"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."

-C.S. Lewis

What we read has such an impact on us, and I am always on the lookout for something that will inspire me to be a better person. Here is a sampling of books that have been in the teetering stack sitting on top of what is rumored to be my bedside table.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Emily of New Moon, by L.M. Montgomery

   Over at the Reading to Know blog, there's an L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge for the month of January.  The idea behind the challenge is to read as much of LMM's works during the month of January.  I couldn't do that because of other obligations, so I've tweaked the challenge to suit my needs.  I'll be reading and reviewing at least 1 LMM book per month during 2016.  I've loved LMM's works since the 7th grade - I still have all the old copies I purchased with my allowance money down at the B. Dalton at the Inland Center Mall in San Bernardino.  Plus new copies that I keep in case of emergency - because what if in some awful future Rilla of Ingleside goes out of print, my copy is ruined, and then I can't read about the Blythe family's WWI saga?   What then, I ask you!

     I'm starting 2016 off with the big guns - the Emily series.  Now, I was reading Emily Climbs the very day I started dating the man I would later marry.  So the series will always have a soft spot in my heart.

    Reading Emily of New Moon, the first of the three-part series, has been such a joy this month.  I hadn't read it in several years, and reading it again has been like a beautiful homecoming.  For those who have been unfortunate enough to miss it thus far, it's the story of a young girl who goes to live with her mother's family after the death of her father.  

     Montgomery wrote this book in 1923, over ten years after her marriage to a Presbyterian minister who suffered from melancholia.  I think by this time in her life, she had a very deep sense not only of suffering, but also of perseverance and optimism.  Her experiences with reality are much more apparent in the Emily series than they are in the Anne series, most of which were written earlier in her life.

     Emily's story has a glorious depth to it  The heavy themes that are covered in just this one book are incredible, but Montgomery writes about them with an understanding that they are simply part of life in a fallen world. Loss of a loved one, traumatic brain injury, depression,  alcoholism, guilt - the list goes on!  But running through it all is this delightful love of God and family, plus that "heritage of fairyland" that is so pervasive in all Montgomery's works.  This book relates to real life and real people, and it's relevant almost 100 years after its initial publication.

      For those of us who know the book, there are such wonderful treats throughout it.  I smiled so many times while reading about the Wind Woman, Emily's letters to her father, Cousin Jimmy's poetry, the flash, candles in the New Moon windows, Ilse's temper, Perry's determination, Teddy's love of art, and Emily's great need to prove her worth to a loving yet often cynical family.  These are very real characters who get under your skin and stay with you as long as you let them.

     I could wax on forever, honestly.  Long story short - read this book if you haven't, revisit it if you have.  You won't regret it!



Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Girl From the Train, by Irma Joubert

     The Girl From the Train is a delightful journey that I simply did not want to end.  It is a must read for anyone who likes historical fiction from the 1940s and 1950s

     Gretl is a little German girl who escapes a train bound for Auschwitz.  Jakob is a young Polish man who rescues her and takes her into his home.  She lives with his family for a few years, but circumstances force her to leave.  She ends up being taken in by a South African family.  This story is about the growth and self-discovery both of these characters make through an interesting time in history for both Eastern Europe and South Africa.

     Joubert writes with such elegance, and her characters are so real you feel as though you've known them forever.  A former teacher, Joubert's research into these times and places is quite evident in the book.  Jakob's love of Polish traditions and his involvement in Polish politics of the time are fascinating.  Gretl's story is equally as captivating.  She's a girl with multiple experiences which she must learn to reconcile - her German, Polish, and South African roots conflict with each other almost as much as her Protestant, Jewish, and Catholic backgrounds do.  And through all of this is woven a very compelling and innocent love story.

     In a word, this novel is breathtaking.  It's one of my new favorites, which I plan on rereading many times.  I highly recommend it to anyone who knows how to read.  Seriously.

Disclaimer:  I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Five out of Five Stars, in case you couldn't tell.   =)


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch in Marriage, by Lee and Leslie Strobel

I picked this book up after having seen it mentioned by a few trustworthy articles on couples who are unequally yoked.  I know that Lee Strobel is better known for other books, but this is the first of his that I've read.  I was impressed not only by his candid writing style, but also by the solid theology that exists throughout the book.  It is clear that a lot of thought went into this book, and I appreciated that as someone who can benefit from its wisdom.

The Strobels wrote this book from the perspective of a couple who has been through spiritual mismatch in marriage - Leslie converted to Christianity two years before Lee did.  Their experience gives this book more credibility.  They are able to address many questions that arise when a Christian experiences the turmoil that can result from marriage to an unbeliever.

Throughout the book, they cover the following topics:  their own story, how to find joy in the marriage despite the spiritual mismatch, and tips for how to introduce the unbelieving spouse to God without being pushy.  All advice is centered on Biblical passages.  The Strobels make no grand claims that every Christian will be able to convert his or her unbelieving spouse.  However, they do provide a sense of peace that God will use the marriage for good.  And throughout the book, the reader is encouraged to keep his or her marriage flourishing despite the spiritual mismatch.  The aim of this book is a happy marriage, regardless of each spouse's beliefs.

As the wife of an unbeliever, I found the advice in this book to be very encouraging.  I especially appreciated the section on discovering the exact nature of a spouse's unbelief and how to handle that particular situation - not every spouse is going to fit the mold of Lee's story, after all.

There are also two extra chapters at the end.  One is on boundaries that Christians should set when dating to avoid a spiritual mismatch.  The other is on marriages where two Christian partners are at different points in their spiritual growth.  

I recommend this book for any Christian who needs help with an unequally yoked relationship, be it a marriage or a dating relationship.  

Five out of Five Stars

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Delighting in God, by A.W. Tozer and James L. Snyder

     I'd heard of A.W. Tozer before reading this book, but I'd never read any of his work.  After having read this compilation of his writings by James L. Snyder, I am intrigued and will seek out more of Tozer's work.

     It's rare to find a theologian who is so starkly honest about the state of the evangelical church.  This book is a call to action, a plea for Christians to find the innate joy that comes from a relationship with God.  Tozer especially calls out churches that resort to "entertain[ing] the people" in an effort to bring in large numbers of people to Sunday services.  "Worship today," he writes, "is too emotional and fails to quiet our souls to fully experience the presence of God."  He argues for a worship of God that is based on God alone, not God "plus" anything else.

     This book is more than worth the read for anyone who is feeling that something is missing from their faith life.  It's also especially important for anyone who is satisfied with their faith life.  This book is a challenge to examine our hearts and see what more we can be doing to fully experience the joy that comes from a real relationship with God.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Five out of Five Stars