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.

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.


Summer Reading: Iran & Maisie Dobbs

journeyfromthelandofno  My current interest has been Iran, thanks to Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran. After reading Roya Hakakian’s fascinating account, I watched several documentaries on Iran and found several Iranian food blogs. I guess I’ve moved from opera on to Iran. . .





maisiedobbsI want to tell every reader I know about the Maisie Dobbs series, but perhaps I’m just late to the party. (I see that this is the tenth anniversary edition?!!)  Winspear creates a gripping plot line without a lot of the gore that sometimes accompanies mystery novels.  Highly recommended.




Today I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit. Check out her blog for some great reading suggestions!






Still Alice & Pioneer Girl

Sometimes finding good books is hard; I was surprised that the last two books I read were blog-worthy. Usually I read one good book every several weeks.

still alice Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Soo good. This is written from the perspective of Alice, who has been diagnosed with early onset Alheizmers. Two of my grandmothers have had dementia, so I have a personal connection to this novel. I’d like to check out the movie, although I’m always hesitant to watch a book-based movie. Has anyone seen it?




pioneer girlPioneer Girl: The Annotated Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I grew up pretending that I was Laura Ingalls Wilder from The Little House in the Big Woods. This is the original autobiographical manuscript on which Wilder based her fiction series. I loved comparing what I remembered from the series to what actually happened in Wilder’s life.

Herbs, Opera, and Malcolm Gladwell

I’ve been reading a strange mix of books recently. Here are several ones I’ve enjoyed:

homegrown herbs  Homegrown Herbs by Tammi Hartung. All about growing, harvesting, and using herbs. I’m diving into the world of herbs and loving it; my uses for herbs have expanded beyond the occasional culinary use.  This library book has been a great reference.





medicinal herbsRosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs. Such a non-threatening introduction to medicinal herbs. Rosemary (did she change her name to make it an herb???) organizes the book well and uses easy-to-follow language. I’m already making my list of herbs to plant next year.




bel cantoBel Canto by Ann Patchett. This novel is responsible for my strange journey into the world of opera. After picking up my books from the library Josiah asked, “What’s up with opera?” I really don’t know. Sometimes new interests pop up in unexpected places. I will add that Bel Canto, though gripping, does contain some elements that some readers may not feel comfortable with (sexuality and a little violence). I did find it to be a fascinating story of the power of music in a hostage situation, making me dream of alternative ways to peace and cooperation.



tippingpointThe Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell.  I’m gradually working my way through all of Gladwell’s books; I love his research and story-telling.







February Reads

February has been full: farm work, home renovations, parenting. . . but I have gotten some reading in.  I thought I’d share three of my favorites from the month.

eating on the wild side Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson. Robinson examines the nutritional profiles of different fruits and vegetables; she explains how the breeding of fruits and vegetables over the years has caused them to be less nutrient-dense. Basically, we’ve ended up with more starch and less vitamins. She includes helpful charts of the most nutritious varieties of fruits and vegetables (who knew that red lettuce is generally better than green!) and some fun recipes. My only regret is that I ordered my garden seeds before I read this book.


power of habit The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. I had to read this one quickly because it was a library copy (and somehow I had too many library books all at the same time!)  The sections on organizational/business habits were particularly interesting to me. Little habits contribute towards big results. Duhigg uses a lot of stories and case studies to illustrate his points, making this a quick, but thought-provoking read.



all the light we cannot see All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  Doerr tells two parallel stories that take place during the German occupancy of France in WWII. I’ve never read a book with a blind heroine, so I found the one story particularly riveting. I’d highly recommend this book. (If I’m going to take the time to blog about a book, it is safe to assume that I’d recommend it.)

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

no.1 ladies detective    Apparently I’m really getting into mystery novels. I thoroughly enjoyed Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Set in Botswana, Smith tells the story of Mma (aka Precious) Ramotswe as she sets up her detective agency. The novel features one overall mystery, as well as smaller problems that Ramotswe solves.

Things I love about this book:  fascinating (and humorous!) characters, clean light mysteries, and the faraway setting.  I do like the fact that there were smaller mysteries; this made it easier for me to set the book down when I needed to.

One thing I wonder about. . . Alexander McCall Smith is not from Botswana – how accurate is his portrayal of life there?  I didn’t catch anything “wrong,” but then again, I’m not from Botswana.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Encyclopedia Brown books were my first mystery books as a child, followed by Nancy Drew in elementary school, and then John Grisham novels in junior high. I really don’t think I’ve read many mysteries since then, so I was delighted when I discovered Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. I don’t enjoy gory details or vicious murders, so this book suited me well.


I love the fact that the narrator, Flavia de Luce, is an 11-year-old girl. And, although the mystery does involve a body in her family’s cucumber patch, I could handle the drama.   I’m delighted to say that I was unable to figure it out ahead of time – I hate when mysteries are too predictable!  I actually listened to it, and the reader was British, so perhaps that also added to my fascination. I see that Alan Bradley has written several other Flavia de Luce novels, so I don’t think I’m done yet!