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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge Conclusion (2019)


Right. So, I bet you thought I forgot to bring this to a close, didn't you? It's a reasonable assumption. The fact is, life has just not ceased to slow down. I was thinking that as long as I closed down the challenge within the first week of February all would be well. But life has a way of snowballing and I don't really know how it is that the month is halfway over. (Actually, I DO know how that is. It's been a hard and long month and yet a fast paced one!) Anyway, for those of you who have patiently been waiting for this last post, here it is.

What L.M. Montgomery books did you manage to sneak in during the month of February? I managed only the one: Along the Shore (linked to review) but I enjoyed it thoroughly.



As this was the 10th year of the challenge, I did want to host a little giveaway and I'll do that now!

I would like to offer one of my original watercolor portrait mugs and a mug rug to one of you lovely readers from my Etsy shop. There are two Anne versions to choose from or an Emily. As for the mug rugs, you can choose between Anne or Emily.

Mug Option #1 - Anne of Green Gables Friendship mug.



Mug Option #2 - Anne of Green Gables mug.


Mug Option #3 - Emily of New Moon Mug.



And then let me know your preferred choice for a mug rug, either Anne or Emily:



All of these Anne items are located in my Etsy shop (along with many, many other bookish characters)! Browse around at A Fine Quotation.

To win? Easy!

1. Leave a comment letting me know which mug you would choose and which mug rug you would choose should your name be drawn as the winner.

2. An extra comment for an extra entry may be left if you participated in the reading challenge. Let me know which book you read during the month of January and, if you wrote a review of it, leave a link!

That's it!

This contest will be open through Sunday, February 17, 2019. A winner will be announced on Monday.

Many thanks to all who hang around these parts and read book reviews. I hope you all had a lovely start to 2019 and maybe Montgomery made the transition a little bit easier. Maybe!

Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

It's Not Supposed To Be This Way, by Lysa Terkeurst

It's Not Supposed To Be This Way is the latest book by Lysa Terkeurst. As many of you are no doubt aware, Terkeurst and her husband had separated for a time after it was discovered that her husband had had an affair. Quite recently it was announced that they had celebrated their restored marriage with a recommittment ceremony. Christians everywhere erupted at the news, both in favor and against. Why against? There were suspicions that Lysa jumped the gun and might have begun the business of rebuilding her marriage too soon. People do love to speculate on such things which are honestly none of their business in the first place.

For my part, my position is that only Lysa, Art, and their counselors can know all of the ins and outs of this entire thing. I know that they began dealing with her husband's sin out of the public eye for a long time before it became generally known. We didn't all know about it the day she found out about his infidelity. I also refuse to speculate over whether she has made right decisions or wrong ones for this specific reason: I have several friends who have walked the same path, unfortunately. And I've learned enough through their experiences to know that I can't know everything that there is to know and that I don't need to know. Infidelity is a hard, hard road for any person to walk in. The ups and downs are completely unimaginable to me and it truly does break my heart to see a person having to deal and learn to live again under these circumstances. To everyone who wants to critique Terkeurst for her choices, I feel they ought to sit down and probably shut up. Harsh much? That's my opinion.

Now, I didn't read this book because I have walked the same path as Terkeurst. I haven't. (And I don't want to!) Nor did I read it because I wanted to see what Terkeurst had to say about her situation in specifics. Rather, I have my own struggles of which have caused me to make the same statement: "It's NOT supposed to be this way!" We all do. We walk through this world broken whether we want to or not. We have each of us been crushed into dust in some form or fashion. If you haven't been, you will be. We aren't supposed to be surprised at the trials of life (even though we usually are anyway!) but stand at the ready to receive the trials knowing, understanding, and believing that the trials serve a greater purpose in making us more like Christ. This is always and forever going to be a hard pill to swallow but learning to swallow the pill is ultimately better than choking on it.

Terkereurst writes this book to say that while she well knows how difficult life can be, we have hope in a sovereign Lord who knows exactly what He's working out in our lives. At the point in time she was penning these words, her husband was separated from her. She mentions living out her own season of "I don't know" and acknowledges that we all have those moments in life when we aren't standing on solid ground. She talks about how in each trial we face we typically find ourselves somewhere in the middle of Point A and Point B with a complete lack of understanding of how it is we're supposed to keep on keeping on. She calls this the "middle ground" and references it possibly being the hardest part of any trial  - the part where you've gotten over the initial shock but you haven't come to any point of relief just yet. It's a rather fearful place to be, and a lonely one, as any of us who have walked a trial can testify. (See 1 Peter 5:10 and James 1:2-4)

For my part, I received some comfort in this read. No, I don't understand Terkeurst's personal trials but I do understand my own. And I know how very, very alone I've felt and have been made to feel. I know what it means to have the rug ripped out from under you. I know what it means to experience brokenness. I know what it means to feel shut out and uninvited. These are experiences that many of my nearest and dearest friends know too so I know that I am not alone (and I am immeasurably grateful to have such companions on life's journey!). Lysa writes to reach out and touch her readers in the best way she can to say the following:

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 2 Corinthians 4:8-12

Are you feeling broken in some form or fashion? Take heart, friend. Weeping is welcomed and allowed here. God meets us in the truth of our pain and assures us that joy is coming in the morning. That morning might be quite a ways off for some of us, but it is coming because He has already crushed death! The Victor has already been declared.

It's Not Supposed To Be This Way is a good spiritual pep talk and a fierce hug from a woman who has plumbed the depths of heartache and held tight to her faith and is therefore able to rise and say, "I see you, friend. And even if I do not know you very personally, I'm with you." Sometimes that's just exactly the message we need to hear the very most.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Along the Shore, by Lucy Maud Montgomery



How are y'all fairing on the Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge? I set my expectations low for the month, selecting one book of short stories. All you need to do to participate is read just ONE book! That's all!

I personally had not read any of Montgomery's short story collections in awhile and so I glanced through my books and settled on Along the Shore. This book features stories which are set along - wait for it! - the Prince Edward Island shoreline. There. I knew you'd be surprised by that! I have the Bantam Starfire edition of this book which you see pictured here.

I've now been to Prince Edward Island three times: once with my best friend in law school, once with my husband, and once with our whole family. Each time was magical in its own way and I do not think I will ever, ever grow tired of visiting. (My family might get tired of repetitious trips when there is a whole world to be explored but I would be content with constant repeats.) There is just something altogether magical about the Island. I don't know what it is, but it is.

In my case, I might particularly enjoy the ocean views a bit more than anyone else in my family because I grew up in South Texas along the Gulf Coast. The waves were always just a few blocks away from where we lived and the sound of the ocean is a familiar comfort to me. There is something calm about hearing the waves crash loudly on the shore. Being at the beach, (or, when we lived in Oregon, along the rocky coastline), reminds me of just how small I am and how big God is. This thought soothes. In light of the crashing of the waves, everything else seems to feel the need to be still and quiet and I just love it.

Re-reading Along the Shore was fun for me because I can very easily visualize the scenery which Montgomery describes. Each of the characters in this set of stories is drawn to the water in some form or fashion; it is in their blood and they cannot escape it. This book contains love stories, sob stories, and children's stories and in each one I found a person to identify with. Of note in this collection is one story in particular. For every critic of Montgomery who says her writing is too syrupy sweet, I give you The Waking of Helen. It is bold, honest and, quite frankly, depressing. It is definitely an example of the dark side of Montgomery which only comes out in bits and flashes and this one tale alone makes this collection stand out, in my opinion. There are a few short stories here that will also be familiar to fans of Anne. Montgomery clearly harvested ideas from some of her shorts when writing the Anne series. Still, I had a very good time and enjoyed myself thoroughly. I always do.

I'm glad I pulled Along the Shore off the shelf. It gave me a good breath of salty air which I was rather badly in need of. The wondrous thing about books is that they can transport you to places in your imagination which you cannot easily get to on your own. An imagination is a gift and I'm glad Montgomery had one because it has allowed me peaceful moments in the storms of life over and over again! I love L.M. Montgomery for this gift. It truly is a gift!

Friday, January 18, 2019

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King, by Laura Geringer & William Joyce

I heard about Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King on #Bookstagram. (It's Instagram, but its all about books!) The cover art was beautiful (in my opinion) and the story line intriguing. This is the first book in a series which re-imagines imaginary characters in roles of guardians of children everywhere (and, I suppose, all the rest of humanity along with them). This first title in the series introduces us to Nicoholas St. North, former outlaw but destined to be known as Santa Claus. Nicholas has come to save the day. He is the first of the Guardians, the rest of which I gather are the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, etc.  Together these characters face and will, I presume, slay the mortal enemy of children, a nightmarish creature called Pitch.

As an idea for a book, I found Nicholas St. North intriguing. As a read, I found it ridiculous. Oh, it has promise! It has great potential! It could be completely awesome and I would have enjoyed it if Geringer and Joyce were writing it as a story involving a detailed plot with twists, turns and climax! Alas, I fear they were writing a screen play. (And I bet they were. See here.) Reading this book felt like I was watching what someone wanted to be a movie. This is a pet peeve of mine in a book. A big pet peeve. I can't stand it when an author is clearly writing with the idea of having the book turned into a film. You can always tell when that happens because descriptions are brief but forceful, (I don't know how else to describe it), leave very little to the imagination, and write as if in jest. There's nothing serious about such a story to grasp hold of because anything you might want to guess a little about, or have slowly explained, is just there for you to take in in approximately the same amount of time you'd spend at the theater. I hate these kinds of books for their impudence.

I would like it if someone came along and wanted to give this story another go, anticipating only that readers might love it. No expectation for grandeur in the form of plastic action figures!  I would appreciate being told a story strictly for story sake. I wanted to like this book but I really just did not. Nor do I find myself in a position to recommend it. There's a movie version if you want to see it and it might be better than the books because a.) ultimately it will take up less of your time and b.) that's that the writers were going for in the first place. Cut to the chase. Skip the book.

***
You can find me on Instagram @1000lives_and_severalcupsoftea

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Gown, by Jennifer Robson

I received a complimentary copy of The Gown, by Jennifer Robson from William Morrow for review purposes, a fact that makes me very happy. It's been awhile since I've accepted a book for review, but I do love the Royal Family and read up on them all of the time so a novel about the dressmakers who made Queen Elizabeth's dress sounded right up my alley! Indeed, it was!

Robson tells her tale of the dress through the lives of three different women and in two different time periods. If you are the type of reader who enjoys stories which hop back and forth between eras, then you will enjoy this. Robson clearly did a good job researching the dress, dressmakers and various points in history in writing this book which made it all the easier to relax into. The writing is engaging and the subject matter a win for me so I really have mostly positive things to say, with one caveat which I'll explain (without spoilers) at the end.

The Gown takes us on a journey during life in post-World War II England with the royal wedding fast approaching. Anne Hughes and Miriam Dassin are two embroiderers who have been chosen to create the stitchwork design on the Princess's gown and veil. Anne is British and has lived in London through the Blitz, suffering her own heartaches and losses. Miriam has left France to move to England and she also has hardships in her past which she would rather not discuss. The two girls friend one another and form a bond that is sweet and endearing. During the book we learn about how the gown was created, what the media circus was like surrounding the royal wedding, and, of course, we get to know Anne and Miriam.

The third woman in the story, Heather, lives in Canada and she is the granddaughter of Anne. How she stumbles into the story of the gown and her grandmother's involvement is something of a mystery itself. In delving into the unknown parts of her grandmother's past, Heather discovers both things about her grandmother that the family had often wondered at, and also how to live her own life in the process. I'm a fan of books which tell you the story in fits and starts so this book suited me well, although I suppose it is a style that could annoy some.

Over all, I thought The Gown was superbly enjoyable. The only caution I would offer is to the conservative reader. There are a handful of moments where Robson used foul language. The words popped up maybe five times at most through the course of the book. They weren't altogether necessary and I will always find it regrettable to think that storytellers believe that they must use such words at all! They rarely add anything to the dialogue and are completely unnecessary in my opinion. There is also a rape scene in the book which some might wish to take note of. I didn't find it overly gratuitous and it can be skipped entirely. (It's brief, thank goodness.) But it's there and I know that some of my readers here at Reading to Know will want to know about this. So there it is.

Would I read this book again? No, I won't. I enjoyed it very much but I'll probably find someone else who would like to read it and pass it along to them.

Many thanks to William Morrow for sending me a copy to check out. Much appreciated. It should be duly noted that I received no additional compensation for my reading services and all opinions expressed above are entirely my own (although I wish my opinion about the use of foul language in books was universally shared).

You can find me on Instagram: @1000lives_and_severalcupsoftea
You can find me on Goodreads at: Carrie Readingtoknow

Monday, January 07, 2019

The Gospel Comes With a House Key, by Rosaria Butterfield

I've been putting off a review of The Gospel Comes With a House Key for awhile because I read it along with ladies from my church who were meeting regularly to discuss it. Due to family colds and conflicts in schedule it never came about that I could join in! Talk about bummed! This is one of my favorite topics to discuss (for real!) and I really wanted to know what the other ladies in my community thought of this one but, alas, I missed the boat. There were a few random snatches of conversation but in large part I missed hearing the in depth thoughts of others. A part of me fears now that my review is going to be a bit lopsided because I didn't get the chance to really, really hash out my own opinions verbally. I want to offer the disclaimer here that I'm writing this without much discussion and if you want to disagree with me I'm okay with you doing so. You have my permission. If you needed it. I can be nice that way.

The Gospel Comes with a House Key is the latest book on the scene from Rosaria Butterfield. I, like so many others, read and very much enjoyed her first book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (linked to my review). In fact, before proceeding in the writing of my review of this her second book, I re-read my review  of Secret Thoughts to see what I thought of Butterfield then. Her first book had enormous impact on me as a reader. It was riveting, inspiring and convicting. In that book she touches on the topic of the need for Christians to serve the world and she did so in a balanced, fair and genuinely concerned manner. The Gospel Comes with a House Key is an expansion of her thoughts about what hospitality from Christians to non-Christians could look like.

One thing that I feel very passionately about is the calling of all Christians to practice hospitality. I'm a firm believer in the importance of a continued, faithful practice of inviting others into your homes and lives. If you remove the practice of hospitality from a Christian community (or any community really, but for the purposes of this review I'm going to refer strictly to Christians) then you are assigning its members to death. I do not believe that God allows or requires that any one person live their life in some sort of solitary confinement away from a Body of Believers. I think that any person who would like to believe that they do not need others is lying to themselves in a bold and harmful manner. Life is not easy and we are each are constantly surrounded by temptations to sin. If we are not surrounded by faithful people then we are more likely to cave to the pressures of society and life in general and have a greater likelihood of falling into sinful behavior as a result.

Be honest, sinning always feels easier than doing the right and holy thing. At least at first. Sooner or later your sin will eat you alive but for awhile it will feel like the best thing there is. 

A Christian who is surrounded by a faithful cloud of witnesses is much less likely - or even able - to fall into sin. If they do give in to a moment of worldly pleasure and their fellow brother and sister notice, it is highly likely that they will be pulled out of their confusion and set back to rights in quicker fashion. We need people to come alongside us and to encourage us to do right and pursue Christ above all else. In order for one person to be able to do that for another then they must know them, really know them. To be in fellowship and to practice hospitality with one another you really need to know the heart of someone. You need to know their struggles, their aches and their pains because if you know those things then you actually stand a chance at helping them avoid the pitfalls which Satan has surrounded them with! To know those things takes time; it takes a willingness to invite them in to your life.

Butterfield's primary focus in The Gospel Comes With a House Key is to piggy back on her last book and explain how she and her husband, Kent, practice hospitality to non-Christians. She has several reasons for focusing on this particular aspect and angle of hospitality, chief being that she was drawn to the saving grace of Jesus Christ through someone's Christian hospitality which was a witness to her soul. Her's is really a beautiful story and I have no doubt she feels quite passionately that Christians today need to quit "playing safe" with their fellowship but invite the unbelievers in so that they, too, can know Jesus. Admirable? Yes. Do I object? No. Not in the least. It is a good and right thing she suggests and if you need the motivation to do these things, by all means pick up this book. Her passion for the subject is genuine and beautiful. We need Rosaria Butterfields in this world today to encourage us to think outside of our own little boxes!

That all said, it ended up that I did not like this book and it's not for any of the above mentioned topics of conversation. Rather, I disliked it because of the way that Rosaria handled the topic of Christians within her own church body with whom she found herself in conflict with. Now, Butterfield's husband is a pastor and they are leaders of a congregation on the East Coast. They've apparently had some struggles as a church and some of their members (including those in leadership!) did some very, very wrong and sinful things. Things that split the church. She mentions this in The Gospel Comes with a House Key and, to some extent, I could understand why she was including this information. Their sins were public so it wasn't like she was exposing things that she ought to have kept hidden. Her point in raising their church struggles was to bring attention to the fact that even the sinners within their body of believers needed hospitality. True point and well taken! My distaste for the book came in the dragging out of this point.

To build her case about practicing hospitality to the "sinner in the midst", she mentions that certain people within their congregation decided to leave the church "instead of" practicing hospitality to these public sinners. This apparently and very clearly did not sit well with Butterfield and she outs them in this book. (No, she doesn't name them, but she very pointedly discusses her opinion about the attitude which she believes she perceives in them.) Given that Rosaria is a public figure and given that she's put her home church on the map, so to speak, I feel like her talking about this church split was bad form. She's a pastors wife who writes books and speaks publicly. I was left with the distinct impression that if you disagree with her and happen to attend her church, you run a risk of being publicly denounced for your perceived misbehavior, instead of perhaps more privately and graciously dealt with or understood. Do I think her former parishioners are going to be feeling very graciously when they understand what she has published about them? Did she take what was a private matter and make it very public with good purpose, justifying the inclusion of this particular story in her book? I would say no. I would be forced to disagree with her plan of action by taking her argument against her former friends to a publisher and letting us all hear about their church problems which she was very clearly unhappy about. This is very bad form in my opinion and it ultimately left me with a bad taste in my mouth. It's regrettable that she felt the need to wield her pen as if a sword in this manner and it cost her some of my respect.

Back to the point of all of this though. Do I think that practicing hospitality is of great importance? I could not possibly find it more important. To know and to be known by others, to belong and to be loved is one of the greatest gifts that we can give to one another. We recently moved to a new town and there is something tremendous that happens internally when a person that you don't know at all comes to you and says, "Come into my home, I want to know you!" It gives you a warm feeling to the depths of your soul. To be asked to join in is a gift that I cannot quite describe. Asking a Christian into your home is to affirm to them that they have a place among you and that is overwhelming to the recipient. Asking a non-believer into your life is a way to invite them to also know the hope that is in you. That is a far more valuable an act that we are likely to understand in this lifetime unless we've been the unbeliever, which Butterfield has been. She understands the importance and so she has a fiery passion for the topic which is good. I do not object to her passion on this topic, but welcome it. I merely request that her passion be delivered with a dollop of grace towards her fellow believers and this was something which I felt was sadly lacking over the course of this read (particularly in the matter of her home church split).

In the end, I feel like her first book is far more impacting than this second. Obviously there are a lot of people who really loved this book and my opinion is that it's good but there are better books on the topic of hospitality. Here are some I would recommend:





Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge (2019) - TEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY!

Hello, friends.

If you can believe it, I started the Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge TEN YEARS ago right here at Reading to Know. Ten years?! Where's the time go already!? Every year many of us have gathered to read a few books from one of our favorite authors. It's time to do it again - with a few treats thrown in for the faithful, eh?

If you've not participated before, consider doing so this year? I like to keep things easy around here so if you're new to this, here's the idea behind the challenge:

Read as much Montgomery as you can during the month of January.

Just that. Pure and simple. Perhaps you'll only get through one book and maybe you'll read through several. Whatever you can manage to squeeze in qualifies you to be a participant!

Montgomery is my favorite female author of all time and I love beginning a new year with her quiet, spunky, imaginative characters. Despite the fact that her life was far from serene and perfect, she managed to create characters that have made the world laugh and smile for over 100 years. I take pleasure in her books, despite the fact that they are rather formulaic. I find them to be remarkably peaceful. They are quiet reads which keep a slow and steady pace and which continue to draw me back to them year after year after year. If you have not had the pleasure of reading a L.M. Montgomery book, I hope you'll take the time to do so this month. If you are looking for another excuse to take a leisurely walk around Prince Edward Island with some of your favorite friends, well then, please, let me provide that excuse!

I invite you to read any book by Montgomery or about Montgomery as part of this challenge. Audio books are, of course, very welcome as are the first two Anne movies created and produced by Kevin Sullivan.

The only two things which never have and never will "count" towards participating in this challenge are the following:


  • Before Green Gables, by Budge Wilson. This is a made up history of Anne. It's the imaginings of another author about my most beloved Montgomery character.
  • I also do not allow the inclusion of Anne Of Green Gables - The Continuing Story because it's so far off the mark. This movie should be considered Anne heresy and is banned around these parts.

This year I'm also going to specify that the new Anne with an E show is not allowed because it's just rubbish. Consider these limitations a host's prerogative if you must.

Everything else is fair game.

What I ask participants in this challenge to do is to write up a post on your own blog (if you have one still!) or share the following information on FB or Instagram:

1.  Indicate that you have every good intention to participate in this Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge (link to this post for the ease of other potential participants);
2. List which of her books you intend to read (or which movies you intend to watch); and
3. Enjoy whatever it is that you manage to work through during the month.

I do hope you will join in and be a part of this reading challenge. I so enjoy hosting this every year and always try to learn something new about Montgomery as I read. If you're planning to read along, please let me (and everyone else!) know in the comment section!

Given that this is the 10th year of the reading challenge, watch for a giveaway or two and treats for those who are reading along. Be sure to let me know you are playing along so that I can include you in upcoming prize giveaway! Let's have fun with this, shall we!? Happy 10 years to the faithful! :)
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