January 31, 2013

Is This Fun or What?

Posted in Books, Favorite Quotes tagged , , , at 7:24 pm by catsinboxes


Thanks to a Facebook friend, today I was made aware of a bookshelf I would like.  In addition to one that has an attached stepladder.  . . .  I’ve wanted one of those ever since I first saw one on *cough* Beauty and the Beast.

I love this shelf because it’s a reminder to READ your books.  Don’t just let them sit on the shelf!  Knowledge cannot be acquired by osmosis; books must be picked up, read, and read again.

C.S. Lewis said it, and I whole-heartedly agree:

“I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.”


January 30, 2013

Books, Books, and More Books -Part 1

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, England, Fiction, Jane Austen, Theology/Christian life at 8:23 pm by catsinboxes

Divided into categories, here is an overview of different books I’ve encountered lately.

Read Aloud

Bill Bergson, Master Detective by Astrid Lindgren

Two weekends ago, I was on the prowl looking for a good read aloud.  I knew what kind of story I wanted, an exciting one with adventure and cliffhangers.  And if that weren’t enough, I really wanted one that would be a new read for me, too.  It was a tall order, and I realized it.  Still, I didn’t give up and went poking hopefully through our children’s books.  After looking at a few books, a paperback caught my eye.  Bill Bergson, Master Detective.  It was a promising title, and it was written by Astrid Lindgren.  I like Astrid Lindgren, so I picked it up.  I opened to the first page.  This was the critical part.  Would it catch my listeners’ interest?  They are wonderful listeners, but they’re well read and have high expectations.  Also, would it meet my criteria?  Yes, I was being picky, but I did feel like just one sort of book.

These were the first few sentences:

Blood!  No doubt about it!  He stared at the red stain through his magnifying glass.  Then he moved his pipe to the other side of his mouth and sighed.  Of course it was blood.  What else can you expect when you cut your thumb?

This book was exactly what I was looking for, and we all enjoyed reading it.  What is the story about?  Why, Bill Bergson of course.

Bill is a keen detective, complete with magnifying glass and (empty) pipe.  His only problem is that he is 13 years old, no one will take his profession seriously, and the small town he lives in is annoyingly free of crime.  Still, Bill manages to have a lot of fun with Eva-Lotta, his next door neighbor, and Anders, his bosom friend.  It looks like their fun might be interrupted when Eva-Lotta’s Uncle Einar comes for a visit.  Uncle Einar is exasperating for one thing, but he also seems mysterious.  And that is when things start happening, and it will take all of Bill Bergson, Master Detective’s wits to get to the bottom of these suspicious events.

Read-Aloud Quality: 5 (out of 5)

Ideal Listeners’ Ages: 7-13 

Emil’s Pranks by Astrid Lindgren  

After the success of Bill Bergson, I was ready to try something else by Astrid Lindgren.  Emil is written for a younger audience and, as the name predicts, the book is devoted to a chronicling of five-year-old Emil’s pranks with every other page including a whimsical and often humorous illustration.  It’s not that Emil is naughty, though he is; it’s just that he is a bit too clever for his own good and his parents don’t know what to do with him.  (Think Calvin and Hobbes Swedish version!)

I like Emil because his naughtiness in this book, and others in the Emil series, isn’t the kind that will rub off onto his listeners.  I think few of them will ever be tempted to paint their siblings blue or hoist them up a flagpole . . . but oh is it funny to listen to Emil’s escapades!

Today, as I was reading aloud with Joshua, the word “mischief” was used.  Jonathan, age 5, looked up from a puzzle he was working on and said with a grin,

“I know what mischief means: it’s what Emil does.”  And that is true, Emil is the definition of mischief!

Read-Aloud Quality: 5 (out of 5)

Ideal Listeners’ Ages: 5 – 12


Jane Austen by Peter Leithart 

This short biography is an easy read and belongs to a biography series called Christian Encounters.   In it, Peter Leithart does a good job of tracing Jane Austen’s life, work, and faith.  He tries to find her true character between the two extremes that she has been portrayed: sarcastic, cynical feminist or pious Victorian prude.  In doing so, he creates his own picture of Jane and, to differentiate from other portrayals, dubs her “Jenny.”  He doesn’t do it consistently, and I found it slightly annoying.  To my knowledge, Jane was never called Jenny, and it was a hard pill to swallow.  It’s like dubbing Charles Dickens, “Charlie.”  It simply shouldn’t be done!  That gripe aside, Jane Austen is a truly enjoyable read.  One more note for interested readers before I move on. Don’t be like me, and read the whole book wishing you had a family tree BEFORE discovering there is an appendix in the back for the complicated list of brothers, sisters-in-law, cousins, second wives, etc!

Biography Rating 4 (out of 5)

Readability 5 (out of 5)

Fun fact of the day: do you know that Pride and Prejudice turned 200 this week?

Christian Living

Radical Together by David Platt  

After reading Radical, two years ago, I was eager to read Radical Together.  I bought it this past fall, and it has been sitting on my shelf with a list of other to-reads.  Once I started, it was a fast read, only about 130 pages.  It is an interesting follow-up to Radical and in it, David Platt tries to show what it looks like when the church as a body is “radical” together.  He gives many examples, particularly from his own life and ministry.  For some, this might seem rather self-righteous, but Platt makes it very clear that he and his ministry are far from perfect.  Anyone who  knows David Platt, who has heard him speak and read his book, will know that this is a man who has a heart for the gospel.  Reading Radical Together, it is so neat and challenging to see in practical terms what living out “radical” has meant for both individuals and churches.

In this book, Platt is quick to recognize the importance of the local church.  He also is quick to point out that the problem is not that our church programs and agendas are inherently wrong; they can be very good.  The question is, are they the best in the end for displaying God’s glory to the nations?

If you’re starting to feel a little too complacent (after all, Radical was two years ago), this book will be the perfect book to get you back on your toes.  I love the passion that David Platt shows toward reaching the unreached.  I also love the way he is so challenging, and yet so clear that God does not need our help.

“God does not involve us in his grand, global purpose because he needs us.  He involves us in his grand, global plan because he loves us.”  (Radical Together, 129.)

Christian Living Rating 5 (out of 5)

Readability 5 (out of 5)

January 13, 2013


Posted in Blogging, Faith, Favorite Quotes, Just Life at 6:32 pm by catsinboxes

At the end of October, my family made the decision to host 2 brothers for Christmas through New Horizons for Children, a Christian orphan hosting program.  We just finished hosting, and now I’m faced with the daunting task of trying to write about a month’s worth of experience.

It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.  It was absolutely worth it.  It was absolutely draining.  We started with two brothers, Gunvalds and Muntis.   Soon however it became clear that Muntis, the younger brother, needed to have another family where his needs could be better met.  After that transition, which proved very much to be in the best interest of both brothers, life definitely settled down.

I want to share what my mother wrote about hosting Gunvalds.


Gunvalds is a wonderful boy who has been lots of fun to have in our home. His English ability is very good, and he was easy to communicate with. Gunvalds is much more comfortable with women, and has not warmed up to his host dad. He took correction well; though there were often outbursts, these were more cultural (think arguing with an Italian!), than blatant disobedience. He appears to be quite innocent concerning life in general; he loved watching children’s movies at our house. Having a large family, we stick pretty close to home. He loved board games, playing outside, and looking at animal books in the evening. He needs a dad who is patient, kind, and willing to invest a lot of time and love. Tim took off the first two weeks Gunvalds was here, but Gunvalds never warmed up to him.

We had his younger brother, Muntis, moved to another host family because Munits required constant supervision and one-on-one attention. Muntis is doing better in the new host family, and since starting on some behavior modification meds (see his bio for more information). Before Muntis left, Gunvalds did everything with our 16 year-old son. As soon as Muntis left, he transitioned to our youngest 4 children. I would describe his play as more alongside than with, the way a young child “plays” with a playmate. One day, he spent several hours running around the house with our 5 year old shooting things with imaginary guns. He loved staying up after prayers to look at books in our library.

We feel like Gunvalds would do best in a smaller family where more time could be focused on him exclusively.

I love the description, and I can vouch for its accuracy.  My mom was wonderful with Gunvalds, and it is evident how much he craves and desires a mother in his life.

This hosting has taught me many things.  It has impressed upon me how crucial a stable family is for a child’s development.  I’m the big sister, the third in the line of command, and on a personal scale this month was grueling.  It made me realize how helpless we are as sinners, how desperately we need forgiveness and a savior.  When faced with testing of my authority (yes, I am in charge now since Mom is running errands!), I realized the ugliness of our sinful rebellion against God.  It’s so unattractive, so unappealing, yet how amazing that God can say to us, “You are precious in my eyes, and I love you.”

It wasn’t an easy month, but I think it was absolutely worth it.  Because this month wasn’t about me, it was about showing the love of Christ to a boy who desperately needed that love.  Was I able to do it directly?  No, often I was the one in the background keeping the peace while Mom worked with Gunvalds.  Could I have survived for another month in that capacity?  Quite honestly, no!  Yesterday, while Mom and Dad drove back from dropping off Gunvalds at the airport, I spent the day with my four youngest siblings.  It was so peaceful; at least two hours were spent listening to me read aloud ~a much-loved activity that we haven’t been able to do much in the past month.  It was bliss.

In the past year, I’ve been challenged by the words of Isaiah.

Is not this the fast I choose:

to loose the bonds of wickedness,

to undo the straps of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,

and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,

and to bring the homeless poor into your house . . .

If you pour yourself out for the hungry

and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,

then shall your light rise in the darkness

and your gloom be as the noonday.

And the LORD will guide you continually . . . .

I’m so thankful the past month.  I’m thankful for two amazing, godly parents who are choosing this fast.  It hasn’t been easy, not by a long shot, but I’m already looking forward to more opportunities in the future.  And most of all, I’m thankful for the guidance of a Shepherd who knows when I need still waters and who restores my soul.

January 4, 2013

A Confession Concerning Emma

Posted in Books, England, Jane Austen tagged at 9:11 am by catsinboxes

When I first discovered Jane Austen, I was twelve.  Emma was, I do believe, the third Jane Austen audiobook which I listened to, and I was not impressed.  Simply put, I did not like Emma.  She was far too annoying; how could anyone like her?  I realized that some people did, my own father included.  So then I began a theory: maybe men tolerate Emma more than women.  And that was that.  I listened, and re-listened to Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.  I read and re-read Persuasion.  I did not touch Emma.  And then, two years ago, Emma came back into my life.  It began with BBC’s new production which is available on Youtube.  While living in Japan, I decided to watch Emma.  And I actually enjoyed it!  So that was that, and at the back of my head, I started to wonder if perhaps I should give Emma another chance.  Time passed, and then -in October- we had a girls’ trip to Louisville, Kentucky.  One of the joys of the trip was high-speed internet.  And, one night, I suggested that we watch Emma.  So we watched it, and everyone was pleased.  Again, I had the inclination -this time stronger- to give Emma another chance.

On the drive back from Louisville, we finished listening to Pride and Prejudice.  I wasn’t ready to be done with Jane Austen, so I made a decision.  I would try Emma, again.  It was duly checked out from the library, and I really enjoyed it!

That said, I will not say that it is my favorite, but it is from one of my favorite authors.  I do believe that age has something to do with it; I’m ready to admire and enjoy it as an amateur connoisseur.  And I feel like I can understand Emma much more now that I am about her age.  Emma’s fault is that she is open in expressing her feelings.  She is too quick to give censure and jump to conjectures.  She is a woman through and through.  And, I find myself wondering, is Emma dislikable simply because she is such a pretty picture of womanhood?  Is it because she wears on her sleeve the faults that so many of her sex indulge in inwardly?  Certainly I am not an Emma, but I do see myself in Emma.  Suddenly, I can understand her irritation with the ‘perfect‘ Jane Fairfax.  In Emma’s lack of carrying through with the best intentions, I can see a picture of my own intentions.  I have been guilty of the same things: making goals but never completing them, yet basking in the praise of being “accomplished” by admiring -and very partial- friends and family.  Suddenly I can see how it happens.  And I can like Emma.  I can like Emma because I realize that I am more like her than I would like.  And I like her even more because of the glimpse Emma affords into Jane Austen’s mind.  There are so many glimpses of society, so many observations on people and character and disposition.  Now that I’ve finished Emma for a second time, I’m more than ready to read it again.  And after all, who doesn’t like Mr. Knightley?