I sneak away to read good books, just like I sneak away to eat chocolate. If I settle down to read a novel in full view of my household, my children will want me to read to them (which I do). If I eat chocolate in front of them, we will demolish the chocolate bar together (and I will get less).

courageous Courageous (Valiant Hearts Series #3) by Dina L. Sleiman

This was a recent read, nibbled on between canning tomatoes, preparing a sermon, and pool trips. I enjoyed it, with some caveats.  I chose to read this book because I have never read any books, fiction or non-fiction, having to do with the Crusades. As I tend to lean towards nonviolent and pacifist ideology,  I was particularly curious to see how Sleiman would handle the subject matter.


Things I enjoyed about the book:

  • The writing itself. Sleiman writes well-crafted, flowing sentences, unlike some other Christian fiction I’ve read.
  • The characters. I love having heroes, heroines, and villains that I can connect with. This fit the bill.
  • The time period. I love me some historical fiction and after reading this, I would like to do some more reading on the Crusades.
  • An interfaith friendship. A muslim and Christian friendship does not often happen in novels.
  • Themes of forgiveness – especially of oneself. I also appreciated how there was a counter-example of someone who attempted revenge instead of forgiveness.


Things I wrestled with:

  • Fighting and killing others in the name of the cross. I won’t get into all that in this space, but I really can’t condone killing others, especially for religious purposes. This novel takes place when religious and political purposes were often aligned (perhaps it is not so different now?!) The author does address this issue, especially in the author’s note at the end, but we do come out at different places.

*I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.


Delilah: Treacherous Beauty

delilah Somehow, in the middle of my two-week grad class, I read this novel: Angela Hunt’s Delilah: Treacherous Beauty. I enjoyed reading it as a wind-down before bed.

This novel  flips back and forth between the story of Samson and the story of Delilah. Samson is a judge from the book of Judges in the Bible and this book is a fictionalized account of his life. I was more drawn to the story of Delilah, perhaps because I am a woman, but I did like how the story was told through two different perspectives.

I’ve often wondered about Delilah and what led her to make the choice she did. Hunt does give one possible backstory,  I really can’t decide if I think Hunt’s version is believable or not. Delilah as a person disappointed me – in the Bible, and in this novel. I don’t like being annoyed with the heroine. Perhaps Delilah’s betrayal seemed to come out of nowhere, or maybe I was not reading the clues.

I’m not sure that this would make a good book club book, but I did enjoy reading it as a break from my heady textbooks.

*I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

Reaching Millennials (Wait, I’m a Millennial!)

reaching millenialsI found it rather amusing to read a book entitled Reaching Millennials: Proven Methods for Engaging a Younger Generation, when I myself am a millennial. David Stark, is spot-on, however. I didn’t find any of the information or ideas particularly new to me, most likely because of my age. I will definitely have to find an older person to pass this on to, as Stark does express his ideas effectively.

I am always a skeptic when I start reading books like this – especially books that have words like “reach” in the title. “Oh great, another book about how to have elaborate programs so that people will come into a church building.” This is not a book about programs or simply about getting people to come into a church building. (Thankfully!) Stark points out that there is no one-size-fits-all model. The job of a leader is to figure out what a model that fits their particular context (place and time). What worked in the 50s in the neighborhood is not going to be so relevant now.

The biggest phrase or idea that sticks out to me is “How can we make it easy for people to come to faith?”  Not to say that faith or discipleship is easy, but what are things about the HOW we do church or build relationships that keep people from faith?  I know plenty of people that say that they love Jesus, but have been burned by the church, and that is terrible.

I love how Stark ends: “God is the one who draws people to faith, and our job is to love and engage them, not draw them.”  It really is about God.

*I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.



We Never Asked for Wings

we never asked for wings  I often find treasures while perusing our library’s new book shelf. Last week, I discovered Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s We Never Asked for Wings. I love how Diffenbaugh weaves together themes of motherhood, undocumented immigration, and second-chances. And, as a bonus, she draws a plot parallel with birds and their flight patterns (and I have just gotten into birds!). Her sentences are well-crafted, and her content is vivid and believable; I miss the characters now that I’m finished.

Several disclaimers: I really, really did not like Letty (the mother) as I was just starting out. “Who is this woman?!!” But I stuck with it, and I’m glad I did. Also, if you’re sensitive to language or sexuality, there are a couple instances where the author uses profanity to express a point & a scene or two with some teenage romance (nothing explicit). For me personally, I still loved the book and found it a worthwhile read, but I know that there are a whole range of sensitivities to these sorts of things.

Counted With the Stars

counted with the starsIt has been a bit of time since I read any Christian fiction, but since Connilyn Cossette’s Counted With the Stars came free in the mail, I gave it a try. I was pleasantly surprised.

This is the story of Kiya, an Egyptian woman, during the time of the Hebrews captivity and exodus (found in the biblical account in Exodus).



Things I loved about the book:

  • I love the chosen context. I have never read a novel written from the perspective of an Egyptian during the plagues and exodus. I especially enjoyed reading the fictional conversations with Moses – they helped me to imagine a bit more of what things were like.
  • This book also came at a great time for me personally, since I have been reading through the book of Exodus in the Bible.


  • The plot was a bit far-fetched at times, especially the romantic bits.

What is going to stick with me:

  • The picture of God as invitational to all people, regardless of race or background.

*I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.


Sonya’s Chickens

sonya's chickens  I love, love, love this picture book!  (And not just because we have chickens.)  First of all, the illustrations are gorgeous. I grabbed this book simply because of the cover. I love Wahl’s depictions of everyday family life.

Wahl also helps children understand a little of why predators may come after animals such as chickens – and she does this in such a sensitive way. I’ve often struggled with the words to explain this to little man, but I think he got it because of this book.

Do you know of any other picture books featuring chickens and children? We love our chickens and our books! :)

Becoming a Disciple Making Church

Idisciple making church have been thinking about disciples and disciple-making recently, and then this book fell into my lap (or, my mailbox): Neil Anderson’s Becoming a Disciple Making Church: A Proven Method for Growing Spiritually Mature Christians. I am having a hard time coming up with an overarching opinion about it, so I think I will just describe some of the things I loved and disliked.

Things I love about this book:

  • Anderson writes from his experience, and he has plenty of it. Recently I’ve tired of reading books from authors in my generation, because we are missing the longitudinal view.
  • Anderson points out that we as people all have things that we have to work through, and leaders are not exempt. He writes “We can’t impart to others what we don’t posses ourselves” (p.28). I have seen this to be true in my parenting. I can’t expect to teach my children patience if I am frequently yelling at them to hurry up. And leaders in the church can’t expect to lead others towards a transforming relationship with Christ if they themselves have not been changed. Being a leader is more than just being able to manage programs and preach a sermon.


  • Anderson could do with less talk about how his Steps to Freedom program has helped people. I’m sure it has helped people, but I almost felt as if he was trying to sell me something. And, really, God should get the credit, not some special formula that Anderson came up with.
  • How would a trained counselor or therapist read this book? Is it a balanced perspective between psychology and theology?

What is going to stick with me:

  • “Wounds that are not healed are transferred to others” (p. 47). So true.

*I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

Bedtime Audio Books

Little man has been enjoying listening to audio books while lying in bed. (This has been especially helpful with the recent time change!)  We’ve downloaded some from our library, checked out actual discs from the library, received some as gifts, and downloaded some with our free Audible trials.

Here are some of our favorites. (I prefer long ones for bedtime, so I don’t have to keep coming in his room to help him pick out a new one.)

boxcar children


james herriotralph s mouse audiofrogandtoad

I love reading to my little guy, but it is nice to have a break sometimes!





Rising Strong

Failure. Vulnerability. Courage. These are hard things to write about. (And I’m not going to try!) Brene Brown, does a wonderful job, however, in Rising Strong. (She also wrote Daring Greatly, which I blogged about here.) She has done a ton of research, but her writing is highly readable and full of stories.

Rising Strong My biggest take-away from this book was her description of the stories we tell ourselves vs. the reality. (We think someone is mad at us, and they just have a headache.) Now, this concept is not really that new to me. However, Brene shared a story about herself that has already shaped several conversations I’ve had. In a conflict with her husband, Brene uses the phrase “The story I’m telling myself is. . . .” as a way to start the conversation. Then her husband is able to tell his perspective, which is completely different than the story she had told herself. I love how this phrase can make it {slightly} easier to take the step of vulnerability and start talking about difficult things.

Winter Reading: Just Mercy

Winter is almost becoming my favorite season. Winter = more time for books.

A couple of weeks ago, I finished Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. Yes, it is non-fiction, but Stevenson packed it so full of stories that I read it like I read  novels – in just a couple of sittings.

Just mercy  Stevenson writes from his experiences as a lawyer, sharing the stories of incarcerated individuals, many who have received unjust convictions and sentences. He tells of his own experience defending prisoners on death row, and helping some to get their convictions overturned.

I’ve always been fascinated by the judicial system (perhaps because of my early adolescent reading of John Grisham?), and Stevenson has made me all the more curious and saddened about the current situation.