Category Archives: Favorite Things

Moot Court!

Today I am in Oshkosh judging high school moot court! It is amazing watching these talented teenagers communicate. It is also a lot easier to be the judge than the participant – alumni status has its perks!

Advertisements

2017 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 1

For those of you who don’t have time to read 119 books in 365 days (and even those of you who do), here are my favorites from this year! They all come with my recommendation. 

Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t by James Collins

A business book full of interesting case studies and general principles for building a successful (“great”) business. Like many books in this genre, I enjoyed it because I saw elements of Good Profit in it. Since I love Good Profit, I was bound to like this one too. Overall a bit dated but intellectually engaging and well worth the time. 

Enough Rope by Dorothy Parker

I don’t normally like poetry, but I loved this little volume of poems. Parker is cynical, depressed, and heart-sore yet so real. She is occasionally trite and sarcastic but rarely dull. Sad, beautiful poetry.

Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer

Sir Gareth Ludlow has decided it is time to marry…but on his way to propose to his childhood friend, he meets a lovely young runaway! Determined to return her to her family, he enlists the help of his erstwhile fiance. Chaos ensues. This is a fairly standard Heyer plot yet perhaps one of her better uses of it. A fun, romantic romp! 

The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer

Gervase Frant returns from the wars to claim his inheritance and take over the family estate. His family accept his return with hostility. Several “accidents” later and Gervase starts to wonder…do they hate him enough to murder him? This book perhaps deserves closer to 4 stars because the mystery is quite clunky. However, Gervase is charming and Miss Morville, the leading lady, absolutely wonderful. Another charming Heyer read. 

Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis 

I was twelve years of age when I chopped of my hair, dressed as a boy, and set off to save my family from ruin. I made it almost to the end of my front garden.” So begins a charming, fun story about a girl who discovers she has magic and tries to use it to save her family’s waning fortune. Kat was a likable, spunky heroine and I loved her relationship with her sisters. The whole book kept me guessing with its twists and turns. A creative, magical adventure set in the Regency era written for middle schoolers. 

Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner  

Megan Whalen Turner is seriously the best. Thick as Thieves is book 5 in the Queen’s Thief series and let me tell you, it is just as good as the others. I won’t say much more because spoilers. If you haven’t already, go pick up The Thief. It is slow at first but worth it for the end. (And the rest of the books.) Definitely one of my favorite fantasy series! 

Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson 

Sixteen-year-old Alison lives in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found. According to Alison, the body just disintegrated. But that’s impossible…right? This book particularly stuck out because I went in assuming it would be another YA fantasy and it turned out to be sci-fi. While this jarred with a lot of readers, I enjoyed the switch. The novel avoids most cliches and really nails the YA genre with its originality. 


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. ❤ 


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!