Reading Records

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

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Though the main reason I joined my church book group because I love to read.  I also joined the group to be opened up to different types of books-non-fiction, memoir, instructional, etc.  I was hopeful for finding things I wouldn’t typically pick up or reading about topics that were hidden among the pages I had not seen. And this group has not let me down.

For June, our group decided to read Infidel  by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  It is an autobiography.  Not a typical book I read. Ali is from Somalia and escapes as a refugee to Holland and ends up becoming part of the Dutch Parliament.  Her life is threatened many times, she is circumcised (yes-you read that right-as a female and its not pretty), is trying to grow in a devout Muslim faith at the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood with two very different examples of what a devout Muslim woman believes and how they act and struggles with trying to find her voice in cultures and faith communities that typically suppress women from a dysfunctional and disintegrating family.  It is very interesting and contains a lot of material on each page, making the 330-page book feel like 1000.   Some comments and possibly some spoilers

1) Don’t read the forward by Christopher Hitchens. Typically I do not say this–usually forwards give unique insight about the relationship between the writer and the author or stories that you would not get in the book. This is not true about this section. Honestly-I tried to be open, knowing Hitchens was a declared atheist.  I actually try to listen to everyone’s perspective. But if you cannot write well while trying to insult and deconstruct someone else’s opinion without any consideration for the book you are writing a forward for-then I cannot respect you.  Honestly–got through 5 pages and Hitchens only defines religion as a myth and states that belief as limiting illogical method of thinking. While this may be the case for Ali and himself–you can still state such things with respectful terms. They require that type of standard for descriptions of non-religious reasoning–they should require the same for religious reasoning.

2) I will state this again–each page is filled with so much imagery, so much information that it can be overwhelming.  I remember reading 10 pages and thinking I had read 50 pages. Deep descriptions that paint a picture of some of the more depressing and disturbing events of Ali’s life are hard to diguest all at once. I highly recommend taking the time to read this book. Slow, in bites and counteract with it with something positive and inspiring.

3) The book does get more inspiring. It’s getting through through all the depressing and shocking information in the beginning that takes the longest. 
Good luck to all who read! 


Montana Sky Series by Debra Holland

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Do you remember that one book that got you hooked on reading? I do. While my friends in high school know it was “hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy” that we all read to begin the “Literature Society” at school, I remember during my early teenage years that it was important to enjoy reading books for fun and so I would start trying to find something enjoyable to read.  I remember looking at these books at a garage sale, named after the girls whose stories they told, based in historical contexts I only wanted to read more of. Unfortunately–it was only a three book set & towards the last book you could tell they were getting tired of retelling the same story….


Flash forward to 2015. I am part of a book group at church. Someone recommends we read Glorious Montana Sky and reveals that we have an well-known historical romance author who attends our church. In fact, this book is inspired by one of our own pastors and the stories of his missionary work and what that means for a person of the cloth.  I promise I will get to my review of the books above in a minute, but it is crucial to hear the background story. Debra Holland came to our group, explained how she came up and continues to write about her town of Sweet Water Springs, Montana and what it means to be a full-time writer of clean historical romance novels. Honestly–her story inspired me.  Now I am learning the importance of forming your own world for your fiction books and have more confidence in writing my first novel.

Glorious Montana Sky focuses on the return of the town’s preacher’s son Joshua Norton after his wife had died in Africa while they were missionaries. He has a son named Micah and (by some unforeseen circumstances) meets Deliah, a southern belle with a hidden past. The book is beautifully written. I enjoyed every minute and it was great to be able to read a tale about two people and actually get a full explanation of how their own relationship is growing.

Because of my enjoyment of the fourth novel in this series (and partly because Debra provided me with some free audio books), I secured copies of book 1-3.  Debra did talk about Wild Montana Sky at our book group meeting – and so I already knew I wanted to read this to get a better idea of where it all started. Wild is about Elizabeth-who comes to Sweet Water Springs to visit her friend Pamela and to escape the unexpected trials of the return of her brother to their family estate.  She learns that living in Boston is different than living on the wilds of Montana and that there are some realities one must face in order to survive.

After reading both these books–i highly recommend reading the entire series. I have started the second book Starry Montana Sky  and plan on finishing the lot along with her novellas and other writings. It was a blessing to have someone at our church engaged in something I can truly get passionate about.  The two books I have read are  fun, energetic, engaging and meaningful.  No Fifty Shades of Grey or  a children’s story.  Books that tell real stories (while fictitious in nature)  about real people and the real relationships that help them live in the new frontiers of Montana.

Delicious! by Ruth Reichl

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Delicious Book Cover

Hello everyone!  I know it has been a while, but I thought I get back to writing book reviews. Especially since I have become active again in my church’s book group and who for I am utterly grateful for introducing me to the wide world of books–from novel to non-fiction, both books I thoroughly enjoy and books I would probably never pick up if it had not been for the group.


For May, our group read  “Delicious!” by Ruth Reichl. Ruth is a editor-in-chief for Gourmet magazine and for a living writes about food.  In this book, she writes about Billie Breslin, a writer, who moved across the country to become a part of a famous food magazine Delicious! Over the course of the book, we learn that it is food that ties everyone together, that cooking is more than just something one may be good at and that digging a little deeper into the heart and souls of others is what really makes a meal special.

Overall, the book has an easy feel to it. But as you approach the climax of the story, you realize to get to this point, you have traveled with Billie through twists and turns in the plot you never expected.  Those wonderful “surprises” can be a hindrance–as they can lead down a subplot that could almost become its own story until you realize you are still within the pages of the same book. Initially it does not grasp you until you follow Billie around on her first day of work.  That is when Reichl really starts running.  It is a beautiful story for any adult, young or old, as there is something to relate to everyone’s journey no matter what point they are in their life.  Or what foods you have enjoyed


Goodread Stars: 5 out of 5 (probably should be a 4 but i really did enjoy it immensely!)

Reading Records

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Moving and restructuring some categories…

check out the new Book Review Page 🙂

Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross by Michael J. Gorman

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In continuation of good books from seminary, I thought I would bring up one of my favorite authors. I’ve read a couple of his books for new testament and along with the professors who taught the classes (Thank you Dr. Kirk and Dr. Hill)), I learned a lot about Paul’s narrative and how to enjoy the Bible past the Gospel of John.  So here is an interesting read:

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Cruciformity. Now-this is actually a term that Michael J. Gorman uses frequently in at least two of the books I have read that talk about Paul’s Narrative of the Cross and how Jesus’ life, crucifixion, death and resurrection are all wrapped up into this idea of the cross.  Michael Gorman excels are using Paul’s trilogy of “faith, hope and love” as a starting point to explain Paul’s narrative throughout his letters. And it is through this explanation that Gorman takes the reader through different perspectives of the cross–through the Word, its power, love and strength.

Overall–a beautiful book. Though I highly recommend reading his Paul-Apostle to the Crucified Lord book to get an idea of Gorman’s opinions about Paul in full before reading about how he thinks Paul talks about the cross.  Gorman also has a tendency to make several absolute statements that while fit into nice word packages, may not always apply so generally and loosely. Nevertheless–excellent book and highly recommended.

The Death of Jesus in Early Chrisianity by John T Carroll and Joel B Green

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click book image for amazon link

Occasionally in seminary, I came across a piece of assigned reading that I absolutely loved. Wait-what am I talking about. I loved almost every book that came across my grubby little hands. It’s seminary.  I blame my love for theology for the reasons I had to crate (literally) mountains of books to our new house. **fist in the air**

Anyways, I thought my “Book Bank” would give me the opportunity to share some of those books.  This book is from one of my last classes called “The Cross in the New Testament.” It was a class where we studied the death and crucifixion of Jesus, its meaning in the new testament texts and how Jesus’ death works in the Christian belief.  If that wasn’t enough already, we were given some amazing material to read by amazing scholars.

The Death of Jesus in Early Christianity is very well organized. Discussions are laid out in almost neat little stacks so one is able to read chapters separately from one another without feeling obligated to go in order.  The book is sectioned into 3 parts, dealing with the death of Jesus itself in the text, early Christians thoughts on the matters, and finally biblical/theological issues.  In addition, the authors ask several questions in the text. They will ask one questions, then follow it with another questions that builds on the first. Almost using questions to build their arguments and main points-less the times they bluntly state their obvious position.  They also do go through each gospel in the first part, then through the epistles and early interpretations of the Jesus moment.  It’s a beautiful combination of such a tragic event alongside what many considering the most important event of the modern area.

Book rating? 4 stars–mostly because the repetitive questioning and the organization gets overboard at times, but nothing to be scared of.

Surprised by Scripture by N.T. Wright

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Despite having graduated seminary, I still find myself wanting to read the books I didn’t get to in school. And have been meaning to. And those that I should. So i have committed myself, in addition to trying to translate the whole Bible from Greek/Hebrew is constantly do some type general reading.  Here my current FAVORITE book right now.

click book image to link to amazon

This book is part of a serious with “Simple Jesus” and “How God Became King” by N.T. Wright. In this book, it is almost a collection demonstrating how scripture shapes our lives. Also, while sky scrappers and cars may have not been around in the 1st century, the text written then can still connect to us out of tragedies like a car accident or even 9/11.

I highly recommend this book! fully accepting that I have not read the other books in this series. However, this book has some very good points of reference in addition to connecting you to several other N.T. Wright discussions that go more in-depth than this current book was able to do.  And like it says, it does engage contemporary issues and walks you through the bible verses they are associated with.  Like the title says, you will be “Surprised by Scripture.”