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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 Plans

For most of 2013 I seriously considered giving up my blog. I simply did not seem to have the time to blog, and did not see how I was to carve out that time. A couple weeks ago I had a lengthy conversation with my husband. During the conversation I realized when I could blog. Now I have high hopes of returning to a 'normal' blogging schedule in 2014.

A couple years ago I finally decided to read both The Encyclopedia Britannica Great Books series, and The Harvard Classics. For a long time I had been torn between those two series, until I realized I didn't have to choose, I could read both. I began that journey around the time I began blogging. But, what with having a baby, moving, and moving, and moving again, I somehow set aside that personal challenge. Now I am ready to resume reading both series. If I were more blog-savvy, I would make a button and invite readers and other bloggers to join me in reading these series. As it is, I ask you to consider this your invitation to join me.

I don't really have other plans for 2014 that pertain to my blog. I will continue my normal life, raising and educating my children, growing the baby in my womb, and reading as my whimsey takes me.

A Brief, Joyous Announcement

We are expecting our next child in early September!


This is a list of all (or most) of the books I read in 2013, in no particular order.

1. Tell Your Time, by Amy Lynn Andrews. This is an excellent, short, philosophical, and practical book on time management.
2. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua. I read this book because of the controversy surrounding it. I came away from it thinking there is some value to the greater discipline displayed in Chinese parenting, but also value to the greater grace displayed in Western parenting.
3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card. I read this so I could watch the movie. I liked the book and thought it was well-written, but I'm not sure I could enjoy watching the cruelty of children to children in a movie.
4. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. This was disappointing and I will neither be watching the movies nor reading the other books in the series.
5. Cruel and Usual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law, by Nonie Darwish. Terrifying indeed! This is an eye-opening book and I highly recommend it.
6. City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau.
7. People of Sparks, by Jeanne DuPrau.
8. Prophet of Yonwood, by Jeanne DuPrau.
9. Diamond of Darkhold, by Jeanne DuPrau. Numbers 6-10 are a series. The first was the best, the second okay, the third disappointing, and the fourth okay. A movie was made based on the first, but it was not worth watching.
10. Car Trouble, by Jeanne DuPrau. This was not nearly as good as City of Ember.
11. Crazy Busy, by Kevin DeYoung. I found this book disappointing as well. I would take Tell Your Time and Death by Living (by N.D. Wilson, mentioned below) over Crazy Busy.
12. Give Them Grace, by Jessica Thompson and Elyse M. Fitzpatrick. This is one of the two best parenting books I have ever read, the other being Shepherding a Child's Heart, by Tedd Tripp. I can't recommend it highly enough.
13. The Last Dragonslayer, by Jasper Fforde. This book was a disappointment. I'm not sure if that's because it was written for young adults and as a result steered clear of the sort of writing I find so enchanting in the Thursday Next series, or if Fforde simply did not write it as well as he's written his other books.
14. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell. So far the only book by Gladwell that I have been glad I read was Outliers.
15. The Light of Eidon, by Karen Hancock.
16. The Shadow Within, by Karen Hancock.
17. Shadow over Kiriath, by Karen Hancock.
18. Return of the Guardian-King, by Karen Hancock. Numbers 15-18 are a series called Legends of the Guardian-King. I thoroughly enjoyed all four books and highly recommend them to readers of fantasy.
19. The Little Red Guard, by Wenguang Huang. This is a first-person, true account of growing up in Communist China. It is not as harrowing to read as Escape from Camp 14 (mentioned below), but it is a powerful indictment of tyrannical government.
20. Seekers of the Lost Boy, by Taryn Hayes. Pretty well-written, but with a more explicitly evangelistic message than I tend to like in fiction.
21. The Last Thing I Remember, by Andrew Klavan.
22. The Long Way Home, by Andrew Klavan.
23. The Truth of the Matter, by Andrew Klavan.
24. The Final Hour, by Andrew Klavan. Numbers 21-24 are a series called The Homelanders. The books were very well-written, exciting, thrilling, a bit like a Young Adult literary version of the t.v. show 24. These books would make especially good reading for young adults who like excitement but want to steer clear of sexuality, foul language, and purposeless violence.
25. In the Company of Others, by Jan Karon. I am not a big fan of Karon. I did enjoy this book more than the only other book I read by her, Home to Holly Springs (I think). Some of the situations seemed to be a little too neatly resolved, but the characters and their stories were interesting, and the writing was good.
26. What to Expect When No One's Expecting, by Jonathan V. Last. This is a must read book about demographic changes occurring all around us.
27. Have a New Husband by Friday, by Dr. Kevin Leman. Despite the title, the book is really more about how to be a better wife. Not the best book I've read on the subject, nor the worst.
28. Beauty, by Robin McKinley. This is a reimagining of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. It was well-written, but a bit too much like a romance for my comfort. I liked reading it, but know I myself well enough to know I'm not safe reading lots of romance.
29. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. This was a bit too unrelentingly grey and apocalyptic for my tastes, but really skillfully-written. My husband thinks highly of this book, which is why I read it, but it is not my cup of tea. If my reading is going to make me scared and sad, I'd rather it be nonfiction. For my fictional choices, I prefer to be made happy.
30. Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me, by Karen Swallow Prior. I love reading about reading, but this is not my favorite book for that. I do like the idea of 'reading promiscuously' which she adopts from John Milton and promotes early in Booked, but this is not the book about reading which I would recommend.
31. Dreamers of the Day, by Mary Doria Russell. This novel shed some light for me on a little known period of history (little known to me), but definitely had some oddities.
32. Murder Being Once Done, by Ruth Rendell. Definitely not at the top of my favorite murder mystery authors, but I'm quite willing to try another by Rendell.
33. The Duck Commander Family, by Willie and Korie Robertson. This was a quick read with fun insights in to the Robertson family.
34. Happy, Happy, Happy, by Phil Robertson. I preferred this to number 33. I was pleased that this book unabashedly presents the claims of the gospel: repent and believe. It certainly increased my respect  for Phil Robertson.
35. Jane Austen: A Life Revealed, by Catherine Reef. This book is a biography meant for a young adult audience. I learned some things about Jane Austen, but was not pleased with the book overall. I would not recommend it, but would prefer to find a superior book about the same subject.
36. e.e. cummings: A Poet's Life, by Catherine Reef. This book was on a par with Reef's book about Jane Austen, that is, interesting but not excellent, but the subject of the book does not interest me enough to warrant searching out a superior biography of him.
37. Lit! by Tony Reinke. I do highly recommend this book, to all readers! It is just about the best book about reading I have ever read.
38. Only Milo, by Barry Smith. Horrible book! Avoid like the plague! I only finished it because I kept expecting that something would be revealed toward the end which would put all the immoral capers earlier in the book in a brand new light. No such a thing was revealed. Disgusting.
39. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, by Alexander McCall Smith. What can I say? I really enjoy reading the books in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.
40. The Kalahari Typing School for Men, by Alexander McCall Smith. Ditto number 39. This book is an early book in the series and the writing does not seem as polished as the later books, but the characters, story, and wisdom are every bit as easy, comfortable, and enjoyable.
41. Merlin's Blade, by Robert Treskillard. This was a fun and exciting read. Not one of my favorite books, but well-done. My 13yodd really liked it.
42. One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. She uses language creatively, which sometimes results in startling and revealing juxtapositions, and sometimes results in making me think I need to be wary of her theology.
43. Who Gets the Drumstick?, by Helen Beardsley. This book provided the basis for the two movies called Yours, Mine, and Ours. I've only seen the first movie, which had Lucille Ball portraying Helen Beardsley, and it was enjoyable. It is a true story of a widow with eight children and a widower with ten children who marry each other (the widow and the widower, that is). They go on to have two more children together. The book clearly has the edge over the movies in that the book shows a deep love of family, children, and God.
44. Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein. This was excellently well-written, historical fiction set in WWII, involving female pilots in the RAF. I would recommend it, with the caution that it might deal in inappropriate ways with mature themes (this caution on account of the fact that it's a YA novel).
45. Maman's Homesick Pie, by Donia Bijan. This book tells the true story of a Persian family who comes to America during the revolution in the late 1970s. It was sweet and included many exotic recipes.
46. Mrs. Jeffries and the Feast of St. Stephen, by Emily Brightwell. So-so. I would neither search out another mystery by Emily Brightwell, not turn up my nose at it if I happened upon one.
47. Twenty-Five Books that Shaped America, by Thomas C. Foster. I had a hard time trusting this book about books I haven't read, because early in the book I had a sharp disagreement with the author about a book I had read. I best like Foster's How to Read Literature Like a Professor.
48. Marriage and Caste in America, by Kay S. Hymowitz.  Hymowitz's other book, Manning Up, is a more enlightening and important book to read, but this book was also enlightening and important. Many of the statistics for single-parent families are heart-breaking to read. What I found most fascinating was the similarity in the description in this book of communities in America with lots of sexual promiscuity, and the description of Islamic marriages involving polygamy which I read about the same time in Nonie Darwish's book.
49. The Blood of Lambs, by Kamal Saleem. This was a gruesome and horrifying and thrilling read, purporting to be a true story, but great controversy surrounds the author.
50. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, by Gary D. Schmidt. A literary tour-de-force, but one which sits uncomfortably with my Christian convictions. The Christians in the book are the bad people, and the good people in the book are the ones who throw off their Christian faith in favor of Darwinian evolution.
51. Back on Murder, by J. Mark Bertrand. This is a fabulous crime noir detective novel. If you like gritty crime novels, this is the book for you. I am looking forward to reading more books by Bertrand.
52. Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili Slaw Dogs, by Mary Jane Hathaway. This was fun and quick, and one of those romances which I ought not to read too many of. Mostly I was impressed to learn that the author home schools her six young children. Maybe, inspired by her example, I can at least return to blogging while I home school my six young children.
53. Jesus on Every Page, by David Murray. This ranks as one of the most important books I read in 2013. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
54. Love Your Husband, Love Yourself, by Jennifer Flanders. This is one of the best books about marriage I have ever read. The author is firm but gentle. I would not be as dogmatic about certain decisions as the author is (e.g., regarding birth control), but overall I would recommend it. While Jennifer Flanders spends a lot of time (the first eleven chapters) discussing the importance of married sex, she is never salacious or prurient. I would like my own daughters to read this book, and would allow them to do so even while they are still young.
55. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I enjoyed this book more than I expected to. I took a lesson away from the book which I'm sure Fitzgerald didn't intend: this world is vain and fleeting (he probably did mean that), and the next world is where we must center our hopes (the lesson he probably didn't intend).
56. Death by Living, by N.D. Wilson. This is just about the best book on time management I have ever read. One of the better books I read in 2013. It was a bit surreal to read such a book written by a man I knew in college. And I must say, it is odd to have reached a stage in my life when I am reading nonfiction books by people who are younger than I (this goes for Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung, too).
57. Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers. I love Sayers's mysteries!
58. Misery Loves Company, by Rene Gutteridge. This was a page-turning, suspenseful thriller. I enjoyed it overall, but found a couple parts implausible *SPOILER ALERT* (would a cop really allow his girlfriend to maintain something of a sympathetic relationship with her abductor? would he really not have investigated the suspicious death of his partner a bit more at the time?). I would read other books by Rene Gutteridge, and recommend this one to readers of thrillers.
59. Offworld, by Robin Parrish. This was a page-turning, suspenseful sci-fi book. I enjoyed it, but found a couple parts implausible (the abandoned cars on the roadway only seemed to impede the heroes of the book at certain times). I would recommend it to readers of sci-fi, and myself read other books by Parrish.
60. Good, Clean Murder, by Traci Tyne Hilton. Blah. I shan't read another by her. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good.
61. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. This was one of the best books of 2013. I never felt so understood in my life as I felt when reading that book! I highly recommend it to anyone who is an introvert or who loves an introvert.

There you go. I thought I had read more, but those are the titles I have a record of reading.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Merlin's Blade, by Robert Treskillard

My apologies for falling out of the blogosphere for more than three months.

Merlin's Blade is a pretty-well-written Arthurian romance, the first book in a planned series. It was published as Teen Fiction by Zondervan. There is a mixing of true Christianity and elements that cannot, in real life, coexist with true Christianity. I know that bothers some readers, and, if you are among the readers who would be bothered by such a mixing, be forewarned. I would feel comfortable allowing my own children to read Merlin's Blade.

The story is fairly clean of objectionable elements. There is no salacious sexuality, and the violence is not terribly gory.

There were a couple places where the writing needed a bit more editing, in my opinion. For instance, at one place in the book the bad guys have surrounded the good guys, are in fact on the same wagon with the good guys. The scene closes without a resolution. When the next scene opens the good guys are far away from the bad guys and locked in a building, but there's no explanation of how that change happened. How did the good guys get away from the bad guys? Such an oversight disappoints me. That example was not the only such mistake, but such mistakes were few and overall the writing was strong and good.

I would recommend this book, with the qualifications to be found earlier in this post, to those readers who enjoying Arthurian romances and fantasy novels.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Another List, because, GASP!, I've been too busy (reading) to blog

Blood of the Lambs, by Kamal Saleem. Saleem is surrounded by a bit of controversy, and I won't vouch for his personal integrity, but the story he tells (purportedly his memoir) does seem to be in line with what we hear about militant Islam from other sources. Thrilling, frightening, enlightening.

Marriage and Caste in America, by Kay S. Hymowitz. A good book, but not as important as her other book Manning Up, so, if you only read one, read Manning Up.

Twenty-Five Books That Shaped America, by Thomas C. Foster. I really liked his book How to Read Literature Like a Professor, so I had high hopes for this one, but it fell flat, in my opinion. For one thing, early on I found myself profoundly disagreeing with his interpretation of The Scarlet Letter, but that disagreement caused me not to trust him as much when it came to books I haven't read (which happen to be most of the books he treats of, as I haven't been a big reader of American Literature).

Mrs. Jeffries and the Feast of St. Stephen, by Emily Brightwell. A light-hearted Victorian mystery. Certainly the book turned out better than I expected when I began it, yet it was still brain candy. I wouldn't be opposed to reading more of the Mrs. Jeffries series (apparently quite extensive, though this was my first exposure to it), but nor would I seek them out.

Cruel and Usual Punishment, by Nonie Darwish. It is subtitled, The Terrifying Global Implications of Sharia Law. Terrifying they are. Ms. Darwish tells of the impact of Sharia law on individuals and on families and on societies, sharing some of the history of the Arab culture in which Islam arose. She suggests that Islam provides a religious justification for the enslavement and subjugation of weaker people, be they women, children, or other people groups.

The Homelanders series by Andrew Klavan. An exciting series of four books written for Young Adults. Not my first choice of genre, but they were fun reads. I think adolescent males would really enjoy reading them. About this, I would say you definitely need to read them in order, and read all four of them. The story line runs through all four books, and is progressively revealed through all four books, and they become better as they go along.

Beauty, by Robin McKinley. This was a pleasant retelling of the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast. I did like it, but I was also uncomfortably reminded of my misspent youth, glutting on romance novels. My own problem with it does not make it unsuitable for others, and it was nicely written.

Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me, by Karen Swallow Prior. I do like reading about books and reading, but Booked is definitely low on my list for such books. It simply did not move me as much as other books about reading (though I did prefer it to Foster's book mentioned above).

Dreamers of the Day, by Mary Doria Russell. A well-written window into a place and a period of time I was practically ignorant of, yet with some odd features (I won't detail them, as they'd give part of it away). Ms. Russell is a talented and versatile woman.

Murder Being Once Done, by Ruth Rendell. My first mystery by Ruth Rendell, a writer many later mystery writers look up to and mention as a hero. I thought it better than the Mrs. Jeffries mystery mentioned above, but not as good as my favorite authors (I do like me some Christie and Sayers and P.D. James). I would certainly read more by her, though. Warning: there are a couple flamboyantly homosexual characters in this book.

The Duck Commander Family, by Willie and Korie Robertson. I've only watched one episode of Duck Commander, mainly because my husband is not at all interested in the show. So many of my friends watch and like it, though, that I wanted to familiarize myself with the characters. This was a quick and pleasant read. The formula of tying each chapter to a moral lesson and a recipe seemed a tad bit contrived at times. Reading the book increased my interest in watching some more episodes of the show.

Lit!, by Tony Reinke. This book is just about the best book about reading I have ever read (I could almost say the best, but worry I might be forgetting one). If you pick one book to read from my list, I highly recommend you pick this one. The first half treats of the theological and philosophical defense of reading. The second half offers practical tips for reading. The whole book deliberately and explicitly seeks to glorify God, to the point that one could almost use it to evangelize unbelievers. I read it on the Kindle, but I'd like to own a physical copy. Scratch that. I'd like to own several physical copies so I could hand them out. I plan to reread it.

One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. She has a distinct way of writing. Sometimes I found that tedious and irritating, sometimes I was startled by the insights she was thus able to elucidate. I need to think through the ending a bit, as I'm not sure if my discomfort with some of the things she says at the end is right or wrong. But, I would recommend it. I think it could be life-changing for some readers.

Seekers of the Lost Boy, by Taryn Hayes. A decent children's fiction book set in South Africa dealing with Apartheid, and with a pointed evangelistic message.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A List

Because, I've continued to read through all our preparations to move, but have no time to blog.

I've now read the first two volumes in the three volume series of Call the Midwife. I have enjoyed them. The writing is nice, but could have used a bit more editing. I'm looking forward to the third volume. I watched the first episode of the television series, but don't plan to watch anymore. The first volume deals more with birth stories, the second not so much. In fact, I can't recall a single birth story in the second volume. The second volume deals with workhouses and wars. I would recommend the books, but there is a lengthy section in the first volume dealing with prostitutes, which is sad and bleak enough, but within that lengthy section is a lengthy and all-too-vivid description of a strip show performance. It did not seem to be intended to titillate its readers (unlike Water for Elephants, which I couldn't finish reading), but it was still WAY TOO MUCH. I didn't need it for my heart to be broken for the women (girls) held in slavery.

The Self-Propelled Advantage, by Joanne Calderwood. This book was written to encourage parents to allow their children greater freedom in pursuing education, greater freedom being an incentive to greater performance. I was struck by both the similarities and dissimilarities with Tiger Mother. Both mothers (Mrs. Calderwood has eight children, whom she home schools) desire their children to strive for excellence. Mrs. Calderwood believes greater freedom increases a child's desire to do well. Ms. Chua micromanages. Ms. Chua really is a helicopter parent. Mrs. Calderwood is not. Ms. Chua believes she ought to make most of the decisions for her children. Mrs. Calderwood believes the child should be taught how to make decisions, and then allowed to make them. I would recommend The Self-Propelled Advantage to parents, and we will be changing things in our house on account of my reading the book.

I checked out a book called Drive, by Daniel Pink, and a book called Don't Eat the Marshmallow...Yet!, by Joachim de Posada because they are recommended in Self-Propelled. I am looking forward to reading them, and think I may find them of even greater benefit than Self-Propelled.

I guess that's it, though I had thought I had read more than that recently...

An Announcement

An announcement, for those of my readers who know me in person but do not 'know' me on facebook. My DH took a new job. We will be moving, in state, to be closer to his new work. I'm not wanting to say more in this public place.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle

A Year in Provence was a delightful, fun, quick read. I didn't laugh out loud, I almost never do when I'm reading anything, but I had a smile stuck perpetually on my lips as I read. Mr. Mayle had a happy knack for bringing out the humor in every situation he described, a knack for gently and affectionately poking fun at the foibles of his neighbors and friends, and even at himself. He divided the book into twelve chapters, one for each month, and began with January.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it. For the first time ever I wish to visit France, in part to see the countryside, but mostly to sample the cuisine. There are a handful of references to lewd behavior and one instance of a crude word, but the book is 'clean' other than that. Actually, there's an oft-repeated French word which seems to be a bit of a curse word, but ignorant I did not understand its meaning (meaning to say, if you understand that one word, possibly the book will seem less 'clean' to you). I'll be searching out Mr. Mayle's other works with alacrity.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A 'What's on My Nightstand?' Post

Another list, but of another sort:

1. I have been dipping into Large Family Logistics, by Kim Brenneman. I disagree with some of the biblical justification she offers for what she recommends, and with a certain few of her specific recommendations, but on the whole the book has proven to be helpful to me. I do not intend to read it straight through from cover to cover, but I have already implemented a few of her suggestions and been benefitted by them. I would recommend the book to mothers, regardless of the size of their families.

2. I have begun, and have not even completed the first chapter yet, Far As the Curse Is Found, by Michael D. Williams. I love this book! I would highly recommend it to every Christian reader. It is Biblical Theology, like Vos's, but more accessible to the lay reader. This first part of the book has excited me about our Savior God. If the rest of the book is even half as good it will be fabulous.

3. I have undertaken to work my way through The Well-Educated Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer, with  my niece. It will take me several years, of course, to work my way all the way through it and the lists of books it contains, but I believe it will be of value to me. I would recommend this book to anyone not currently in school who would like to enhance their education.

The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

In The Language of Flowers, Victoria relates her story: she was an orphan, abandoned by her mother at birth. She's bounced from foster home to foster home, institutional setting to institutional setting, sometimes abused, never loved, except once. What happened to prevent her from being adopted by the woman who did love her? Well, that is a part of the story which I would not want to spoil for a reader interested in reading the book. More importantly, what will happen to Victoria after her emancipation from the foster care system? Will she learn how to love others?

Victoria is a scrappy character. As the book begins she's equal parts pitiable and spiteful.  She does grow up over the course of the book. In fact, that's kind of the point of the book, her growing up, becoming fully human.

The story is told in first-person narration from Victoria's point of view. The chapters alternate between her early days after emancipation, and her younger life. This was a good way to advance the story line, pieces of the earlier story illuminating pieces of the later story, but every so often something about her voice jarred a bit. Most of the time the later story felt recent, immediate, but then would come a sentence or two which would sum up those days of Victoria's life, and for those couple sentences it felt like the whole story was being told by a much older woman. This only happened a few times, but it really stood out to me when it did.

It is a realistic story, not at all fanciful or fantastical, but there is heavy symbolism and thematic elements (lots and lots of eating, for instance).

I did like the book, I did care for Victoria and want to know what would happen to her, but I did not love the book, I did not lose myself in it. I would cautiously recommend this book to readers of modern fiction. There are some sex scenes (argh!), but they're not horribly salacious.

A List of Recent Reading

A list of the books which I've recently read which do not merit individual posts (not in chronological order):

1. Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences, by Kitty Burns Florey. This was a quick and fun read about, as the subtitle proclaims, the history and art of diagramming sentences. I enjoyed reading it, though I did disagree with some of the author's conclusions (she lets us know that she enjoyed diagramming as a student, but questions the value of teaching students to diagram; I disagree with her as to the value of diagramming). I would recommend it to readers who enjoy reading about grammar.

2. Maman's Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen, by Donia Bijan. Ms. Bijan was born and spent her childhood in Iran. The summer she was 15 she and her family were vacationing in Majorca, when the Shah was deposed. Her family knew they would be targeted by the new ruling radicals, so they fled to the U.S. Ms. Bijan went on to study at the Cordon Bleu. She presided over several acclaimed San Francisco restaurants, and then opened her own. Maman's Homesick Pie is part memoir, part cookbook, elegantly and poetically written. I believe it will appeal to many different sorts of readers, those interested in food (Ms. Bijan waxes rhapsodic about food), those interested in tales of family love (she also waxes rhapsodic about her mother's love for their family), those interested in true tales of immigrants, those interested in other cultures (Ms. Bijan's memory of the Iran of her childhood is clear and vivid). It was a very pleasant read. I would highly recommend it, to most readers.

3. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell. This book was interesting, but not as interesting or compelling as Outliers, also by Malcolm Gladwell, or other books about how people think, such as Brain Rules, by John Medina, or Distracted, by Maggie Jackson. If you're interested in reading something by Mr. Gladwell, I'd recommend you start with Outliers. If you're interested in reading about how the human brain functions, I'd recommend John Medina or Maggie Jackson, or Oliver Sacks, or even The Survivors Club, by Ben Sherwood. Blink was okay, but not really noteworthy.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua

In Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua details what Chinese parenting is all about for the enlightenment of Western parents. Not only does Ms. Chua describe Chinese parenting, she explicitly proclaims its superiority to Western parenting.

This book was a bit controversial when it first came out in 2011. People would share something Ms. Chua wrote about how she mothered her two daughters and exclaim over it. "She actually called her daughter a piece of garbage! Can you believe that?" "She handed a handmade birthday card back to her young daughter and told her it was unacceptable, that she had to make a new and better card. How shameful!"

Those, and some other specific examples, did make me cringe, and hurt inside for her daughters. I cannot fully embrace what Ms. Chua describes as Chinese parenting, nor do I think it's Biblical.

Having said that, however, I would go on to say that I think some of the criticisms of Western parenting which she makes are spot on. I agree with her that too much praise for pitiably weak or half-hearted efforts will not help the child succeed. I agree with her that learning a skill, and practicing it, which necessarily must involve a lot of time and labor, will give the child confidence with a sure foundation.

I agree with her that Chinese parenting will almost certainly be more successful at raising world-renowned concert pianists and violinists than Western parenting. I disagree with her that raising world-renowned concert pianists and violinists is the best goal for all parents. I agree that there is tremendous value in knowing a demanding instrument well. I disagree that it is the most valuable pursuit a parent can require of a child.

While I read Battle Hymn, I was reminded of what I've read elsewhere about the Chinese approach to learning and life. In The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds, Eric Enno Tamm quotes a professor at a Chinese University as saying that if you want to hear the next world-class musician performing classical music, come to China, but if you want to find the next world-class composer, look elsewhere. In The Little Red Guard, the author, Wenguang Huang, says that he was taught to memorize and parrot back everything his teacher said; when he spent a semester studying at a university in Britain, he flunked his classes because his teachers there didn't want him only memorizing lectures.

I also wonder how Chinese parenting deals with those who are truly unable to excel, no matter how many hours of practice they put in. Ms. Chua does mention her younger sister, born with Down Syndrome. Her parents took a Western parenting approach with that daughter, keeping her with them instead of institutionalizing her.

As a Christian parent, my fondest hope is to see my children walking with the Lord. Worldly success can be sweet and pleasant, but it comes at a price, and it is not ultimate. It behooves me to help equip my children to do their duty skillfully and cheerfully, to the best of their ability and to the glory of the Lord. My one overarching aim in parenting is, or at least ought to be, God's glory, and I trust and hope that he has bound up his glory in redeeming my children, and that overarching aim must inform and give direction to all my lesser aims.

I finished Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother with the firm conviction that it must be very unpleasant to be Amy Chua's child. And to what end? To be better than everyone else? That seems empty, futile, and arrogant to me.

I would recommend this book to readers interested in other cultures, in parenting, and in how parenting is practiced in different cultures.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What to Expect When No One's Expecting: America's Coming Demographic Disaster, by Jonathan V. Last

This is another must-read book about demography. People simply aren't having enough children, and, as a result, a disaster of unimaginable scope and extent is just around the corner. Already in Japan more adult diapers are sold than baby diapers. Nearly every country in the world is headed for a population implosion, and along the way nations will have a population that resembles an inverted pyramid, with the oldest ages forming the largest groups of people.

This book had enough numbers to glaze my non-mathematically-inclined eyes over a bit, but the thrust of the book is clear, the numbers are there and documented for those who do like to read such things, and the message of the book is sobering.

I would recommend this book to any reader who is concerned about the current state of the world, or even just of the U.S., or who is concerned about the likely future of the world or the U.S. I think, on the whole, Philip Longman's book The Empty Cradle is the better and easier read, so if you only read one on the current demographic situation around the world, read that one, but if you can afford the time to read two, do read both. But the most important recent book about demography is How Civilizations Die, by David Goldman, so if you truly can read only one, read that one.

Legends of the Guardian-King, a series by Karen Hancock

At some earlier point I blogged about the first book in this series, The Light of Eidon. This year I have read the other three books in the series, The Shadow Within, Shadow Over Kiriath, and Return of the Guardian-King. I loved these books! They are well-written Christian fantasy, exciting, thrilling, engaging. Some reviewers likened them to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, but I think the two series bear two very different flavors. Ms. Hancock's books are a bit more gruesome (and therein lies one of two caveats I would offer to my high recommendation: if you don't have the stomach for vivid descriptions of battles or duels, you probably won't like this series; the other caveat is that Ms. Hancock describes scenes of love in such a way that didn't bother me, but which I would not think healthy for unmarried folks). Ms. Hancock's secondary world feels more like a world parallel to the one we inhabit, whereas Tolkien's is our world in another era. Ms. Hancock more explicitly draws on Christian tradition; her Eidon is like Jehovah, who has given his servants two Words of Revelation, quoted in the Guardian-King series, and sounding a great deal like paraphrased Scripture.

These books kept me up late at night, because I couldn't bear to stop reading them before reaching the end. I continued to live in their secondary world for days after I finished. They are engrossing. I highly recommend them (keeping in mind my two caveats) to all readers interested in fantasy, even only remotely interested in fantasy.

More Than Two Months, Really!?!?

Yes, it has been longer than two months since I last put fingertips to the computer keyboard and typed up my thoughts about my reading. I don't have a good, overriding reason for such a long absence. The simple busy-ness of life has consumed my time, a problem everyone faces, I know. But here my children and my husband are on spring break, and thus I am not educating them (the children, that is) this week, and I can pretend that the dirty dishes are not piled high in the kitchen, and I am somewhat successfully blocking the call to read to my youngest children (the pre-literate ones; actually, I have worked out a deal with them to blog about a book, then read a book to them).

Some of the books I have read since I last blogged merit individual posts, and some I will throw together in one post. If you are among the handful of subscribers, your inbox/reading list will be inundated today (I hope! I mean to say, if I hold fast to my purpose to blog today).

Here goes...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, by Alexander McCall Smith

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive is the eighth book in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series. It is a worthy addition to the series. If you haven't read it, but already know that you like the series, have no fears, you'll like The Good Husband of Zebra Drive. If you haven't dipped into the series yet, but know that you enjoy stories that combine a deep insight into human character with an affection for it, without gratuitously displaying the ugliness of human character, give the No. 1 Ladies' Detectives a shot.

Miss Dido Kent mysteries, by Anna Dean

I read Bellfield Hall by Anna Dean some few months back and really enjoyed it, so when I was looking for a quick pleasure read recently I placed the next two books in the series on hold at the library. I quickly devoured them when they came in this week, foolishly staying up late into the night (or, early into the morning, to be more precise). I find Ms. Dean's mysteries very satisfying, with just a touch of romance to sweeten the deal.

Bellfield Hall, A Gentleman of Fortune, and A Woman of Consequence are set in the Regency Period of English history. The books recall Jane Austen to mind. The main characters, especially Dido Kent, are a delight to read about. Ms. Dean is masterful at tricking the expectations of her readers, or of this reader, at any rate.

If you enjoy mysteries you might want to give these a look-over. I appreciate the fact that they trip lightly over the less seemly side of life, unlike some other recently written mysteries I've tried. These books succeed as mysteries (not hard-boiled crime books) and as historical fiction. I would recommend them to my fellow mystery readers.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Stars Shine Bright, Sibella Giorello

If you've read and enjoyed Sibella Giorello's other books in the Raleigh Harmon series, get your hands on The Stars Shine Bright. If you enjoy mysteries and crime thrillers, but haven't yet tried the Raleigh Harmon series, what are you waiting for? The Stars Shine Bright ranks as my favorite in the series. I spent an enjoyable couple days unable to put the book down.

Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska, by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss

As you know if you've read certain other posts on my blog, I do not often read romance novels. I had a strong desire to read Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska, though, because it was written by a dear friend. And I can say, 'I knew her when!' When she had not yet written any books, and now she's written three (all in the Love Finds You series).

In Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Ginny is handed what seems to be the realization of her dreams: a big recording contract. She hesitates to accept it, fearing that the strings attached might be too burdensome. She turns for advice to the only person whose advice she trusts in the matter, Brett, the man she jilted two years ago. Ginny flies to Alaska to seek Brett's advice. There she meets Brett's Grandmother, who shares with her a correspondence from nearly a century earlier, detailing the blossoming of another relationship.

Ginny finds peace, and love finds Ginny. The reader gets two love stories in one book. If you like to read Christian romance books, I expect you'll like Love Finds You in Glacier Bay. I enjoyed it. I did think Ginny was a bit shallow to begin with, but she grew up as the story progressed, and that made me happy.