Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Book Review: The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare

The Winter's TaleThe Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the audiobook. Even "cold" with no background information or knowledge of the story, I was able to follow the main plot and characters pretty well. I wanted to read this with The Literary Life Podcast and knew that we could read this as our next play after Love's Labour's Lost in our homeschool, so I wasn't trying to find nuance or detail, just follow well enough to know the main story.

There were a number of quotes I'm certain I will mark when I read and listen with the kids. I liked the way it was a princess (not a prince) who is raised by wild people, turning that bit of the story on its head. The jealousies and fears, repentance and forgiveness (but long awaited!), and miracles? The wise woman and man who protected and rebuked as deserved? I enjoyed this quite well.

Plus it was my third Audible book of 2020. [happy dance]

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Monday, February 17, 2020

Book Review (not really): Beauty in the Word by Stratford Caldecott

Beauty in the WordBeauty in the Word by Stratford Caldecott

I cannot give this book any stars. Not because I'm upset to have read it in any way. Not because I don't think it's a valuable read for one in my "profession."

But mostly because it was mostly beyond me.

Oh, there were parts that I enthusiastically agreed with, that I understood quite well, but there were also parts where the underpinnings of philosophical and/or theological thought undid me thoroughly.

It took me a long time to read - I was often intimidated by the Roman Catholic-ness of the work. Not being in that faith tradition, it's often foreign and like jumping across slippery rocks to understand the implications that Caldecott was indicating. As a Reformed Protestant, his particular concern that liturgy trump scripture I found difficult to reconcile.

This is a book to come back to, I suppose. I appreciate those who have wrestled with Caldecott's ideas ahead of me (like Cindy Rollins) and translated many of them (particularly Remembrance). I cannot rate it because I struggled with it so much over so long a time - 2+ years? and it's a short book. I'm glad I've read it. I'm almost more glad I've finished it. The deficiencies are all mine and I do recommend wrestling with it. I plan to do so again. Someday.

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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Book Review: You Who? by Rachel Jankovic

You Who? Why You Matter and How to Deal With ItYou Who? Why You Matter and How to Deal With It by Rachel Jankovic
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this well enough. We're supposed to die to self and live to Christ and Jankovic discusses how the world tries to invert that and lead us away from following the Lord.

It didn't seem all that surprising to me in general: as believers we are to find our identity in Christ; the Lord conforms us more and more to his image and we are to follow his example as disciples. "A disciple, when he is fully trained, will be like his master."

I appreciated, perhaps the best, the beginning parts where she explained the modern philosophies that brought culture to where it is now. That sort of big ideas in history is something that fascinates me. That section could have been a little deeper, I thought, but this isn't an academic work where she's citing works to prove her thesis. I suspect she thought a little goes a long way.

The living it out seemed like a series of blog posts rather than a unified whole. She went from one topic to the next - and good, worthwhile topics - but with little transitions or thematic structure.

I will probably have my kids read this just so they're aware, but we hear much of "who and what we are" in church regularly, so I doubt it will be wholly new.

Jankovic's writing fluctuates between witty and clever and the annoying, all-knowing tone so prevalent in books from her family. Overall, it was worth the read and the eye rolls.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Book Review: An Experiment in Criticism by C.S. Lewis

Dare I have the temerity to offer a review of a book which struggles with criticism? Some thoughts and implications:

An Experiment in CriticismAn Experiment in Criticism by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this to read along with the Literary Life Podcast. They finished ages ago, but I finished today.

I really think the Epilogue helped me understand the whole better, but I suppose that's because I read Madeleine L'Engle who talks often of being in kairos which is her way of saying time out of time - herself without knowledge of self. That's what Lewis is talking about as a reader - and readers have been there. The world stops and you can only read because of that stripping away of the structure and the oughts and the full presence in the story.

It's Lewis, so it's hard and intricate. In places he seems to be weaving around trying to find the words to finally say what he wants to say. It is a book I'll be back to, probably more often than I want to admit. There were some passages that deserve greater contemplation (not for use but for reception).

Charlotte Mason discusses the ways of will and reason and how they go hand-in-hand with accepting an idea and reasoning to it. How we become very replete with ourselves, bogged down in ourselves. It's the opposite experience of transport into the story that Lewis is discussing. He is saying if we bring only ourselves into the story we can take the ideas of the story and make them do what we want. But if we receive the story, it is free and we are free. As he quotes, "he that loseth his life shall save it." p 138

Definitely worth the reading ... and re-reading to pull the subtleties together. This is a book where the whole defines the parts, but the first time you must take it by parts and the second you may see the parts more clearly because you have the whole.

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Monday, February 10, 2020

Book Review: The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni (Audiobook)

The BetrothedThe Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this novel that the children are reading for school. I purchased the audiobook version with an Audible credit because it is an expensive audiobook, but it was worth joining audible for this book! The reader was fantastic: his Spanish name pronunciation, his Italian, and his English (of course) were spot on and enjoyable; his amusement when the story was amusing; his seriousness when serious were all excellent. I listened to most at 1.25 speed, and it was easy to follow.

The plot is ... a little unbelievable. So many things happen to poor Renzo and Lucia. The Betrothed illustrates many ills and ... many goods and ... how good can come from ill. There is a great deal of talk of God's goodness, that we should trust in him, that he wants what is best for his people. There is much talk of forgiveness and how and why we ought to fully forgive. There is a miraculous conversion that changes the whole direction of the story. There are poor clergy, but there are excellent, faithful men who serve Renzo and Lucia, neither failing to support when support is due nor to rebuke when needed. Renzo and Lucia's simple trust and faith in the face of disaster - Lucia's in particular - is an example to all.

As a Reformed Protestant Christian, I do take exception to some of the theological maneuvers including the Marian veneration in the book, but overall I found I could overlook some of that and glean the "mere Christian" message despite.

I would highly recommend this audiobook The trick is going back and marking the passages you may want to note or contemplate. The denouement is a little slow once you know how things will wrap up, but the final lines are worth it.

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Thursday, February 06, 2020

Book(let) Review: As Reality Dawns by Carolyn Weber (not that Carolyn Weber)

As Reality Dawns (Becoming Women of Distinction)As Reality Dawns by Carolyn Weber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a talk that was printed up as a booklet. I thought it was by Carolyn Weber of Surprised by Oxford and Holy is the Day authorship, but it is a different Carolyn Weber.

It was worth my reading this morning to remind me of straightforward truths about waking to reality and living it as a child of God. She helps us to remember God's providence and sovereignty over our paths; to not succumb to fear & panic, grumpiness, stress & intimidation, uselessness, or discontentment. She helped me to remember to engage in this life:

When reality becomes a normal routine, it is easy to forget that tomorrow may never come. We just assume that tomorrow will always be the same as today. But if we want to live with purpose then we need to embrace the moment and not just cope with it. Tomorrow may never come. Page 25-26, emphasis mine

I probably would not have bought this without the misunderstanding about the author, and I don't think it's necessarily all that special, but it did encourage me this morning.

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Thursday, January 30, 2020

Book Review: The Gospel Comes with a House Key By Rosaria Butterfield

The Gospel Comes with a House KeyThe Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've now finished another book that I should have finished long ago and was languishing in my "currently reading" pile. I wanted to finish it; I enjoy Rosaria's writing style and content. She gives powerful arguments, testimony, and example. The stories bracket the book's opening and closing very well.

One thing I've been thinking about this week, in particular, is how we react to people in a place of struggle - whether that's emotional, spiritual, mental, physical, or all wrapped together as trauma.

From a final chapter, ruminating on the Emmaus Road,

Jesus does not hurry them. He does not jolly them. He doesn't fear their pain or even their wrong-minded notions of who the Christ shoudl be or is. He knows that the process is important. He knows that grief and lamentation are vital to the soul. The Christian life isn't a math test. A whole lot more than the answer matters a whole lot more. So he accompanies them in their suffering. And we need to do the same. When people are willing to stop and tell us where they hurt, we need to praise God for it, and we need to stop what we are doing, shut our mouths, and listen with care.

How can I listen with care to my children, husband, friends, church members? How can I listen with care to lamentations online? I tend to hop to problem-solving mode ... how can we make this better? What suggestion(s) do I have? But that isn't always what is needed - and it isn't always the best thing.

There are stories here to make you draw back, to draw you in, to consider thoughtfully. There is a lifestyle and conviction to be met and discussed. There are challenges made - how can we serve one another and ultimately Christ himself in the day to day.

Recommended reading.

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