Saturday, December 19, 2015


I’ve done a lot of reading in the past few months and would like to share some of my favorites. Perhaps one of these will hit the spot for you too over the holidays.

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings us backto the Garden by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark. I came across the trailer and loved the art so much, I requested a review copy. I was not disappointed in the illustrations. They are stunning. However, the writing is too casual. In fact, quite terrible. I’ve always felt that language for kids should be rich and beautiful because it elevates their minds to higher things, which is the whole point of the Bible in the first place – to reflect upon the sacred mysteries. Though the author succeeds in showing the fall and redemption of man, he fails in showing how man's cooperation with God's will works. Mary's Fiat is completely missing. So also the institution of Church. So if I have so much to criticize, why do I put this on my blog? Because it is a beautiful book. I recommend you tell the story in your own words. Trust me, you can do better.

Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism by Scott and Kimberly Hahn. I guess I’m a sucker for conversion stories. Although each story is different, the drama remains the same – my heart is restless O Lord until it rests in You (St. Augustine) – the search for Truth. I’ve listened to their stories on CDs, but when I saw they had written a book about their conversion jointly, I had to read it. And it is such a joy to see their love of Christ, for Scripture and Truth, and most of all their love for each other and others, through all the difficult times when they weren’t seeing eye to eye. It’s a good book about marriage and family life too.
Fascinating Womanhood: How the Ideal Woman Awakens a Man’s Deepest Love and Tenderness by Helen Andelin. This book was a gift to me and I was rather smug when I first started reading it because I’m happily married. But how quickly I began to see my faults. I gained a deeper appreciation of my husband and it makes me want to be a better wife. I’m afraid the feminist movement has nearly destroyed femininity and marriage. So do yourself a favor and pick up a copy, whether or not you’re in a happy marriage, and share it with young women. There’s so much to regain in our relationships. Every woman wants to be loved and cherished by her husband and the way to attain this is to love and cherish your husband. I think modern women might be turned off by some of her suggestions but I dare you to read with an open mind and honest self-assessment.

Helena by Evelyn Waugh is a delightful historical novel about the journey of St. Helena from her life as a young girl and marriage and motherhood (she’s the mother of Constantine) to her quest to find the true Cross. A richly imagined story.
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby was a gorgeous book. I’ve not enjoyed a recent young-adult book in a while but this one, for older readers, is beautifully crafted. Two motherless boys take care of a beat-up and broken immigrant girl. Love blooms. But she disappears. And how they get her back (yes, it has a happy ending!) from a man too powerful to fight is what this story is about. But it’s so much more. There’s the other-world, interesting characters, and other mysteries to solve. The last time I loved a YA book was Impossible by Nancy Werlin.
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman was the most difficult book I've read in a long time. I suppose if your life hasn’t been touched by mental illness, it is an interesting journey in the mind of a smart kid who is delusional. But for those of us who’ve experienced a loved one go through this, it is too sad, even if it brings some understanding that a textbook on paranoid schizophrenia does not. It is a painful book because although this story ends in hope, the sad reality is that so many mentally ill people simply do not get the help they need and don’t have a happy ending. And you can't help but wonder if your loved ones will get through this ...

Good Discipline, Great Teens by Dr. Ray Guarendi is a wonderful book to help raise teenagers when they are asking for more freedom and privileges and taking on greater responsibilities. We've found this book extremely helpful in curtailing unnecessary discussions that go nowhere (um, we're not going to buy a car for our 16-yr-old and we're not going to argue about it) and also helps us fight the culture of entitlement. Most of all, the book is written with Dr. Ray's signature wit and wisdom. He has other books as well if your kids are younger so check them out.
Letters to an American Lady by C. S. Lewis is such a gem of a book. As an inveterate letter writer myself, I appreciated reading this correspondence. What a wonderful man! Always encouraging and sharing details about his own life, the little things!  Backaches, tea with his brother, even complaining about the amount of letter-writing that piled up, the antics of cats, his wife Joy. It gave me a glimpse into the man he is, not just the writer of tales and theology, but so much more, a good friend who took the time to write someone he never met. For sometime now I've come to realize that the most important thing you'll write is not a magnum opus, but a cheerful note to someone who is suffering. By all means we should use our gifts to bring beauty into this world, but these little acts of kindness make a difference, one heart at a time, with words written just for that person. A letter is a gift. 

Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World by Emily Freeman is a call to celebrate the smallness in our lives, in doing our daily duty with joy and compassion, remembering that Jesus is with us in all our moments. I'm enjoying this book especially since I've had a difficult year and not accomplished many of the things I wanted to do, getting derailed by Harry and my own procrastination, but Ms. Freeman has reminded me it is enough to just be, to start each day anew in doing whatever God has planned for me.

Finally, I'd like to share The Christmas Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska. It's very much in the same vein as the Quiet and Loud books by this team, but the quiet Christmas joy is very much palpable in this book. 
I hope there is something on this list that piques your interest. Do share some of your favorites in the comments. I love being introduced to new authors.


Mirka Breen said...

Thank you for sharing your Jewels.

Faith E. Hough said...

I have only read two of these (Rome Sweet Rome and Simply Tuesday). I think I need to find Bone Gap...I've been underwhelmed by a lot of YA fiction lately, so it'd be nice to remind myself of what a great genre it can be!