Saturday, March 31, 2018

What I Read- March 2018

Hello once again!
This month was a very productive month for reading. I finished Martin Luther, which I've been working on since October 2017! I've read 13 books so far towards my goal of 100 this year.

Martin Luther (Eric Metaxas) 

Biography; 5 stars
This book came out in October in honor of the anniversary of the reformation. I bought it just about as soon as it was out on Kindle. Metaxas stretches my reading comprehension, but the book was fascinating nonetheless. It took me five or six months to complete, but it was worth it in the end.

This was a very interesting look into the life of Martin Luther. I learned all kinds of things about him that I never knew before. Not to spoil the book or anything, but did you know that the famous 95 theses and the Diet of Worms occurred very early in his life? Did you know that the 95 theses were probably not nailed to the church door, but rather glued up with a bunch of other documents on the door, which was used as a sort of "community bulletin board"? Did you know Luther never set out to break away from the Catholic church? Did you know he translated the entire New Testament into German in a very short period of time? Did you know he married a former nun and they had six kids? Did you know that he died of natural causes? Did you know that he lived at the same time as William Tyndale (I feel like I should have put the pieces together on my own, but for whatever reason, it just didn't occur to me!)? I found out all these fascinating things about Luther in this book. Besides that, Luther wrote some very funny things in letters that Metaxas quotes in the book.

I would say that if your comprehension level isn't very high, don't read Metaxas. Mine grew as I read the book. In the beginning, I had to use a dictionary all the time, but by the end, either I knew more words, or Metaxas used less complicated vocabulary. I doubt that it was the latter option.

Another note: Don't let the size of the book fool you! At least in the kindle edition, the last 25% of the book was all notes, bibliographies, and acknowledgements.

The King's Shadow (Elizabeth Alder)

Historical Fiction; 4 stars
So, it wasn't the best written book I've ever read, but it was an interesting perspective on English History and the Battle of Hastings. I was surprised at times at how fast the plot escalated...and there were a couple of unexpected gruesome descriptions.

Evyn is a young boy who dreams of being a storyteller. Suddenly, his fate is changed by attackers and he is no longer able to speak. He is sold to the wife of Harold, a lord of England. Eventually, he becomes Harold's right hand man... and Harold becomes King. He witnesses (and participates in) the Battle of Hastings against William the Conqueror. Evyn (called Shadow by this time) is found in the conclusion of the book writing down the story of the Battle. What he could never do with his voice after that terrible day, he has learned to do through ink and parchment.

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest (Melanie Dickerson)

Christian Romance, Historical Fiction; debating between 3 and 4 stars. 
This book is loosely based off the story of Robinhood-stealing from the rich to give to the poor.
Odette is a poacher. She spends her nights illegally shooting deer on the Margrave's property. She justifies it by telling herself it is going to feed the poor children.
Jorgen is the new forester for the Margrave. It is his job to track down the poacher and turn him in to the Margrave for punishment.
Jorgen and Odette meet by chance at the Midsummer festival. Jorgen thinks Odette is beautiful, and falls in love with her. Odette is beginning to fall in love with him, but then she discovers that he is the forester who must track her down. Despite this fact, she continues to fall more in love with him.
One day, Jorgen discovers that Odette is the poacher. He is angry and upset.
But there is more to the story than meets the eye. Unknown to Odette, her Uncle has been selling the deer meat on the black market. Her Uncle is convicted of his crime, but through what appears to be a miracle, she is pardoned...and given in marriage to Jorgen, the only man she truly loves.

So...two negative comments on the book. I'm trying to decide if it should loose one star for both of them or one star each.
First, there was a little too much kissing after Jorgen and Odette were engaged but before they were married. I started thinking, "All right, that's enough...move on already!" :)
Second, the place that Odette's uncle is running the black market from is the back of the house of prostitution in town. There was nothing explicit mentioned, I just feel like Melanie Dickerson could have picked a different place for the black market to be run from...I didn't feel like it was necessary to the plot. It could easily have been run from the back of a bakery, or a secret spot outside of the city...

I will say I was glad Odette and Jorgen got married in the end. Jorgen was able to forgive Odette for poaching and they (I assume) lived happily ever after.
There are two more books in this series, I think. I hear the second one is the best, so maybe I'll read it next month.

Serving With Eyes Wide Open (David A. Livermore)

Christian Living, Non-fiction; 5 stars
I don't even know how to describe the emotions that battled within me as I read this book. I feel like it needs a whole separate post to review it adequately.

The goal David Livermore had in writing this book was to open our eyes to the bigger picture of the world, missions as a whole, and how to do short term trips well. In Part One, he gave us glimpses into the world: poverty, the growing church, disease, and more. This part opened my eyes to the bigger picture of the world for sure. In Part Two, he examined conflicting images of short-term trips. "The attendees think....but the locals think...." As I read chapter after chapter in this part, I began to get discouraged. How can we ever serve on short term missions trips when so much is being done wrong? Is there any hope for short-term trips? Should we send them at all? In Part Three, he shifted gears and discussed the idea of Cultural Intelligence (CQ). This involves knowing things about other cultures, taking time to slow down and observe and interpret cues around you, asking deep questions, persevering through cultural blunders and discomfort, and adjusting your behavior to the cultural cues you observe. Even through all this, I felt this feeling of despair settle over me. Is there any way to do short-term trips well, or should we just quit? Finally, enter the final chapter. Yes! We should do short-term trips, but we need to open our eyes and practice CQ to do it well.

There is no way to adequately summarize everything David Livermore discusses in the'll just have to read it for yourself, which is exactly what I suggest. :)

Gifted Hands (Ben Carson)

Autobiography; 5 stars 
In August 2017, I read a Ben Carson Biography. I was absolutely fascinated by his life and particularly by the many, many, MANY brain surgeries he performed. So, I decided to ask for his autobiography for Christmas, and I got it.

Not only in Ben Carson an amazing neurosurgeon, but he is a wonderful writer too. I love biographies, but this one is on my top ten list now. I get sucked into books all the time, but I think this was the first time I've been unable to put down a biography.

Growing up, Ben Carson had a difficult life. He was raised by his single parent mother, looked down upon and harassed as a Black kid, and struggled with HUGE anger problems. His mother pushed him to get his grades up, to work hard, to read, to study, to learn, and because of her, and his faith in God, he became a successful and famous doctor. He became famous for first time when he successfully performed a surgery that involves removing one whole hemisphere of the brain on a four-year-old girl. His fame grew when he (and a huge team of other surgeons and nurses) successfully separated Siamese twins joined at the head after 22 hours of surgery.

This book was published in 1990 when he was still working at John Hopkins Hospital, so it covers nothing of his life after retiring, including his time running for President.
It was so well written and interesting I couldn't put it down!

Silas Lapham (William Dean Howells)
silas lapham

  Novel, "Literary realism"; 1 star
This book was an assignment for economics. Beyond that, I have nothing much to say.

Even after reading all 27 chapters, I still didn't know exactly what the plot was. Silas Lapham was a successful businessman with a bunch of money, but suddenly in the last few chapters his money all went bye-bye. At the same time, Corey wants to marry Penelope Lapham, but she won't have him...and then she says yes at the end? And how did Lapham loose his money? It was a confusing and boring read.

It earns one star because I was amused at times in the middle. Lapham's behavior at the dinner party was amusing...not ha-ha funny, but amusing. Some of the conversations were amusing...but most of the dialogue was pointless. And a few conversations were painful to read...

I was quite disappointed with this book. :(

And to this quote I say: AMEN! 

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