and their parents) to read books with understanding. Helpful reading list suggestions at the back (although some of their choices seemed odd to me).

Not included in my review at the time: I've seen another homeschool bloggers talking about this one and somehow expected a bit more from this book. Which is not to say that I was disappointed, it just wasn't quite what I expected or perhaps wanted.

12. A Likeness in Stone. Fiction by Wallis Martin. My Goodreads review: Dark and compelling. NOT a "cozy" British mystery despite the setting. (Oxford, Thames Valley police) Changes POV often but usually skillfully (some transitions were clunkier than others). Some plot threads left dangling but the ultimate bad guy in the book was one of the most depraved and chilling I've ever read about. Nightmare material!

13. The Flipside of Feminism. Non-fiction by Suzanne Venker & Phyllis Schlafly. (Yes, that Phyllis Schlafly) My Goodreads review: A dose of common sense: women have many opportunities and can achieve many things. But it helps to do those things in order (what the authors call sequencing) that works with biology instead of against it.

Enjoyed the no-nonsense tone but seriously doubt anyone who holds a contrary view would read this book anyway.

It might have been a good idea to contrast the opportunities and advancement of American women with the plight currently experienced by other women in the world, where they are still treated like 2nd class citizens (or worse, like property).

14. Summerset Abbey. Fiction by T.J. Brown. Part of my Goodreads review: Great for anyone having Downton Abbey withdrawal. A few inaccuracies and annoying typos scattered around but nothing that detracts from the overall effect, which is a set of interesting characters and their intertwined lives.

This is supposed to be the first in a trilogy and I think I will definitely read the next book in the series. The inaccuracies and typos bugged me, I'll admit, but the author seems to know how to write mufti-dimensional characters and a compelling plot without resorting to cheap tricks like s** scenes or graphic violence.

15. Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. Non-fiction by Adam McHugh. My Goodreads review: Excellent book for introverts (who need to know how to make their natural strengths and weaknesses work for them and God's churches) and extroverts (who need to understand the introverts around them). Highly recommended, especially for those in pastoral ministry who are more naturally introverted.

I've passed this one on to Philip and I'm sure it will inspire some good discussion.

16. The Male Brain. Non-fiction by Louann Brizendine. Goodreads review: Interesting information, quick to read. Most of the book is footnotes and other studies. Didn't love the fact that it made men sound like they have no choices - their behavior is just dictated by biology or chemistry.

17. Grace for the Good Girl. Non-fiction by Emily Freeman. My Goodreads review (another 5 star winner): I'd give this one ten stars out of ten, if I could. Wonderful, practical, heart-felt encouragement in this book. How did Emily Freeman know what I needed to read? Because I could identify with every chapter.

Highly recommending this one to all my female Christian friends.

Totals for March:
Fiction: 6
Non-fiction: 11

So, what did you finish reading in March? I'd love to add some more books to my stack.
 This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. Action taken with these links could result in compensation for me, except it hasn't for months. But I still feel honor bound to tell you that it could.

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