Category Archives: Favorite Things

DEBT FREE!!

In August of 2015, I made my first student loan payment. Today I made my last. I AM DEBT FREE! 

I want to say a quick thank you to my parents for letting me move back home so I could save on rent, my sisters who have had to share a room with me, and the financial adviser who pissed me off by telling me I couldn’t possibly pay off the remainder of my loans in a year. You, sir, were a jerk, but thanks for the motivation. 

In all seriousness, though, I could not have paid these loans off as fast as I did without the support of my family. Thank you all for your help and sacrifice. ❤ 

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President Barbie


I bought  at least 3 Entrepreneur Barbies when that was the career of the year so it should be no surprise that I jumped on President & Vice President Barbie going on sale at Wal Mart this week! $5 for two Barbies is a good deal anyway but I love it when she has a motivating career. 

Thankfully, I have a sister who was just as exited about this as I was…so I had a perfect excuse to buy two sets! 

Can you believe it has been over a year since Barbie released their tall, curvy, and petite dolls? That was before I started blogging every day…otherwise there would have been multiple posts about it on this blog! I have a soft spot for Barbie. 


2016 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 5

The final 6! I read a lot of amazing books in 2016. 

Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers

In this intriguing book, Sayers tackles the “analogy” of God as Creator and takes a deeper look at what it means for humans, who create, to be made in the image of God. This was a good but very challenging read. I didn’t always understand the definitions or logic and often had to re-read passages. However, like with Chesterton, I came away with a greater understanding and desire to know more. Sayers’s approach to the Trinity is intriguing and it offers an interesting glimpse into the creative process. Overall, this book is definitely worth the effort. 

The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico 

At 48 pages, this is another charming children’s book that really stuck out this year. The Snow Goose is the story of a hunchbacked painter and a young girl who bond over a wounded snow goose. This book is surprisingly adult (not in content as much as depth) yet beautiful enough to read to children. Gorgeous art and an emotionally real plot. Though somewhat predictable, it is also sweet and noble.

For the Love of My Brothers: Unforgettable Stories from God’s Ambassador to the Suffering Church by Brother Andrew

For the Love of My Brothers picks up where God’s Smuggler ends and represents the expanded vision of Open Doors Ministry during/after the fall of communism. Though “dated” in some regards (I was age 3 and 5 respectively when this book was written and then updated), the book doesn’t feel obsolete. It was a great reminder of all God accomplished and continues to accomplish in the lives of believers across the world. Though I read a couple Brother Andrew books this year, I particularly appreciated this one because of my 2015 visit to Eastern Europe. 

Letters to Children by C.S. Lewis

Lewis received thousands of letters from children and this volume contains some of his answers. I found it immensely satisfying. Lewis’s letters are encouraging, instructive, and occasionally just about mundane things like the weather. There is a delightful amount about Narnia in this book. I love how often Lewis encourages children to write their own Narnia stories. He also answers lots of questions about the Narnia books (yay! More Narnia! Fangirls rejoice!) Even outside of Narnia, though, I was really surprised and impressed by how intelligently Lewis wrote to children. He peppers his letters with references to other books and texts. Truly worth reading and owning. 

The Revenge of Conscience: Politics and the Fall of Man by J. Budziszewski

An interesting  and challenging analysis of politics and Christianity. Budziszewski has two particularly intriguing chapters critiquing liberal and conservative viewpoints. However, the entire book is worth chewing over. I love his strong, pro-life arguments. Readable and worth the time, even if there are moments it feels “dated” and occasionally dense. One of those books I really enjoyed but I don’t expect most people to. 

Beauvallet by Georgette Heyer

It is very possible that I have lost all perspective and objectivity when it comes to Heyer. Even books I previously gave 3 stars I have been tempted to up to 5. I really, really love her writing and characters. While Beauvallet probably isn’t in my top 5 Heyer Reads, it is still pretty high up there. This is a grand, romantic, swashbuckling adventure set in the Elizabethan era. “Mad Nicholas” Beauvallet is a privateer and favorite of Queen Elizabeth who falls for a Spanish lady and determines to woo her, even if it means traveling through Spain where there is a price on his head. I was charmed to find the stereotypical Heyer characters out of their usual Regency setting and I liked the cameos from Sir Francis Drake, Queen Elizabeth, and Mary Stewart. Not perfect but certainly charming enough to win my heart.

 

 


2016 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 4

Every year I record my favorite books. There were quite a few last year! 

Just Patty by Jean Webster

In this prequel to When Patty Went to College, we find Patty and her friends getting into all sorts of mischief and shenanigans as they complete their final year at their private boarding school. The environment and tone reminded me some of A Little Princess, but it is less morally smug and more fun. Webster is a favorite author of mine and Just Patty is a charming story for girls of all ages. 

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Admittedly, a great part of this book’s charm came from the copy I had, illustrated by Robert Ingpen. The pictures were almost as wonderful as the words. However, even without the pictures, this book was lovely. It is a fairy-tale, both dark and light. It was different from the movie and yet so much better. The story entices the imagination and introduces (or really, re-introduces) a whole host of memorable characters. I was really charmed by this one. 

The Four Feathers by A.E.W. Mason 

A delightful romance in the traditional sense of the word where bravery and honor are virtues above all others. Our hero, Harry Feversham, commits an act of cowardice and receives four feathers in censure. Determined to redeem his name, he embarks on an adventure to save his accusers and prove his courage. Though the beginning is a tad slow, the story is one of those charming classics full of nobility and fun that leave you feeling just a little bit happier with the world. 

Pictures of Hollis Wood by Patricia Reilly Giff

Hollis Wood is an orphan constantly in and out of the foster system. She always runs away, even from the one family that offered her a permanent home. Now she has been placed with Josie, an elderly artist who manages to work her way into Hollis’s heart. However, something is wrong with Josie and Hollis is determined Social Services will not find out. This book was absolutely wonderful: emotionally gripping and beautifully written. I had vague recollections of the movie, but of course the book is better. Recommended for 10 on up. 

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes 

This Newbery Award winning children’s novel is a real treasure. It is the story of Wanda Petronski, a Polish girl who lives in Connecticut and who is bullied by her classmates for wearing the same dress every day. She tells them she has a hundred dresses, every color, at home. Then one day, she stops coming to school. A book about discrimination, growing up, and learning to value other people, this story was lovely and sweet. 

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stephenson

This book got 5 stars primarily for the audio book. I doubted I could have made it through the book without it, but I am sure glad I did.  It is a wonderful adventure with historical significance and action but with decidedly Scotch language. What I like most is how realistically hardship is portrayed. You can almost feel the exhaustion, dehydration, worry, etc. The characters can be unlikable and annoying but their devotion is real and believable. Another terrific classic. 

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

Douglas H. Gresham writes in the introduction to this book that “every grief is different.” This is A Grief Observed; it is Lewis’s personal journey of struggle and discovery. Yet grief is also recognizable, it transcends specific circumstances. In this way, Lewis’s journey is personal to him but also personal to everyone who have ever lost someone close. This isn’t an easy read. It is painful and raw. However, it is meaningful and touching and I am glad I got to read it. This isn’t a book to make you smile or present a rational argument for pain but it is a reminder that grief is real, valid, and part of the human existence. Lewis’s willingness to be open and honest makes that existence a little bit more understandable. 


2016 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 3

The 5-star, best of the best, reads from 2016! 

The Iliad by Homer

It is always difficult to rate a classic, but this is a super-duper classic. THE classic. A lot annoyed me in this story and I was often bored or grossed out, but the humanity captured is truly amazing. Many of the struggles, desires, emotions, and even insults thrown back and forth are recognizable and relevant today. This is a messed up story, but it is a also a story of coming to terms with grief and life and honor. It is incredible. My favorite “character” was Diomedes. I can’t believe I had never heard of him before! He was awesome! There is a reason this story has remained such a favorite for so long.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas 

I had some pretty high expectations for Bonhoeffer and, remarkably, it lived up to them. Bonhoeffer is great, not only because it is the story of the pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but because it incorporates WW2 history, theology, and the story of Germany in the early twentieth century all at the same time. I especially enjoyed the quotes from Bonhoeffer. I am going to have to read more by him. This book may be thick but it is worth it. Highly recommended for lovers of history and anyone who wants to learn more about a fascinating, relatively unknown and unsung hero of WW2.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens 

Despite being ridiculously long and occasionally mindbogglingly boring, this book was wonderful and hard to put down. There were moments I loved it and moments I hated it. However, in the end, loving or hating, I really enjoyed David Copperfield and it might surpass Our Mutual Friend as my favorite Dickens novel. You can never tell what will happen next. There were a lot of characters but it was surprisingly easy to keep them straight. I like how everything was tied up and how everything comes around. The description on the audio book says, “tragedy and comedy in equal measure.” That is this book in a nutshell. It will make you laugh and it will make you cry. And in the end, it is totally worth the 34 hours, or 900 some pages, or whatever else it takes to get through it. Go Dickens!

Poems by C.S. Lewis 

Did you know Lewis was a poet? He was a really good one, too. In general, I don’t read poetry but this volume gave me a better sense of why people like it. Poetry can be bite size brilliance. These were utterly profound but applicable and memorable. My favorites were “Pan’s Purge”, “Reason”, and “The Country of the Blind.” Some of Lewis’s poems are silly. Some are profound. Quite a few confound me with allusions to things I know nothing about. He writes about angels and nature, love and Dwarfs. Well worth finding. 

The Metamorphosis by Frank Kafka 

I like this book because I could enjoy it just as it was, as a story, and yet also enjoy it as a classic literary work revealing human nature. I like Gregor and the love he has for his family, a love eventually worn down by self-absorption and then flipped again in his last moments. I actually liked his family as well with all their passivity, self-absorption, and laziness. Basically, they are horrible humans, but they ring true. The way they behave towards Gregor felt completely natural and realistic. Kafka makes a brilliant point about human dependency and how we let things control our whole lives. Fascinating stuff! 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens 

Another Dickens novel! This timeless Christmas tale was even better than I expected. The book is simple and yet timeless. I don’t know what else to add because you probably already know about Scrooge and his nocturnal visitors, this story is part of our common culture. I thought I knew it. However, it has more depth than I realized. If you haven’t read it for yourself, I recommend doing so. 

Common Sense by Thomas Paine 

The historical significance of Common Sense alone argues for a 5 star rating. Highly readable, this pamphlet references natural law, legal theory, historical precedent, and Old Testament narrative. It made for an enjoyable read and provides insight into what fired up our Founding Fathers. I was pleasantly surprised by this one! 


2016 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 2

The best books I read in 2016…take two! 

Orphan Justice: How to Care for Orphans Beyond Adopting by Johnny Carr and Laura Faidley

Orphan Justice is a blunt look at the intellectual and emotional problem of orphans and the way society handles, or rather doesn’t handle, them. While promoting adoption, this book also focuses on solutions that help orphans beyond adopting. It addresses many issues facing society from child trafficking and HIV/AIDS to racism and poverty. A very convicting, challenging read. 

Georgette Heyer by Jennifer Kloester

Georgette Heyer is one of my favorite authors and I really enjoyed reading about her life. This book has its problems, perhaps more than others on this list, but it was such a treat to read about an author I deeply adore, even after learning about her flaws. And Heyer definitely had her flaws. From her inability to manage her finances to her weird marriage to her extreme shyness, Heyer was a strange, snobbish woman who yet remains extremely recognizable. She really is “to be found in [her] work.” A definite must-read for all Heyer-lovers. 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 

Despite its bizarre premise, Frankenstein was a really good read. Though the details in the writing occasionally got on my nerves (this was the age of Romanticism), the overall plot was captivating and tumultuous. It is Gothic horror. The Gothic portion gives it historical importance; the horror gives it a timeless interest. The book is a great combination of literary merit with themes about morality, responsibility, etc. and is full of genuinely good storytelling. It is an English major’s book but also Bookworm’s book too. Win, win.

The Mysterious Affair At Styles by Agatha Christie 

Christie’s first mystery, The Mysterious Affair At Styles also introduces her starring detective, Hercule Poirot. Emily Inglethorp rules Styles, but when she is suddenly found dead, her new neighbor Poirot is called in to find out why! This book was marvelous. There were a host of interesting characters and a most naive but endearing narrator. I enjoyed the story thoroughly and was kept guessing the whole time.

Destiny of a Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard 

This is a biography about the assassination of President James A. Garfield. I knew very little about Garfield going into the book and was pleasantly surprised by how readable and informative it turned out to be. I have a greater understanding of him as a president and era he lived in. I especially appreciated reading this one during an election year.  It reminded me that as dreary and depressing as this political season has been, America has weathered worse. As a country, we’ve dealt with corruption, assassinations, and Civil War. We survive and move on. Well worth reading! 

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Shorter than I expected, but exceptionally good regardless. It wasn’t over the top but still dark and interesting. I was most fascinated by Dr. Jekyll’s initial reaction to Hyde. Unlike Dr. Frankenstein, who gets all pale and wussy because he created something ugly, Dr. Jekyll initially celebrates his alter-ego. He puts aside Hyde because of society’s condemnation, but it isn’t until he sees his friend’s abhorrence that he really understands what he did. Really fascinating. 

Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory by Ben Macintyre 

In 1943, the Allied forces wanted the Axis to think they were attacking Sardinia rather than their actual target, Sicily. To convince them, British intelligence concocted a crazy scheme involving a dead body, forged papers, fake German spies, and the Spanish government. In this bizarre but true account, Macintyre masterfully recounts the story of the men who influenced and enacted the deception. I highly, highly recommend this one. 


2016 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 1

This year I read 168 new books – here are some of the best! See any favorites? 

Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace and Purpose in a World of Crazy by Alli Worthington 

Alli Worthington is a woman who knows about busy…something that becomes evidently clear as she tells her story as an entrepreneur and mother of 5 boys. However, she also knows about finding peace in God and the joy of doing what you are designed to do. In this quick but deep read, she talks about the importance of stepping away from cluttered schedules and maximizing your time doing what you were designed to do. Very inspiring and worth the time to read.

7 Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas 

In this companion book to 7 Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness,  Metaxas provides the biographies for seven, Godly women who impacted the world: Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Maria Skobtsova, Corrie ten Boom, Mother Teresa, and Rosa Parks. I found 7 Men somewhat dull, but I really liked these biographies. I especially appreciated what a diverse group they were. 

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

A sweet, wonderful book set in WW2 England. 9-year-old Ada has a club foot and is emotionally and physically abused by her mother, so when her brother is sent to the country for protection from the bombing, she decides to sneak along. They end up in the home of a depressed woman who needs them as much as they need her. I really enjoyed the realism and pace of this book. The character change was well done. Really good historical fiction. 

Overrated: Are We More In Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World? by Eugene Cho

This book was seriously convicting. Are we more in love with the idea changing the world than the reality? Cho is very open and vulnerable about his struggles in this area. He calls out his own motivation first and foremost. In doing so, he calls out me. He calls out Millennials. He calls out all of us who genuinely want to make a difference…but often by being in the spotlight instead of doing the work. I particularly appreciate how firm Cho is. He calls it how he sees it and seriously challenges the way we view what making a difference really means. I highly recommend this one. 

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

When their headmistress and her odious brother are suddenly poisoned, the students of St. Etheldreda’s School for Girls have a decision to make. Do they alert the police and return to their respective homes, or carry on as if nothing happened? They opt to bury the bodies. Unfortunately, hiding murder is not easy, especially when the murderer is still at large! This is a fun, Victorian tale of murder, mayhem, and most inconvenient situations. A great part of the book’s charm comes from the 7 main characters who have very distinct personalities. Good for middle school on up! (And especially good for adults like me who just love a fun, farcical story.) 

Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan 

In this book, comedian Jim Gaffigan writes about being a Dad, raising 5 kids in a 2 bedroom apartment, and dealing with the stigma of having a “big” family. As the eldest of 5 kids, I found this book HILARIOUS. I was in public when I read it and people kept staring because I was laughing so hard. Gaffigan may come across panic stricken half the time, but he clearly loves his family. A very funny, clean, and enjoyable read. 

Valiant by Sarah McGuire 

A re-telling of the Brave Little Tailor, Valiant is the story of Saville, a girl who dresses as a boy and takes her Father’s place as tailor to the King. When she learns that an army of giants are about to attack the city, she goes out and manages to trick them into leaving. Suddenly everyone things she is a hero! But can the courageous tailor save the kingdom from an even greater threat, the Duke and his larger than life army? I loved Valiant! It had a developed heroine, satisfying relationships, and lovely writing. Definitely one I plan to re-read and recommend.