Reading

Book Review: Mary Poppins

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Photo by Kristina Paukshtite from Pexels

Some stories are heavily laced with deep meaning, themes, and protagonist goals. Others are simply stories: interesting events that are fun to read about. In my mind, Mary Poppins belongs to the latter group.

Mary Poppins is the story of a nanny and the family for whom she works. Mary Poppins, Jane, Michael, and the twins have several adventures over the course of Mary Poppins’s stay in the Banks household. Mary Poppins herself is rather prim, proper, and prideful. She isn’t necessarily a pleasant person, but the children quickly fall in love with her.

From that point on, they do many different exciting things. They manage to travel the world with a compass they find in the park, they join Mary Poppins’s uncle for tea, and they meet a woman made of candy, among other fanciful events.

While I love a book with a strong story, good theme, and well-written character arcs, sometimes nonsensical stories such as Mary Poppins are an excellent break from the seriousness of everyday life. Mary Poppins is a wonderful example of enjoying the journey instead of the destination.

And of course, who could talk about Mary Poppins herself without mentioning the original movie? Well, in brief comparison, the book and the movie are different in many respects. On the screen, Mary Poppins is more gentle and kind – and musical. If one does not expect both book and movie to portray exactly the same story, the two are very much enjoyable and worth the few hours to watch or read.

Kira

Book Review: Robinson Crusoe

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Photo by Melanie Wupperman from Pexels

I never thought I would enjoy Robinson Crusoe.

Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was assigned in a literature class I am taking this year as the second book of the semester. I entered into it with a slight sense of dread, trying to temper that with the hope that it wouldn’t be as bad as I thought it might. After all, how could a book with a single character for the majority of the story be interesting?

Much to my pleasure, Robinson Crusoe showed me.

Rather than purely an adventure story (though there is plenty of adventure both before and during Crusoe’s island stay), Robinson Crusoe is the exploration of a man’s heart.

At the beginning of the book, Crusoe is a headstrong young man. He would rather have his way than listen to the pleading and reasoning of his parents. So he goes to sea. After a few mishaps (and some good fortune), Crusoe is the only man to survive a storm at sea and is deposited on his island for most of the remainder of the book.

And this is the point where I believed I would lose interest and have to start forcing myself to read. But once the physical journey of Crusoe’s life slows, Defoe begins to emphasize the spiritual journey.

Being left alone on an island leads to plenty of hours for introspection. Fortunately for Crusoe, a few Bibles were preserved from the storm and he begins to read them, having never done so seriously before. From there, Crusoe surrenders his life to Christ. He is made into a new man and now sees his island as God’s providence rather than his own ill fortune.

Robinson Crusoe had its dull moments, of course. But overall, Defoe wrote a satisfying and convicting spiritual story. Often, when Crusoe recognized sin in himself, I came to see the same within my life. Unlike in many other stories however, Crusoe turned to repentance and Scripture at such turning points rather than his own intelligence or even depression.

Daniel Defoe’s classic adventure novel holds the treasure of biblical truth which the majority of books today fail to follow. Without waxing on about the depravity and darkness of most of today’s literature (if it can be so called), I will only say that the clear acknowledgement of God in Robinson Crusoe gave me great pleasure to read.

As to whether I would recommend this book, I would say yes. Read it. Push through the boring parts because there is truth and excitement just around the corner. Besides, it does us modern readers good to stretch our attention spans every once in a while. Especially for such a worthy book.

Kira

Book Review: The Prisoner of Zenda

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And now you see why I don’t usually take my own photos 🙂

After my post of a few weeks ago bemoaning the depravity of today’s literature, let me assure that there are indeed still excellent books in the world. Books that spin a tale of adventure and keep you up far later than is right (oops). The Prisoner of Zenda is one such book.

Rudolph Rassendyll is a typical young man with too much money, not enough ambition, and a peculiar connection to the royal family of Ruritania from several generations back. He is floating through life with ease – much to the frustration of his industrious sister-in-law. She takes it upon herself to nag him into becoming an attache to Sir Jacob. Rudolph takes it upon himself to go on a different trip entirely, visiting friends and going to see the coronation of the new King of Ruritania.

Once there, he stumbles upon the new king and his two closest advisors – Colonol Sapt and Fritz von Tarlenheim. The four spend an evening of celebration together which ends with much less joy than when it started. Rudolph is thrown into a role he never imagined having and holds the fate of all Ruritania in his hands. He must struggle with the king’s brother, Black Michael, to defend the throne, while keeping up appearances with the rest of the court – especially the Princess Flavia. And through it all, he must remember who he really is, though the rest of the world thinks him someone else.

Anthony Hope’s story of Rudolph’s misadventures in Ruritania is fast paced and written with the beautiful yet easily comprehensible language that seems only to spring from the 19th century. The style of the writing led me to be wrapped up in the fictional time and place of Ruritania and I even learned a new word:

compunction: a feeling of guilt or moral scruple that prevents or follows the doing of something bad (according to Google)

I won’t bore you with a lecture on why I love Anthony Hope’s language so much, but I will say that it was refreshing to have to work a little bit to stay engaged in the book. And the excellence of the story itself provided plenty of reward for the minimal efforts it required.

The Prisoner of Zenda holds within its pages an adventure novel, a romance, and a story of personal struggles and growth, all woven perfectly together to create one unified tale of a man thrown out of his own world and into one where much more is required of him. And, (maybe this is also typical of books of this time period) it was clean. I had no fear that The Prisoner of Zenda would take a dark or disgusting turn. It was a thoroughly enjoyable story from start to finish and one that I am glad to have read.

Kira

What’s your favorite adventure story?
Have you read any older books lately?

Please Read the Gospels

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Photo by George Sharvashidze from Pexels

Have you ever heard a story that you loved so much you could listen to it over and over again? Is there a book that you’ve worn through from so many re-readings? A movie with scratches on the disc because you have to watch it again?

Stories are incredible and many of them are so good that we could experience them again and again without growing bored. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched The Princess Bride or Annie. Whinnie the Pooh never gets old and Narnia will always have a special place in my heart.

But even those stories can wear down some eventually. I have to take a break between Doctor Who marathons and Lord of the Rings can only be seen so often.

But there is one story that is just as awe-inspiring and moving no matter how many times you read it. The gospel feels just as fresh the first time as the thirtieth, as we see our sin and then see what Christ went through to save us from it.

I’ve been reading through Luke for my morning devotions and I love to read all the stories of Jesus’s ministry again. The two that stand out, though, are His birth, and His crucifixion and resurrection.

My soul magnifies the Lord along with Mary and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior (Luke 1:46-47).  How could Christ have humbled Himself so much and been willing to suffer so much just so that I could be with Him? How could anyone love me that much?

And yet, God does love me that much. He loves all of His children that much. And the four Gospel accounts are refreshingly full of that love.

It seems simple to read through the Gospels over and over again. Shouldn’t more mature Christians be studying other parts of the Bible? We already understand salvation.

But the Gospel is the basis of Christianity. It is Christianity. They are encouraging and lovely and convicting and beautiful all at once.

Don’t forget to read the Gospels. Don’t forget the most important story ever told.

Kira

What’s your favorite part of the Gospels?

Why I Read Old Books (and like them)

Let me start by apologizing for going AWOL for the past couple months. I’m back and I’m working to find a blogging schedule that isn’t interrupted by the rest of my life. Now, onto the post…

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Have you ever read Chaucer? Dickens? Thucydides? I have. Granted, all of these examples were for school, but I am glad of the chance to consume such literature.

A common problem in many readers today is that of reading only recently published books. But (and I am generalizing here) many of those books are shallow. They contain love triangles, vampires, and dead parents. Especially in books written for teenagers, the writing itself is simple and contains small words. The plot is straightforward and the characters have no crushing moral dilemma beyond whether it is socially acceptable to date whichever attractive person they are desperately in love with.

Now look at old books. Yes, some of them do contain these elements. Jane Eyre is quite the love triangle. But it is more than that. It is a young woman’s journey of growing up and learning what sacrificial love really is. It contains rich dialogue, deep characters, and a morally gripping plot.

Old books not only use more complicated sentences and bigger words (offering wonderful exercise for the brain), they also bring us into the thoughts and ideals of people in the past. Charles Dickens wrote about the French Revolution in A Tale of Two Cities, giving a story of political tumult and redemption which combined many plots into a rich climax. He offered his perspective on the revolution through his characters and his storytelling.

Of course, so far, I have only mentioned novels of a few hundred years ago. But the nonfiction is just important, even though those books may be a bit more dull than their fiction counterparts at times. The Federalist and Antifederalist Papers show us the discussions and disagreements between some of the core founders of the United States. The History of the Kings of Britain shows both the complicated history of Britain and the political corruption (and purity) in some major players in said history.

The theological books are, yet again, powerful and offer insights into the early history of the church. Eusebius gives us a thorough Ecclesiastical History, as does Bede. Augustine wrote countless books on different aspects of theology and the Christian life. He examined the kingdom of God in The City of God; he wrote his own testimony in Confessions; he looked at some basic Christian truths in On Faith, Hope, and Love (the Enchiridion). Calvin wrote almost too much to read in his Institutes of the Christian Religion and while we may not agree with everything these theological giants believed, they were pivotal in the development of the church and fighting the heresies of their day.

Old books offer us wisdom that recent books are unable to provide. They put at our fingertips the knowledge of the ages and the ideas and records of thousands of years. Old books are priceless. They enrich us.

Let me leave with the the advice of the great writer C. S. Lewis in his introduction to Athanasius’s On the Incarnation:

“It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.” (full introduction here)

Go forth and read!

Kira

What’s the last old book you read? What did you learn from it?

Book Review: Passion and Purity

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Every once in a while, a truly excellent book is born. A book that changes the perspectives and lives of thousands of people – quietly. This book isn’t made into a movie. It doesn’t go wild on the internet. It might even be rather slow to sell. But God is faithful and He uses it to further His kingdom, even decades after it was written.

Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot is a quiet little book. It’s not particularly long and is the exact opposite of flashy. From the cover to the introduction to the book itself, Elliot creates an atmosphere of peace and rest. I finished this book in the space of only a few days, so eager was I to get back to the comforting read, and then was sorry when it was over.

Passion and Purity tells the love story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, a gripping and sweet tale that seems as if it could come out of a storybook. But their story serves a deeper purpose, as do all of our stories. Elliot uses their years of joy and pain to discuss faithfulness to God in the midst of romantic relationships – purity in the middle of passion.

I’ve heard this book recommended countless places and will now join the voices urging that everyone desirous of living a pure life read the short volume. Passion and Purity is the first book on relationships I have read (and I have read many) to focus so pointedly on living for God in all your life and not just what to do with these feelings tangled up inside. It recognizes that we were created to glorify God and serve Him alone – even if that goes against what our heart is telling us to do (thank you, Disney, for that worldview). We must not waste these years of singleness and we must not waste future years of marriage. All is for the glory of God.

As much as I hesitate to use the word, “relatable” describes Elisabeth Elliot’s work quite well. She understands what it feels like to want marriage so badly, but to be kept from it over and over. She knows the struggles of submitting yourself to the Lord’s plan for your life. She knows the daily discipline of obedience. And she offers encouragement, through it all.

And so I say, read Passion and Purity. Read it carefully; read it slowly; read it with open heart and mind. Elisabeth Elliot holds much wisdom from the life God has given her and she generously shares it if only we are willing to listen.

Kira

Have you read any good books lately? What made them worth the read?

Book Review: Hand of Vengeance

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Photography is not my forte, but at least you can see the cover.

Yes, yes, a second book review in a single week. That’s just the way it worked out. 🙂

Hand of Vengeance by Douglas Bond was recommended to me by Moriah Simonowich of Delighting in Him and one of my friends offered to let me borrow it. So I started this book by Douglas Bond in the midst of all the other books I’m reading in at the moment.

Living in an 8th century Anglo-Saxon community, Cynwulf is shunned by most of the people in his world. Being left handed and part Viking, the rest of the community is happy to both avoid and judge him. Until one of his weapons is found at the scene of a murder. Cynwulf becomes the chief suspect in a murder trial he wants nothing to do with and must try to clear his name and save his life.

Bond writes a compelling tale (one which kept me up late for “one more chapter” more than once). His characters are complicated enough to be brought to life. I felt as if I understood Cynwulf even though I’ve never been on trial for murder. I wanted to know what was going to happen to them, so I kept coming back.

As I mentioned in my review of Jane Eyre, wholesome books are becoming more and more difficult to find. A large majority of authors are content to write fiction overflowing with sin and vice (not to mention lazy grammar and writing). It’s a tragedy, and I don’t say that lightly. Books hold great influence over the thoughts and lives of those who read them and authors are entrusted with the responsibility of shaping minds.

That being said, Douglas Bond’s tale of murder, love, and geese is a refreshing read. He shamelessly and easily weaves in the gospel – something also not done well in many modern tales. Hand of Vengeance was relaxing to read. I knew I wouldn’t have to be on the lookout for anything sinful or dark that might make me need to put it down. The world needs more books like this one.

Kira

You can find Douglas Bond at douglasbondbooks.blogspot.com

or bondbooks.net

Are there any authors that you know are “safe” – that will deliver a great story without treading sinful waters? How did you find out about them?

From the Archives: Book Review: Jane Eyre

I began reading Jane Eyre after a ridiculously frustrating injury in April and I loved it, so I had to keep the review.

Originally published: 5/30/17


Classics. Those books that have lasted centuries, only to be left on the bookshelves of well meaning readers, unopened, unexplored. The shelves in my room hold many of these works of art, most of them as yet unread.

However, during the week of the neck injury awhile ago, I needed something to entertain me (other than Netflix – one can only take so much bad television). So I decided to tackle one of the books that I had been putting off for much too long. I figured my inability to move would provide motivation to actually finish the venture this time.

I chose Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and completed about half of it before I was up and moving again. It happens to be quite a thick book though, and it took me a few more weeks of regular life to reach the end.

Miss Bronte’s protagonist, Jane, is a plain little girl at the opening of the story. Her life, young as she is, is already marked with suffering. Jane is an orphan, entrusted to the care of a guardian who does not love her. To get rid of the troublesome child, Jane is sent to a charity school where she receives an education and eventually ventures out into the world on her own. Life does not get any easier though, as she begins finding her way in the world, and Jane is left to face many difficult situations which try her courage, morality, and love.

As is often the case with old books (“classics”), I found Jane Eyre to be much more gripping and intriguing than I expected. The story is compelling and well thought out. Jane is a character who takes some getting used to, but is easy to grow to love. She is surrounded by a supporting cast with interesting backgrounds who leave their mark on the girl. Her tale is told by a woman with an excellent vocabulary and skill in crafting sentences.

I appreciated the moral questions raised by Bronte and how they were answered. As someone who loves to read, I’m finding it tragically and increasingly difficult to find books written in the recent past with clean language, themes, and choices. Jane Eyre was a breath of fresh air in that regard. Jane had to make terrible decisions, but she was strong and chose well. Emotion did not dictate the choices in her life – sound judgement and convictions did.

Though quite long, Jane Eyre was worth the read. I kept coming back to find out what would happen to the heroine and how she would respond throughout the weeks it took me to finish the book. Jane has left an impression on me, and, I have to say, I’m sorry the story’s over.

Kira

Are there any books you’ve been meaning to read for far too long?

From the Archives: Book Review: Crazy Love

I only read Crazy Love a few months ago, but I’m already looking forward to reading it again someday.

Originally published: 5/23/17


There’s nothing quite like a book that makes you take a good hard look at yourself. Crazy Love is one of those books.

I mentioned Crazy Love a few weeks ago in a different post before I had finished reading it. Now that I’m done, I had to review it because I absolutely loved it.

Francis Chan’s Crazy Love is about how incredibly out of this world God’s love for us is. It comes through in His every action – from salvation to the creation of caterpillars. Our sin left us with no claim to His love, but He poured it over us anyway. By the bucket full. When we stop and actually try to fathom for a moment the depth of this love, we are left with no other reaction than to pour out our lives in service to Christ.

We have no reason to fear death, no reason to conform to this world, no reason to worry or stress or be caught up with ourselves. This life is about God, even though we’re the ones living it. Chan makes that incredibly clear in his book.

Crazy Love is not overly eloquent or complicated. While I usually enjoy finer language in a book, Chan made his point simple and I appreciate that in this case. Rather than detracting from the book, the simplicity of the writing allowed me to focus on the message and how it applies to me.

It took me awhile to reach the point spiritually where I can see the benefit of conviction when I first feel it, rather than wanting to run in the other direction, toward complacency. It has led to a deeper appreciation of books like Crazy Love and how God uses them in my life. Francis Chan is not shy about saying that the church as a whole is not following God completely. But he doesn’t just leave it there. In “A Conversation With Francis Chan” at the end of the book, Chan stresses that he’s not attacking the church. Rather, he loves the church and wants to urge her to follow Christ’s calling.

“I’m not coming up with anything new. I’m calling people to go back to the way it was. I’m not bashing the church. I’m loving it.” (Crazy Love, pg 180)

Over all, Crazy Love was a convicting and, more importantly, encouraging read. It has led me to examine my own life and walk with God and to spend more time focusing on Him.

Kira

You can find Francis Chan on his blog: crazylove.org

And his Crazy Love website: crazylovebook.com

Have you read any convicting/encouraging books lately? Any that you can’t wait to read again?

Other Blogs

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Today I put together a list of blogs that I read/follow for your perusal. Please look through a few of them (you might become as enthralled as I have).


Helping Writers Become Authors

This website written by author K. M. Weiland does exactly what you might think: talks about writing. And, as I am a writer who wants to become an author, I enjoy her posts.

The Rebelution

I’ve probably recommended this one before, but I love the Rebelution. It’s all about living for Christ as a teenager, from the perspective of teenagers. I’ve been fortunate enough to be published there twice.

Runner’s World

Because what runner can live without it?

Kingdom Pen

I follow this one with less regularity, but the articles are still good. They are written for young Christian writers and capably bring out how God plays into writing.

Michael Hyatt

Another one I don’t read very often, but Michael Hyatt has some solid advice about changing your life for the better. I also listen to his podcast “This is Your Life.”

Go Teen Writers

I don’t read this one very much (are you detecting a pattern?), but it offers solid writing advice from adult writers writing to teenagers.

A Beautiful Sound

My sister’s blog. She doesn’t post very often, but I enjoy it when she does.

Highlands of Halaran

Rachel started this blog for a class, I believe, and still posts every once in a while. I love reading her words, which are more often like poetry. (Rachel, consider this a plea for more posts 🙂 )

Amelia’s Menagerie

Amelia is a friend of mine who has a lot of animals. She raises everything from chickens to quail to rats and writes about it on her blog.

Scratch That…

Another friend’s blog. She uses it to explore life and firgure things out in relation to growing up and biblical truths.

What Do I Even Say?

So, a lot of my friends have blogs. 🙂 Isaac’s is similar to Scratch That… in what he writes about, but it comes from a different voice.

Who Am I?

Zachary challenges himself and others in his posts, which contain testimonies from his life, song lyrics, and lots of Scripture.


Those are the ones I read the most often. As for the blogs that I don’t check regularly, they’re still really good. It has more to do with the amount of time I have for reading them. I hope you were able to find a new person or two to follow and interact with through this collection of some of my favorite blogs.

Kira

What are blogs/websites do you follow? What are they about?