Saturday, July 31, 2010

July Favorites

Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz. 2010. Revell. 368 pages.
Touching the Clouds. Bonnie Leon. 2010. July 2010. Revell. 320 pages.
Fancy Pants. Cathy Marie Hake. 2007. Bethany House. 384 pages.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, July 30, 2010

Music Review: Counting Stars

Counting Stars, Andrew Peterson, Centricity Music, 2010.

I love Andrew Peterson. I do. Since discovering Love & Thunder, he has been--without a doubt--my favorite, favorite Christian artist. "Just As I Am, " "High Noon," "The Silence of God," and "Tools" spoke to me. I just fell in love with the music--the beauty, the honesty, the seeming simplicity of it all. It didn't take me long to buy his other albums--his earlier albums--Carried Along and Clear to Venus. How could I not relate to "The Chasing Song" or "Faith to Be Strong"? How could I not love "Loose Change"? And who could keep a dry eyes listening to "Alaska or Bust"?

Nothing quite excites me like a new Andrew Peterson release. Behold the Lamb of God, the "Christmas" album?! I listen to it year round. It is one of my favorite and best. The Far Country. Resurrection Letters II. I've got my favorites on all of these. (And let's not forget Appendix A. Oh, how I LOVE The Cheese Song!!!)

So I've been anticipating Counting Stars for months! And it did not disappoint!!!
  • Many Roads
  • Dancing in the Minefields
  • Planting Trees
  • The Magic Hour
  • World Traveler
  • Isle of Skye
  • God of My Fathers
  • Fool with a Fancy Guitar
  • In the Night My Hope Lives On
  • You Came So Close
  • The Last Frontier
  • The Reckoning (How Long)
My favorites from this album? Well, it's still early, I've only listened to it seven or eight times, but I'd say that "In the Night My Hope Lives On", "The Magic Hour," and "God of My Fathers" top my list. But, when I think about it, I love them all.

The album is very pleasant, very soothing, very beautiful.

You can buy the CD/download the album many places. But consider buying from The Rabbit Room.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Fancy Pants

Fancy Pants. Cathy Marie Hake. 2007. Bethany House. 384 pages.

New York, 1890
Rexall Hume planted his hands on the desk and leaned forward, his scowl rivaling a gargoyle's. "You've tested my patience far too long, Lady Hathwell. A year and a day--that's how long I've waited."
After finding Mr. Hume a huge disappointment, Syndey's moved on to plan B. That plan? To disguise herself as a man, travel to Texas--Gooding, Texas--and become a ranch hand on her uncle's place. Maybe it's not the perfect plan. But she's hoping it's good enough to get by a couple of months. That's all she needs. She'd go as herself, BUT she's heard her uncle hates women and that he doesn't have any use for women on a ranch. And there's the fact that he already thinks she's a he. His telegram telling her to come to Texas proved that. He's happy to welcome his nephew.

Tim Creighton has always enjoyed ranching. He owns a share in Forsaken Ranch. And he's always welcomed a challenge or two. But. The arrival of "Syd" Hathwell may just be his undoing. Because he can tell from looking that Syd has never worked a day in his life. He is so clueless. How can he transform Syd into a competent ranch hand?! It seems impossible. Still. Someone has to make Syd into a man, and Tim and the other ranch hands try their best.

Sydney was disappointed--in a way--that her uncle was away. Tim is in charge of Forsaken, and he puzzles her. She wants to earn his respect, his friendship, but she knows that if her secret comes out, then, everything will change. And Velma, the cook, wasn't fooled for a minute. So it is only a matter of time...

I enjoyed this one for the most part. It was an entertaining read--very satisfying. It did get slightly preachy for a chapter or two before Sydney's conversion. But I still liked this one.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Release of Counting Stars

Andrew Peterson released Counting Stars today! I am going to wait a few days until I've listened to the whole album a couple of times before I review it...but I wanted to share a few things with you.

Official music video for Dancing in the Minefields:

The Reckoning (How Long):

Andrew Peterson talks about the new album:

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Salon: Week in Review July 18-24

This week I read...

Jeremiah 8-20 in the ESV Thinline Bible

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Book Review: Courting Morrow Little

Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz. 2010. Revell. 368 pages.

First line from the prologue:
Red River, Kentucke
July 1765
Morrow paused on the river trail to wipe her brow with the hem of her linsey shift. It was a true Kentucke July, and the woods were hot as a hearth, the leaves of the elms and oaks and sycamores curling for lack of water, the dust beneath her bare feet fine as flour. Even the river seemed like bathwater, its surface still and unbroken as green glass.
From the first chapter:
Fort Pitt, Pennsylvania
June 1778

Morrow took out a painted paper fan, her gloved hands trembling, and recalled the look of horror on her aunt's face moments before when she'd embarked, as if she'd stepped into a coffin instead of a keelboat.
Morrow Little, our heroine, was just a young girl when Shawnee warriors murdered her mother and baby sister and kidnapped her brother Jess. Morrow and Pa were spared--being away from the cabin--but they're haunted nonetheless by what they found that summer day. When the novel opens, Morrow is a young woman. She's had a few years in the East with her aunt. She's learned how to be a lady, a woman. Now, she's returning to her father, to Kentucke.
If it was up to her aunt, she'd never step foot on the frontier ever again. But Morrow feels her place is with her father, who's not in the best of health.

Once she arrives, Morrow finds many men in the community are smitten with her. Though not all think she's equally prepared for the harshness of frontier life. No one is more smitten than the determined soldier, Major McKie. But McKie would not be her choice for her husband. Nor her father's choice. Yet he has a way of intimidating Morrow's other suitors.

Her father wants to see his daughter married. Not because he doesn't love her. He does. But because he knows he's dying. And before he dies, he wants to be sure that his daughter will have a home, will have someone to care for her, someone to provide for her, cherish her. He doesn't want her to marry just anybody. He wants what is best for his daughter. And he has a good idea that Major McKie is not the one.

Who is her choice? The answer might just surprise you! It certainly surprised the community!

I just loved Laura Frantz's The Frontiersman's Daughter. It was one of my favorite reads of the year. So I was super excited to read Courting Morrow Little. And it didn't disappoint me. I loved Morrow. I loved Red Shirt. I loved the richness of this historical novel. I found it very satisfying.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, July 19, 2010

Music Review: Born Again (NEWSBOYS)

I don't know how much of a review this will be. It's more like a gushing. Why? I find myself addicted to this new CD. How addicted? Well, in the three days since I bought the CD, I've probably listened to it 20 times.

I am a Newsboys fan. I've been a long-time fan. Some Newsboys' albums I love and adore. Some I like--nothing more, nothing less. And then there are the few that I become addicted to. Those with addiction status include Going Public, Take Me To Your Leader, Step Up To The Microphone, and In the Hands of God.

Michael Tait is the new lead singer. I wasn't worried. Why? Because Tait is so very, very good. I loved him in dc Talk, enjoyed his solo projects, and became a little Hero! obsessed. So I didn't doubt for a second that the CD would be good. I just didn't know how good.

The CD has twelve songs:
  • Born Again
  • One Shot
  • Way Beyond Myself
  • Impossible
  • When the Boys Light Up
  • Build Us Back
  • Escape
  • Miracles
  • Running to You
  • On Your Knees
  • Mighty to Save
  • Jesus Freak
I do have favorites. "One Shot" and "Way Beyond Myself" are battling it out for top position. Both are so addictive, so catchy. I found that even the few I didn't love at first listen--the first eight seconds of When the Boys Light Up had me scared, I must admit--soon became just as addicting.

The video for "Born Again" can be found at YouTube.

About Michael Tait joining Newsboys:

Peter Furler and Michael Tait talk together about the changes.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday Salon: Week In Review: July 11-17

This week I read

Esther 3-7 in the ESV Study Bible
Jeremiah 1-7 in the ESV Thinline Bible
Jude in the ESV Thinline Bible

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Book Review: The Church History ABCs

The Church History ABCs: Augustine and Twenty-Five Other Heroes of the Faith. Stephen J. Nichols. Illustrated by Ned Bustard. 2010. June 2010. Crossway. 32 pages.
A is for apricot, apple and Augustine--Africa's ancient bishop.

When I was a young boy, I took some pears that did not belong to me. I did not want the pears; I just enjoyed doing wrong. But God loved me and Christ died to forgive all my sin. Years later when I was serving as a bishop, I wrote two famous books. And I worked hard to remind the church that God loves us before we love him.
I wanted to like The Church History ABCs more than I did. I wanted to love it. What it sets out to do is introduce to children--elementary-age children--26 'important' church figures. Each entry is written in the first person. (The entries vary in quality.)

The 26 are not equally important. Some great men are left out while lesser men are included. In an alphabet book, it really does all come down to the first letter of the last name. Some of those included are relatively well known--Augustine, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, John and Charles Wesley. Others were new-to-me like Absalom Jones, Bishop Nicholas Ridley, Zacharias Ursinus, Florence Young, and Francis Xavier. Quite a few were familiar--but not in a religious context--like Lady Jane Grey and Anne Bradstreet. The book includes men and women.

What I did not like about this one were the irrelevant examples in each entry.

E is for eggs, elephants and Jonathan Edwards.
N is for noodles, nachos, and John Newton, writer of "Amazing Grace"

If your child is old enough to comprehend the historical and religious significance of heroes of the faith, then he/she does not need to be reminded that noodles start with the letter n. Though The Church History ABCs is an 'alphabet book', it is for older children.

I also found it funny that John Owen's entry was mostly about John Bunyan and Pilgrim's Progress. Nothing about that entry tells us why Owen was significant, or what Owen believed or taught. It was all about how he played sports, and knew John Bunyan.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: The Sister Wife

The Sister Wife. Diane Noble. 2010. HarperCollins. 343 pages.

Mary Rose refused to let the sting at the back of her throat turn to tears. Instead, she drew in a deep breath and reached over her swollen stomach to pluck weeds from between the rows of cabbage seedlings.

If ever a woman had cause to cry, Mary Rose does. Her husband, Gabriel MacKay, is about to marry another woman. And not just any woman, her best friend, Bronwyn. True, both claim--for now--that it will be a marriage in name only. Both claim that they're not in love with the other. But Mary Rose suspects that a day will come, a time will come, when all that will change.

Should she leave her husband? Should she leave the faith? Would leaving 'the faith' condemn her for eternity? Mary Rose has plenty of questions. Her marriage didn't start out this way. Her love didn't start out this way. She had every reason to hope for a happily ever after. Both her and her husband were recent--very recent--converts to the faith. Neither expected that faith to come between them and their happiness. But when the Prophet mandates Gabriel to marry the recently widowed Bronwyn, their future happiness comes into question. It's not that Mary Rose doesn't love Bronwyn. She does. She loves both mother and child. But why does caring and providing for her friend mean marriage? Why should she have to share her husband not just for this life but for all eternity?

I have mixed feelings on The Sister Wife. It is the first in a series. It has more questions than answers. I'm curious enough to want to know what happens next. But I can't say that I loved this one. I'm not even sure that I liked it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Book Review: Touching the Clouds

Touching the Clouds. Bonnie Leon. 2010. July 2010. Revell. 320 pages.

Kate Evans pushed open the screen door and stepped onto the broad front porch of her parents' farmhouse. This was supposed to be her wedding day. Instead, her lace, floor-length gown hung in her closet.

Touching the Clouds is a historical novel set in the 1930s.

Kate is a pilot burdened by guilt. Seven years before, Kate lost her best friend. Though conditions were fine when they took off that day, conditions didn't stay that way. The bad weather, the fog, led to an accident. She crashed the plane in a lake. Her friend didn't survive. When the novel opens, Kate is getting ready to go to Alaska. She's saying goodbye to her old life--Richard--and she's ready--more than ready--to move on, to make a new start. In Alaska. She knows it won't be easy starting a new life. Being a pilot in the Alaskan bush. But it's a challenge she wants, a challenge she needs.

I loved this one. I did. I loved it. I loved Kate. I loved her humanity. She was strong and courageous in many ways. Yet, she wasn't perfect. She had doubts. She had fears. She had worries. But she chose to face them.

I loved getting to know Kate's friends as well. Including the two men in Kate's life. Mike, a fellow pilot, and Paul, a cranky (but probably-cranky-for-a-good-reason) wilderness man. She met Paul because he's on her mail route. He's a loner. And he can be temperamental. Mike, on the other hand, was such an easy guy to like. Kate likes both men. She does. But does she love one of them? Does the one she love, love her in return?

Touching the Clouds is an adventuresome historical novel. It isn't strictly a romance novel. It's so much more than that. It's a rich historical novel that does a great job with describing a place, a community, a way of life. Much of the book is dedicated to Kate's flying adventures. Flying is part of who Kate is. It's more than a job; it's more than a hobby.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

The Sunday Salon: July 4-10

This week I...

finished 1 Thessalonians in the ESV Thinline
finished 2 Thessalonians in the ESV Thinline
finished Genesis in the Holman Christian Standard

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Perfectly Dateless

Perfectly Dateless: A Universally Misunderstood Novel. Kristin Billerbeck. 2010. July 2010. Revell. 256 pages.

They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. So I guess I have a problem. I am a bit of a perfectionist, and my life is anything but perfect.

Our heroine Daisy Crispin has so many problems. No, she's not being abused--physically or sexually. No, she's not addicted to drugs or alcohol. No, she doesn't have an eating disorder. No, she doesn't cut. No, she isn't a compulsive liar or thief. No, she's not grief-stricken from the loss of a parent, grandparent, sibling, or best friend. No, she's not being stalked. No, she doesn't have cancer. No, she's not pregnant. But she's suffering none the less. Why? Because her mom makes all her clothes. And though she could buy her own--from an approved list of stores--with the money she makes from her job, she chooses to save her money for college. And wearing handmade clothes (with handmade labels) instead of designer clothes is just one of the ways our heroine, Daisy, is suffering. She has the most embarrassing parents in the universe. She's sure of it. And they're super-strict: she's also not allowed to date.

I found it extremely difficult to like Daisy. That's not to say I sided with Daisy's parents. I may not like Daisy, but even I have to admit that her parents cross a couple of lines. Like when they perform at a school assembly, talk about how lonely and invisible their daughter, Daisy, feels, and then rap about peer pressure. I would cringe right along with Daisy. But does having embarrassing parents really excuse Daisy's flaws?

I didn't like how Daisy treated her parents. I didn't like how she felt justified in bending the rules, sneaking out of the house, keeping secrets, telling lies, etc. I didn't like her attitude. But. At the same time, I didn't like her parents' attitude towards her. Just as Daisy was disrespectful to her parents, I found her parents weren't really being understanding and supportive of their daughter either. Especially when it comes to their daughter's choices in colleges, in majors. Using the "we only want what is best for you" speech to specify one college, one major, no exceptions. If you don't do exactly what we tell you, then you're a selfish brat. I have no problem seeing Daisy as a selfish brat. I really don't. But selfish because she doesn't want to follow her parents' dreams for her when it comes to choosing a college, choosing a major, choosing a career? Selfish because she wants to follow her own dreams, make her own choices? I don't think that Daisy is being selfish by being interested in neuroscience.

So I didn't like Daisy, I didn't like Daisy's parents, how about her friends? Daisy has a few friends. Claire is Daisy's best friend. And she's a sad case. She actually has something worth complaining about her--her dad has left her and her mom, her mom has gone to Hawaii on an extended-extended vacation, and the maid quit. So poor Claire is left all on her own--with neither parent aware of the situation--for most of the book. (We're talking months and months.) Claire who has been ever-desperate for attention continues down an unhealthy path. And Daisy just wants Claire to go shopping with her, wants Claire to take care of her, to help her out with her problems.

There are two other friends mentioned by name. Neither worthy of mention when it comes to plot. Which is part of the problem I have. Why make friends exist in the first place if they're only going to be stereotypical? Angie Chen is the Asian-American teen with less of a social life than Daisy because she's super-good in math and music. Sarika Singh, an Indian, is again a teen with a "less-than" social life--at least when it comes to guys--because her parents are traditional and believe in arranged marriages. How many times are Angie and Sarika mentioned? Maybe two or three times? Do they even have any lines? I'm not so sure. We're just told that Sarika will one day marry the man her parents choose for her--a man from India. And we're told that Angie doesn't have time for parties or boys because she's too busy being smart.

How about love interests? Well, there are a couple of guys Daisy is interested in. Chase being the dream-guy. And Max being the one guy not on Daisy's list of potential prom dates. He's new. He's Argentinian. He can tango. And flirt. And he loves Jesus too. But. She hasn't known him since kindergarten. Max is probably my favorite of the two.

Perfectly Dateless follows the oh-so-dramatic senior year of Daisy Crispin. Chances are you'll like this one better than I did. Maybe you can sympathize with Daisy's problems. Her not having a boyfriend. Her wanting to go to prom more than anything in the whole wide world. Her thinking that having that one perfect prom date for the prom picture will mean that only good things are in store for her in the future.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Book Review: When You Believe

When You Believe. Deborah Bedford. 2003/2009. Faith Words. 288 pages.

The afternoon started like any other afternoon. the first Tuesday of October was a solid, bright school day, and outside on the school steps, the sun fell across everyone's arms like a warm shawl.

Lydia Porter is a school guidance counselor. One day a student, Shelby Tatum, comes to her with a shocking story. She's being sexually abused. When Lydia asks her to name her abuser, Lydia is in for the shock of her life, because the man Shelby names is the love of Lydia's life, a man who has just asked her to marry him. Obligated in so many ways to report the abuse, Lydia does what she must. But it isn't easy. It is breaking her heart. Because she believes that Charlie, the man in question, couldn't have done this. But. She also believes that the abuse is real. Someone is abusing Shelby, even if that someone isn't Charlie. Someone needs to be Shelby's advocate. Someone needs to be there for Shelby. Someone needs to reassure Shelby that this is not her fault. That the abuse is not her fault. That she's not a bad person. But being there for Shelby--appearing to take her side--may cost her her happily ever after. Even if Charlie were to be proven innocent. Would he be able to forgive her for her role in this? Lydia is learning that some things you just have to trust God on.

When You Believe is a compelling contemporary novel. It explores what happens when accusations are made, how easy it is for a community, a school, a church family, to be torn apart by taking sides.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, July 5, 2010

Book Review: A Morning Like This

A Morning Like This. Deborah Bedford. 2002/2009. Faith Words. 336 pages.

They sat together at their favorite corner table, two of them alone, absorbed in the candlelight and in each other.

David and Abigail Treasure have a "perfect" marriage. The book opens with the two spending their anniversary together. Everything just as cozy as can be. But the very next morning, the perfect marriage begins to crumble. Why? A message left on their answering machine. A message for David from a woman he'd known nine years ago. He's angry and confused. Why would she call his home? Why would she call now?

Susan, the "other" woman, has a good reason--a very good reason for getting back in touch with her former lover. You see, she has a daughter, a dying daughter. Samantha has leukemia, she needs a bone marrow transplant. David and his son, Braden, might be the best chance for Sam to make a recovery.

David has so much to lose--his wife's love, her trust, her respect, his son's love and respect as well, and then there is his church family--but there is something very precious to be gained. David has the opportunity--if he chooses--to get to know his daughter. As much as he hates his sin, his mistake, he can't help looking at his daughter with anything but love. And that's a good thing, right?

One thing surprised me, in a way, about A Morning Like This. I was surprised at who I felt sympathy for. I was surprised that David was the one I most sympathized with. I'm not sure why either.

A Morning Like This is a compelling contemporary novel exploring love and marriage, life and faith. I thought it was well-written. I found the characters to be realistically flawed.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Book Review: Magdalene

Magdalene. Angela Hunt. 2006. Tyndale. 448 pages.

Silence, as heavy as doom, wraps itself around me as two guards lead me into the lower-level judgment hall. When I fold my hands, the chink of my chains disturbs the quiet.

My first impression of Magdalene was a good one. I started the book and felt it had great promise. It's biblical fiction. It's a fictional account of Mary Magdalene. (Miryam of Magdala) It's a nice blend of fact and fiction. We don't know that much about her--as a person, her life before, her life after--but we do know she was a follower of Jesus. The middle third of the book focuses on the year(s) she spent following Christ. The teachings. The parables. The miracles. The signs. Witness to it all. Did Miryam understand who Jesus was? Not in this account. Is that her fault? I don't think so. I think many followers--men and women--were confused, were frustrated, by Jesus' real mission. A mission that led all the way to the cross, but didn't end there. Miryam certainly wouldn't have--couldn't have--predicted the true mission, the true purpose.

The book imagines much more than that however. Readers see the before picture. A Miryam so angry, so bitter, so confused, so hurt that she goes to the dark side. What led her to such a place? Well, in this account, Miryam has lost her husband and her children to the brutality of Roman soldiers. Miryam becomes obsessed with revenge, with justice. She'll do anything--even if it means inviting strange new gods into her life--to get what she wants.

Jesus (in Hunt's account Yeshua) heals Miryam, welcomes her, forgives her. But is that the end of this story? Should that be the end of this story?

Magdalene is a novel within a framework. Miryam is sharing her story with an unfriendly audience--a Roman audience. She's been sentenced to death. And she's telling us just why she's about to die. The whole book is working towards this very dramatic conclusion. You may think you know why she's there, but you may just be surprised. I know I was.

I said I had a good first impression, well, my impression had changed by the end. The good news--Miryam is a human character, a fully flawed human character. The bad news is I was disappointed with Miryam. I wanted a different story, a different result. I can't say much more than that really. Not without spoiling some of the book's twists.

Magdalene is a compelling novel. It kept me reading. Even when I wanted to throw the book across the room, I wanted needed to know what happened next.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday Salon: Week In Review: June 27-July 3

This week I...

finished Hebrews ESV Thinline
read Genesis 25-39 in the Holman Christian Standard Bible

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible