Tuesday, January 30, 2018

If You Can't Get Enough of the Reformation 500

On the last day of 2017, we took a long drive on winter roads to meet friends for church and ring in the new year. As we spun over roads which were surprisingly grand and clear for our midwest winters, I polished off the last two books I had planned for my 2017 reading challenge. One of them was particularly important because I wanted to finish it in the calendar year for the Reformation 500.

The book came to me from a good friend, a birthday gift that she tucked into my hands just as we were saying goodbye. I had heard of it months earlier when I was at a radio show recording about the Reformation, an interview between Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Erwin Lutzer. In that talk, Erwin Lutzer referenced a book about the famous marriage of the fiery Wittenberg monk.

It was Michelle DeRusha's Katharina and Martin Luther.

Books have a winding way of coming to us, and an even more winding way of being read. A story that surrounds the story.

This book is definitely one worth reading.

via Goodreads
The interesting thing about Katie Luther's life is just how much accepted facts might be actually folklore. Did she escape in herring barrels? Was it from her window? We don't really know. Why did she go to the convent? How did she hear of Luther's works? Did she actually read any of them before she escaped? All of these points are subject to conjecture, and while it's hard not to know for sure, it was also interesting to trace through DeRusha's work what's fact and what's conjecture. She did a good job of sketching in Katie's backstory and why she might have gone to the convent.

I also really enjoyed the look at 16th-century culture. Because we don't know a lot about Katie (only a few of her letters survived) we're stuck with filling in scattered facts of her life from Table Talk and other sources. But by exploring how people lived during those times, we can get a good picture of what her daily life looked like. The amount of cooking required, as well as the disturbing and unhygienic medicines of the times, gave me a high respect for her energy and a strong contentment with living in the 21st century. 

Michelle DeRusha's book is engaging, historical, and easy to read. A biography well worth picking up, great to read and discuss with daughters, and beautifully bound to set beside other books on your bookshelf.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Rediscovering the Library

via Pixabay
Two years ago I wrote a nostalgic post about our library days. In it, I mentioned that we didn't gotten to the library nearly as much. In fact, I went to the library in January of 2016 and found my card had been expired since September.

Life rhythms change.

Well, life rhythms change back again, and I have loved frequenting our local library quite often again. When I was younger, we would walk to the library on Friday mornings. Now that I'm older and have a driver's license, I'll still swing by the local one. But a delicious new realm of freedom opened up when  I could drive quite frequently to the bigger library that's not within walking distance.

It's a city library tucked away between other buildings, with a parking lot that gives you a ticket for an hour of free parking. Quite often I spill just a little bit over, but it's worth it. As you come in, you are greeted by professional employees whose whole demeanor communicates that they are ready to serve with that little bit of extra polish.

It feels like the doors open up into a magical world of dreams come true.

There are marble floors and multiple stories; there are quiet study rooms and patrons reading or working on computers, who glance at you as you pass by. Sometimes there's even a homeless person stretching out on a bench in the back of the CD section. They'll probably be asked to move along eventually, but they snatch a quiet moment where they can.

Since frequenting the library, I discovered War Horse for a dollar. Just last week I found four P.G. Wodehouse novels and The Prisoner of Zenda in the for sale shelves. I also picked up a few DVDs, because I can get back to the library soon enough to return them when they're due. This library is stocked with wonderful classic and modern films--Dickens, Sherlock Holmes, Cadfael.

I've also been ordering a lot more books. As I embark on research for Folkestone Files #2 (exciting stuff in the works, folks.) I'll be ordering all kinds of things about Germany during the war, the history of the church in WW1, the battles themselves, the history of MI-5 and MI-6, and some more secret stuff with won't be on my Goodreads right away. :) The ability to get research books for free is a comfort I am holding on to. I have an idea where I want to go with this book. I even have a rough draft to prove it. But there are still some big locks in the story that I haven't found keys for yet--things I want to accomplish that the characters haven't cooperated with.

We'll make it, though. Through the grace of prayer and the gift of a local library.

Right now, the library is feeding my future ambitions and my current balance between work and rest. And I am so grateful for it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

revenge of the sith {movie review}

via Pixabay
Star Wars was love at first BB-8. I watched my first Star Wars movie when I was twenty-one, on a random, spur-of-the-moment outing with my dad and my brother. My bro gave me a crash course run-through of episodes 4-6, and then we settled down with episode 7.

My education, as usual, went wildly out of order. I watch episode 7, then episodes 4-6, followed by episodes 1-2, Rogue One, episode 8, and then, most recently, episode 3.

(I wrote 'last of all' and had to change it to 'most recently'. How could it be last of all?)

Someday I will write more in-depth on those. But today, as per usual style, I'll start wildly out of order and review episode 3. This contains many and major spoilers, but they're necessary for an in-depth discussion, so beware.

Revenge of the Sith is the final prequel installment, tracing the creation of Darth Vader and the fall of the Jedi council system and the Senate. The series starts with young Anakin Skywalker, gifted beyond belief in the power of the force, trained as a Jedi, but unable to rid himself of the emotions that Jedi should not have. Stuck with power, young and inexperienced, he finds a mentor who maliciously twists him to the dark side, while his own mentors fail him in major ways. Revenge of the Sith is a movie weighted with grief, and by weighted, I mean heavy. You end that movie, and all your surviving feels have been destroyed in the fire-rivers of Mustafar.

Revenge of the Sith shows how the both the Jedi (good) and the Sith (bad) let Anakin down. Wrecked, he turns to evil, because he has destroyed every hope of returning to the good. And the gut-wrenching thing is, if Anakin's mentors had not been bound to the traditions of a faulty religious system, and inconsistent in their righteousness, this might not ever have happened.

The Inability to Handle Emotion
Inklings of poor training start in Episode 1, The Phantom Menace. Wee Anakin, just having left his mother and a life of slavery, stands before the council. Yoda says "I sense much fear in you," basically telling Anakin that fear is a deficiency for wanting to enter Jedi training. At the beginning of episode 2, an older Anakin is nervous about seeing Padme again. Obi-Wan's answer? "Be mindful, Anakin." Basically meaning, "get a grip and stow those emotions." Later, in episode 2, Anakin returns to his old planet home to find his mother tortured to death. He violates Jedi code by slaughtering the village that bound her with hate and rage, down to the women and children. I'm not sure that he ever told anyone besides Padme what happened. Not only does this incident ignore the history of the Old Testament, in which God sometimes ordered evil societies to be completely demolished, but it also shows that the Jedi have no answers for the astonishing grief and anger that accompany loss of loved ones. It's the equivalent of Anakin's mother being crucified by ISIS. He's right to feel angry. He should be angry. But anger and hate lead to the dark side of the force, and a Jedi should not be angry. The emotions keep continuing throughout the series. Jedi aren't allowed to marry, but Anakin, in love with Padme, marries her in secret. In episode 3, Anakin is overcome with fear that Padme will die in childbirth. He tells Yoda he's afraid he's going to lose someone he loves. Yoda's answer? Stop loving.

While you see Jedi sometimes experience grief, they are not allowed to experience romance, love, anger, or excited feelings. They are skillful in the force because of their emotional balance, and use it to be agents of justice in the world. Anakin is not a stoic. He's not made to be a stoic. It's almost as if, along with his powers, he's been given an extra measure full of emotion that he finds hard to control.

Anakin needed a different worldview--not an ambivalent current of life flowing through everyone that required denying his natural humanity. He needed to know a God that burned against injustice, wept at death, rejoiced over his people with singing, and had the power and sovereignty over life to protect the people Anakin loved. A God of emotion. But he never could know that. In Star Wars, Anakin only had two faulty religions to choose from, so he left the emotionless light for the power-promise of the dark. The grief of it is keen.

The Sin of Inconsistency
This is troubling in itself. But the Jedi take it one step forward. Senator Palpatine requests Anakin to be part of the Jedi Council. With reluctance, the Council agrees, but they don't give Anakin the status of Jedi Master, which traditionally accompanies being on the Council. Anakin, capable in power to be a Master, knows this is an insult and is angry about it. What do they do instead? They ask him to do some dirty work for them. Their actions subtly communicate further insult: "You don't measure up. You can do the work we couldn't in good conscience do, but which we would like to have done anyway."

Anakin is forced to put up with double dishonor. Because he's not perfect, he's not part of the group. Because he's not perfect, maybe he can be the garbage dump that commits the sin they need committed. The inconsistency of this treatment is enough to make me see red. I know it's just a movie, but a movie tells a story, and a story tells about a person, and all stories bear parallels to life. This parallel is one I hope by God's grace I never commit.

Did Anakin need the discipleship of a Master to teach him experience? Yes. Did he need to learn to appropriately handle his emotions? Yes. But far be it from anyone who has the truth of real Christianity to do what the Jedi did. To say, "There is only a place for you in our group if you have it figured out--if you never lose your temper, or struggle with doubt or anger, or feel life keenly in a way that embarrasses the dignity of the rest of us."

When Hitler was invading Germany, Bonhoeffer's sister-in-law Emmi accused him of the same sin the Jedi committed. She knew he was a Christian, and she told him " 'You Christians are glad when someone else does what you know must be done...but it seems that somehow you are unwilling to get your own hands dirty and do it.' " (Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer, pg. 359) Bonhoeffer, for better or worse, joined the plot to assassinate Hitler. The Jedi should have sent Obi-Wan to spy with Anakin. They should have been willing to put their money where their mouth was. There is no excuse, and while Anakin was responsible for his choices, the blame rests squarely on their shoulders as well.

i just wish i had them all here and i would give them a piece of my mind 

I realize this is taking a movie pretty seriously. But there are underlying sins and principles here that are vital for us to grasp and understand as Christians.

*deep breath* Let's talk about some good things now.

The Awesomeness that Is Obi-Wan 
Obi-Wan Kenobi my favorite character in the prequels. It started off rough because he had Frank Churchill hair from the Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma (his singing in that movie left much to be desired.) With his hairstyle changed in episode 3, and a beard, he had not only my favorite Obi-Wan look but also my favorite Obi-Wan personality. Obi-Wan in the other movie is a competent Jedi, a teacher, and a good Master. But like the other Jedi, he stuffs his emotions. Obi-Wan in Revenge of the Sith has seasoned emotions, for lack of a better term. He has found a pupil that he loves deeply and warmly as a friend. He wants the best for Anakin. Where other people might have discovered Anakin's marriage and denounced him, Obi-Wan tenderly protects Padme. When Anakin commits unforgivable sins, Obi-Wan never falters in his commitment to the side of right, but he also grieves his comrade. Yoda would have counseled him to shut Anakin out of his life. I don't think Obi-Wan ever did.

Padme's beautiful romantic love (albeit awkward, wooden dialogue) is a good thing for Anakin. But it would be incomplete without Obi-Wan's steady, brother-kinship. I wish he and Padme could have married after all that had happened. I think they would have been perfect for one another after the waves of grief had gone over them and they had come out on the other side. Watching episode 4 after seeing Obi-Wan in Revenge of the Sith wasn't an easy thing to do.

The hardest action to accept from Obi-Wan is his last interchange with Anakin. I have watched it three times to try to sort how I feel about it, and as sour as it tasted to watch at first, I think I understand it now. It's a terrible, terrible moment (the graphicness earning the movie it's PG-13 rating). I felt like Obi-Wan shouldn't have just stood there, watching in horror. But I think I understand why he did, and it wasn't cruelty. Anakin was no longer Anakin, and Obi-Wan did not shield him from the last heavy punishment that he was judged with. It was grievous for him to watch, but when someone receives their final judgment, you cannot seek to rescue them from it.

The Weight of the Star Wars Universe 
By the time I finished the last part of Episode 3, I felt deeply the weight of the Star Wars universe. I could trace the whole thing. The way all the stories fit together. What happened next, generation after generation, to each person. Some people stayed on the side of good. Other people turned to the side of bad. It's almost heart-breaking to think of how much life, joyful and sorrowful, is still in store for these characters who have gone through so much. And yet, after seeing Anakin, the thread of redemption that traces through the episodes is both glorious and satisfying.

If anything, Revenge of the Sith shows just how faulty and unfulfilling the Force as a religion is. It has no answer for natural emotions of anger and grief, besides suppressing them and distancing yourself from the things you love. Rose, in The Last Jedi, has a sounder truth when she says, "we don't win by fighting against what we hate, but fighting for what we love."

The force also has no answer for indwelling sin. When the Jedi sensed fear in young Anakin, fear was equated with the dark side, and their rejection of him at that point showed that one must be perfect in the light to be one of them. Thanks be to God that He is not limited to our perfection. Every single human is corrupted by darkness, but he doesn't have to choose people based on the fact that they tend to the "light" side of the force. We are never inevitably lost to a slide of darkness like the Jedi pushed Anakin towards. Because Christ accomplished the work of salvation on our behalf, he has conquered the darkness in us and brought us to the light. And that light, unlike force light, can never be diminished by our actions. It is the light of Christ, and his eternal, all-powerful, unbreakable light secures our salvation forever.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Present Over Perfect {how to really rest}

You know when you come home bone tired on a day so cold your fingertips are numb? The home lights are burning, the windows are fogged up, and the table is set down to water in the glasses. And in the middle of the table steams a pan of comfort food. You know what it is for you. For me, it's probably something Italian with tomato sauce and cheese.

And on the counter is something even more comfort food, of the chocolate variety.

Present Over Perfect is like one of those nights.

via Goodreads
I struggle with being a perfectionistic, proud, people-pleasing workaholic. Ugly, but true.

Months ago, I saw Present Over Perfect on the list of books I could request for review and was mildly intrigued. But, like sometimes happens, I didn't act on it fast enough, and the list changed before I could make up my mind. Fortunately, Kindle books often go on sale for great deals, and I picked a copy up at a discount.

I read three books twice last year. That's got to be a record. Present Over Perfect was one of those favorites, so much so that I named it the nonfiction book of the year.
The two sins at play here, I believe, are gluttony and pride—the desire to escape and the desire to prove, respectively. I want to taste and experience absolutely everything, and I want to be perceived as wildly competent. The opposite of gluttony is sobriety, in the widest sense, which is not my strong suit. And the opposite of pride, one might say, is vulnerability—essentially, saying this is who I am . . . not the sparkly image, not the smoke and mirrors, not the accomplishments or achievements. This is me, with all my limitations, with all my weaknesses. (Niequist, pg. 19, Zondervan.) 
Ouch. I love being competent and I love experiencing everything. Shauna's journey to be viewed as a strong, competent girl led her to a rushed life, saying yes to everything, and a sense of frazzlement. Over time, she saw her busyness had taken her to losing who she actually was--what she loved doing, and even her real personality. She knew something needed to change.

Shifting from proving and experiencing to self-control and humility is a long journey. I think it will be a long one for me, just like it was for Shauna. It means confronting some things--things I believe about God's love, and things I'm ignoring because I'm busy. As Shauna says, you can make something into a drug so you can hide from wounds and emptiness. Busyness is one of those drugs.

But her quiet reflections on why she's so busy and how she needs to slow down are like taking a vacation in the Houses of Healing having something healing being poured on a wounded place. Her chapters are short; perfect to read, highlight, mull over, and journal about. They invite pauses for reflection and slowed my mind down into ease as I read them.

The middle section takes a dip into spiritual practices that I would differ with. If you start encountering chapters with a different and more concerning trend of spirituality, keep persevering. It gets back to sections and mindsets that I found helpful. I most differed with the author going to see a Jesuit spiritual director and attending regular church gatherings taught by people that might not hold to a high authority of Scripture. There's one reference in the book that uses inclusive language to different, more unbiblical lifestyles, and there's one sentence closer to the end where the author was officiating at a wedding. These chapters don't fit with a scriptural understanding of biblical teachers, lifestyles, or gender roles. (I feel like my paragraph here is moving quickly through some huge topics, but when I'm recommending a book like this, I want it to be clear to readers which parts I agreed with and which parts I would exercise caution in.)

But in spite of that section, and those differences of belief, there is so much good to be gleaned about the topic of rest and enjoyment. I loved the way you can tell the author loves the small details of life. Stirring tomatoes as they cook down in olive oil. Watching the waves. Reading books. Straightening the house. She captures detail with a deep joy, like a parent running a loving hand over their child's hair as they pass them by.

Shauna shows how to rest, how to savor, and how to be loved.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Author Interview: Amanda Barratt {history, love, daring}

Every so often an extra-special post comes along to My Lady Bibliophile, and this is one of them. Today I get to have an interview with my sweet British-loving, bibliophile friend, Amanda Barratt. Join us for a discussion of favorite Jane Austen heroes, tightrope walkers, and writing! 

Hi Amanda! *serves you tea and shortcake* Welcome to My Lady Bibliophile! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your new book release? 

*Accepts tea and shortcake happily.* I’m so excited to be joining you today, My Lady. Your blog is one of my favorite places to visit. :-)

I’m the author of six novellas published by Barbour, and my novel, My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York, released January 1st. It’s a story of daring and romance set against the backdrop of Victorian Buffalo and the beautiful Niagara Falls. I love British movies, Five Guys hamburgers, dark chocolate, my family, dear friends (of which you are one!), and am daily grateful for the saving grace of our Savior.

*Schuyler pops in for a hug.*  

Book or movie? – Book when I have brainpower. Movie, particularly an episode of I Love Lucy, when I don’t. :-)

You've written several Christian Romance novellas with Barbour. What makes this your favorite genre to write, and as a Christian author, why is story-telling important to you? 

While my novellas are classified as Christian historical romance, I like to think of them more as stories about people on a journey, struggling with heartache, decisions, and their relationship with God. Along the way, they fall in love, but that’s only a part of their story. I know from my own experience how important fiction can be in revealing truth and drawing a person closer to God. I also love being able to offer readers an alternative to my genre’s secular counterpart.

Sunshine or rain? – Both, probably. Lately, it’s been pretty dreary, so sunshine would be nice. But I love a rainy day as it always makes me think of my favorite British classics.

As you write about these special men and women falling in love, what is your favorite kind of couple to write about? (Personality, etc.) Do you have any favorite couples in literature? 

An element I particularly love to develop in my stories is sacrifice. Ultimately, the measure of love can only be tried when it is tested. I also like to write about heroes that show chivalry and honor toward the women in their life--mother, sister, friends, and special future wife.

Favorite couples in literature? Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester, Colonel Brandon and Marianne Dashwood, John Thornton and Margaret Hale, Colonel McLlinn and Roxanna from The Colonel’s Lady by Laura Frantz, and Aric and Hadassah from For Such a Time by Kate Breslin. I also have a special fondness for Victoria and Lord Melbourne from the show Victoria, though they were never quite a couple. :-)

*Schuyler pops in for Melbourne fangirling.* 

Introvert or extrovert? – Introvert. Except around family and close friends.

Drew is quite the daring hero. Can you tell us a little bit about the Niagara daredevils who tried tightrope walking across the falls? 

Charles Blondin was undoubtedly the most famous. He performed his first stunt in 1859 to a crowd of thousands of onlookers who expected him to plummet to his death. He proceeded to perform many more times, where he achieved such feats as: carrying his manager across the Falls on his back, walking across the tightrope while pushing a wheelbarrow, crossing blindfolded, and going over on stilts. He survived all this and lived to old age, spending his later years at a house he built in London with the money he made at Niagara Falls, calling it aptly, Niagara House. Many others followed suit, attempting to achieve Blondin’s fame, but none ever succeeded. The only woman to cross Niagara Falls by tightrope was Maria Spelterini who did so in 1876, wearing peach baskets strapped to her feet.

Darcy or Knightley?  Darcy. Because, like Elizabeth, I adore his beautiful grounds at Pemberley. :-)

Thanks so much for visiting today, Amanda, and a huge congrats to you! It's a pleasure to hold your book and to know you as an author. I'm so excited to celebrate this release with you on My Lady Bibliophile! 

Keep scrolling to read more about the book, and check out my review of the story here! 

About the Author
ECPA bestselling author Amanda Barratt fell in love with writing in grade school when she wrote her first story – a spinoff of Jane Eyre. Now, Amanda writes inspirational historical romance, penning stories that transport readers to a variety of locales – from the sweeping coastline of Newport, Rhode Island, to the rugged landscape of Central Texas. Her novella, The Truest Heart, was a finalist in the 2017 FHL Reader’s Choice Awards.

A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, she lives in the woods of Michigan with her fabulous family, who kindly put up with the invisible people she calls characters.

These days, Amanda can be found reading way too many books, watching an eclectic mix of BBC dramas and romantic chick flicks, and trying to figure out a way to get on the first possible flight to England.

Sign up for her author newsletter on her websitehttp://amandabarratt.net/

About the Book

Journey to Niagara Falls, New York, 1870

She avoids danger at all costs. He makes his living by rushing headlong into it.
Outwardly, Adele Linley’s trip to visit her American cousins is nothing more than a summer vacation. In reality, she’s the daughter of an English aristocrat with barely a penny to her name seeking a rich American husband.

Having grown up in an overcrowded orphanage, Drew Dawson is determined to make a name for himself. He’ll take any honest job to provide for his sister—even crossing Niagara Falls by tightrope.

Adele meets incredibly wealthy and pompous Franklin Conway who takes an immediate fancy to her. But she would truly like to marry for love. When she encounters the mysterious Drew in the garden, Adele is confused by her feelings for someone who is everything she is NOT looking for. Will they both stay the course they have chosen for themselves?

Friday, January 12, 2018

Why You Should Read Books that Challenge You

via Pixabay
In the early days of October, a group of American soldiers was under severe fire by German artillery. They were so surrounded that the backup they needed wasn't able to get to them. Shot at, starving, and desperate, they sent pigeons with messages to their allies to come and help them out. 

Then their allies started firing. Caught in the middle, being shot by fellow Americans, their position was unbearable. They needed it to stop. 

Enter Cher Ami. 

Cher Ami was the last homing pigeon they had. They held their final chance to get one more message out to their allies. So they attached a message to her leg and sent her flying back. 

On the way back, Cher Ami was shot by the Germans. One eye was blinded. Her breastbone was wounded, and one of her legs was hanging by a thread, partially severed. 

But Cher Ami kept on flying and made it all the way back. While they suffered a severe loss of numbers, the trapped Americans were saved. 

I learned this story while reading a diary I received about a WW1 soldier. In company with that diary, I also read a book about a particular WW1 battle, called Collapse at Meuse Argonne, by Robert Ferrell. 

I don't often read books about battles. I don't know about all the different terms that make up the troops. It's hard to keep the commanders' names straight, and geography is not in my top ten list of Things I'm Good At. 

i should have learned geography better when i was a little faun 

But reading the Collapse at Meuse-Argonne was fascinating. I learned about a battle I had no idea existed. I learned how sometimes people in charge make poor decisions in war, and what a sacrifice it is to fight. I learned that men with authority sometimes don't know how to handle it, and they can't foresee everything that's going to happen. I learned about the geography of this portion of France. And I really enjoyed it. 

Reading it also put me in mind of something I could blog about: why it's important to read books that are challenging. While this article's title might have given the idea of reading worldview books that challenge you, I was actually thinking a little lighter than that today. 

schuyler. are you sick? what is wrong? let's go deep here

Making a list of books to read this year? How about adding something that's not your normal fare? It's like trying a new food:
  • Maybe you don't normally read science (hand raised here). How about adding a science book to the list? This year I'm hoping to tackle The Evolution Handbook and another book called The Frozen Record, by Michael Oard. The Frozen Record is probably going to be hard to grasp, but like a hard-won trophy, I'd like to add it to my shelf. Years ago I read Buried Alive, which was part gripping account of one family discovering fraud in in the scientific world, and part scientific analysis of very boring skull angles. 
  • Don't read much nonfiction? How about adding five nonfiction books to your list this year? 
  • Try a book about nutrition, travel, or health. Thor Heyerdahl has great travel books. So does Bob Cornuke. 
  • What about adding a Christian apologetics book to your list? What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur'an, by James White is a fantastic choice. 
  • Haven't read a biography in a while? Eric Metaxas's 7 Men and 7 Women are great books with one biography per chapter to check out. 
  • Not sure what to start with? Ask your friend what their favorite hobby is, and check out a book about it to get started. 
Is there a purpose to reading a book that's challenging, especially if you're struggling to understand it? What if it feels like you're just putting in time, reading words on the page that don't really make sense to you? I think it has a purpose in the fact that it exercises your brain in areas that it hasn't been exercised before. When I only read what is easy and familiar, my world stays tiny. Sometimes the purpose of reading a tough book is not to grasp anything in it, but to practice persistence, discipline, and finishing what can be agonizingly confusing. 

It's kind of like exercise. This month my sis and I started a Pilates program, and it was tough. I'm trying to keep breathing how I'm supposed to while getting used to all these new ways of exercising. It's a lot to keep track of, and sometimes I feel lost. But if I keep on doing it....I get better at it. It doesn't feel quite so foreign after a while. I feel the elation of getting stronger at something.

Exercising the brain is the same thing. 

My next book I'm hoping to challenge myself with is Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, by Nabeel Qureshi. It might not be as hard as I expect, and I hope it's not. But it's a weight I want my mind to lift. 

I never would have learned Cher Ami's story if I hadn't read something new to me. I'm so glad a friend sent it, and that I had the chance to slow down and savor it at the beginning of the year. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Belated Birthday for My Favorite Fandom {sherlock holmes}

via Pixabay
Sherlock Holmes and I go way back.

I think I started the first story at my aunt's house. Our home library had these delightfully hefty paperbacks (part one and part two) of the Holmes adventures, and I picked one up to bring it home. It felt like such a grown-up thing to be reading them. It didn't take long until I was a dedicated fan. I even put up with the hair tonic commercials on those delightfully vintage Ton Conway radio dramas that came from the library in cracked cassette cases.

It brings back good memories.

After my brother and I were past playing with toys together, we shared the Sherlock fandom for a long time. In my early teens I discovered the BBC radio shows, which made my Sherlock heart absolutely happy. The ones produced by Bert Coules were especially good; he could add extra lines and scenarios to the original stories that were so absolutely, quintessentially Sherlock that I loved them. Ask me about the eggs quote sometime. I listened to those for ages until I went through a phase where any language in books really threw me off the loop. I still don't approve of language in books, but I think I understand a little more of why it upset me so much (ask me about that sometime too, if you want). Even though my standards haven't changed, I think I'm at the point where I'd be comfortable picking them up again.

it's dangerous tutoring at your favorite library

I also went on to the Sherlock Holmes fanfiction novels. We would go into the city where my dad works and spend the day shopping before we hit highschool. At the end of the day we would go to the library, and I would comb the shelves for Sherlock books. I think I even picked up some sort of commentary-type book that pegged Watson as dying just after the first World War. As a staunch Watson fan, I was livid with rage. Interestingly enough, the two authors I liked the most were both women. The other series I loved was Rober Newton's fiction telling mysteries from the perspective of two children who knew Sherlock Holmes. (If you look it up, don't hold it against me. I haven't read them in years.) But the Sherlock fanfiction can be an iffy place to explore if you don't know the author, so I let that fall by the wayside eventually

My favorite long novels are probably A Study in Scarlet (young Holmes and Watson are absolutely Favorite Things Ever) and The Valley of Fear (gut-wrenching, which might Explain Some Things About Schuyler). The Valley of Fear fandom came about from listening to the BBC radio show, which added the Minstrel Boy in for theme music. I also loved The Three Garridebs (even though Americans get a bad rap) and The Illustrious Client. I read A Study in Scarlet the proper way the first time, but oftentimes when I re-read it, I'll start in the middle with all the backstory so I can get it out of the way and enjoy the mystery without interruptions. #protips Last night I read The Final Problem again (can you imagine if that story was released with social media? Trending topic.) I could feel the squeeze of emotion again as Watson closes with his tribute. Also, according to fandom mythology, Sherlock would have been 36 or 37 at that time. Fascinating, isn't it?

A few years ago I stumbled on the Jeremy Brett movie adaptations. This Christmas I rediscovered them through Brit Box. They are everything the old, classic, vintage Sherlock should be. (Though, while I haven't seen the new Sherlock, I'm totally not against modern retellings of a story either!) The fandom, the setting, Edward Hardwicke as a kind and intelligent Watson...While they consumed Brett's life in the making, he captured Holmes so incredibly, so authentically, that I love them deeply. Someday I'm going to spend $60 and get the set.

According to accepted legend, Sherlock Holmes was born January 6, 1854, and I knew I had to do a post in celebration. Yesterday, as I started drafting it, I wondered exactly why I loved Sherlock Holmes stories so much.

with schuyler, there has to be a reason 

I love an iconic friendship that feels real to me. Like it really, actually happened, and Baker Street existed with the pipe and the tobacco and the VR shot into the wall with bullet holes. I love how Sherlock and Watson balance each other's strengths and weaknesses. I love the drama in the mysteries. I love the emotion of friendship, shudder at the sorrow of loss, feel relieved at the joy of reunion. The Baker Street stories are an immersive world.

Beyond that, I don't know.

But the fandom is strong with this one.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Book Babies + Book Review

Over the weekend, I got a special picture with a friend of mine. It's a "book mama" picture--the two of us with our first full-length novels, released within just one month of one another!

It's a special celebration. Amanda and I have been able to chat writing, share coffee shop experiences, watch performances of Beauty and the Beast together, and chat about all things literature and history. She's a multi-published author with Barbour, with novellas ranging from elegant England to Texas towns. 

It's a joy to have her here today, and her novel, My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York, is the perfect book to kick off your 2018 Goodreads reading challenges. 

About the Book

Journey now to Niagara Falls, New York, of 1870 where...

She avoids danger at all costs. He makes his living by rushing headlong into it.

Outwardly, Adele Linley’s trip to visit her American cousins is nothing more than a summer vacation. In reality, she’s the daughter of an English aristocrat with barely a penny to her name seeking a rich American husband.

Having grown up in an overcrowded orphanage, Drew Dawson is determined to make a name for himself. He’ll take any honest job to provide for his sister—even crossing Niagara Falls by tightrope.

On a sightseeing trip to the Falls, Adele meets several eligible suitors. Incredibly wealthy and pompous, Franklin Conway takes an immediate fancy to her. But Adele would truly like to marry for love. When she encounters the mysterious Drew in the garden, Adele is confused by her feelings for someone who is everything she is not looking for. Will they both stay the course they have chosen for themselves?

My Thoughts 

Drew Dawson was a hero I really enjoyed. He's committed to providing for his crippled sister, Hope, and he has obstacles in his way, but even though he lives in the poor side of town, he has an upbeat, optimistic confidence in the face of his difficulties. He's the sort of character you'd want to bring your problems to, because even though he feels natural worry, he doesn't collapse in the face of difficulty. He'll meet it with a smile, a lot of hard work, and gritted teeth in hopes of a win. Drew is an honest, manly, caring friend, and comes across the page so naturally that I'd enjoy knowing him in real life. He makes not only a good friend but also strong husband material, ready to face the challenges of providing for a wife and family. I could picture him so clearly in my mind as a person, and I'm glad to have made his acquaintance. (Also, I think I'd be up for trying tightrope walking across the Falls.) 

I also loved Hope as a side character, and Delany. They were so fun, and they'd be just the type of friends you'd want to have over for a game night on New Year's Eve, or even share the hard things of life with when you need an encouraging word. 

The other thing I thought was incredibly well done was how Amanda carried through on theme. I heard her talk a little bit about it before I read the book, and I really liked the way she put it in her novel. Adele loves to be in control of her life, and the plot shows where her choices lead to, driving big story events forward one after another. When theme and plot in a book are inseparable, that's really good writing. The aftermath of Adele's choices held so true to someone trying to control their life instead of letting God control it. While I don't want to give away any of the story, I thought the progression to harder and harder consequences showed a lot of strength as an author. The story let Adele experience hard knocks and didn't protect her from the aftermath of those choices. It's so easyto give characters an easy out when they sin, but Amanda told the story with honesty and redemption. It convicts and comforts in the best of both ways. 

I couldn't put it down. I even ignored Pride and Prejudice when the family was watching it on the television. I think you'll really enjoy it just as much as I did. I received a review copy of this book from the author. All opinions expressed are my own. You can find your own copy on Amazon, or you can also enter the gorgeous giveaway on Rafflecopter to win a book package, including a bag with real vintage lace! 

To enter, follow the Rafflecopter link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e219c0731/

Add My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York, on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35398269-my-heart-belongs-in-niagara-falls-new-york?ac=1&from_search=true

Purchase on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074V225C2/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

6 Years of My Lady Bibliophile + 2017 Reading List

via Pixabay
I feel like a veteran now.

This last year, My Lady Bibliophile passed the 600 blog post mark. Life has changed since I started. I was seventeen, fresh out of highschool, and the whole world was before me.

Now my time is a little more regulated. But the love for the blog has remained. I am still so happy to getting review books (or buying them myself) and having a chance to percolate over subjects. This site is a chance to have a diary of sorts. My three or four one time journal entries fizzled out, but I can make lists and I can write blog posts, and that turns into a journal too.

I am twenty-three. Twenty-three is quite young, but it feels more experienced. Some of the rough edges have been knocked off over the years. I've come to understand and appreciate things I didn't understand with, agree with, or appreciate six years ago. I like to think it's a maturing. A broadening of perspective that life experience brings.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm conservative enough compared to what I was six years ago. But time, too, will bring more light and change on the things I believe and do now. It really doesn't have to be troubling. God takes good care of teaching his children.

Over these past six years, God has allowed me to keep writing through trips, odd jobs, a season of tough mental health, and a book release. Life brings changes, but this has remained a constant that I rejoice in. I love the friends who have been with me for all six years, and I love the new friends I am discovering.

Last year I mentioned a few goals, some of which happened and some of which didn't. We didn't do the Persuasion read-along, and we didn't do the blog redesign. But like a home with worn-out furniture and mismatched plates, I hope the company has been pleasant in spite of it. We did mark the Reformation 500, though--and one thing I didn't put on the list, but which happened anyway, was publishing War of Loyalties.

I am glad.

So: Now We Are Six. This next year, I'm hoping to read a couple of science books, a couple of biographies, and more childhood favorites that I didn't get to last year. I'm hoping to read some new releases and a stack of research books for War of Honor and the female butler story. I'd also love to dive into some books about Mary, Queen of Scots, Queen Victoria, and Lord Melbourne.

Maybe we can publish a novella about how Jaeryn got his crooked fingers. Maybe we can do a book read-along.

It's all in God's good hands.

With joy and gratitude, thank you all so much for visiting and filling this blog with company and love. I hope this little corner of the web will be an open gathering place of bookish love for many years to come.

2017 Book List

Most of these books are reviewed on the blog (you can find them by searching in the search bar on the right sidebar). And I'm excited to review a very special one (number 51!) on Friday, so be sure to be back for that!

1. The Pilgrim of Hate, by Ellis Peters
2. A Portrait of Emily Price, by Katherine Reay
3. Walking on Water, by Madeleine L'Engle
4. The Shattered Vigil, by Patrick Carr
5. Kilmeny of the Orchard, by L.M. Montgomery
6. The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery
7. No More Faking Fine, by Esther Fleece
8. Old Friends and New Fancies, by Sybil G. Brinton
9. The Book of Lost Tales Part 2, by J.R.R. Tolkien
10. A Time to Speak, by Nadine Brandes
11. Adorned, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
12. The Cricket in Times Square, by George Selden
13. God and Charles Dickens, by Gary L. Colledge
14. How Should We Develop Biblical Friendship, by Michael A.G. Hayken and Joel R. Beeke
15. A Time to Rise, by Nadine Brandes
16-17. Present Over Perfect, by Shauna Neiquist (read twice)
18. Enjoy, by Trillia J. Newbell
19. The Black Stallion, by Walter Farley
20. Death Be Not Proud, by Suzannah Rowntree
21. A Room With a View, by E.M. Forster
22. Raiders form the Sea, by Lois Walfrid Johnson
23. 7 Women and the Secret of Their Greatness, by Eric Metaxas
24. The Invisible Friend, by Lois Walfrid Johnson
25. The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
26. Never Unfriended, by Lisa Jo Baker
27. The Maggie Bright, by Tracy Groot
28. Where Treasure Hides, by Johnnie Alexander
29-30. The Lost Girl of Astor Street, by Stephanie Morrill (read twice
31. Outcast, by Rosemary Sutcliff
32. The Lady and the Lionheart, by Joanne Bischof
33. Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
34. The Shock of Night, by Patrick Carr
35. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor
36. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, by Jean Lee Latham
37. Chasing Grace, by Sanya Richards Ross
38. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
39. To Get to You, by Joanne Bischof
40. The Girl Who Could See, by Kara Swanson
41. Ladies of the Reformation, by J. H. Alexander
42. Wings Like a Dove, by Christina Farenhorst
43. Weight of a Flame, by Simonetta Carr
44. Rescuing the Gospel, by Erwin W. Lutzer
45. War of Loyalties, by Schuyler McConkey (smile)
46. October, by J. Grace Pennington
47. Renee of France, by Simonetta Carr 
48. A Time to Die, by Nadine Brandes
49. Anne's House of Dreams, by L.M. Montgomery
50. Deadly Disclosure, by Meghan Carver
51. My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York, by Amanda Barrat
52. Katharina and Martin Luther, by Michelle DeRusha

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