The Thief

The Thief
by Megan Whalen Turner
The first in a triology about belief, loyalty, and adventure in the mythical lands of Sounis, Eddis, and Attolia.
Middle-grade (but probably too much work to read for the average 10yo, I'd say 12+ if read alone)

My twelve year old read this before me. She is a serious reader, logging more than 25 books since the beginning of the year. She gave this one an 8, on her scale of 1-10. She's a bit stingy with her 9's and heartless with her 10's. But we'd both agree that "The Thief" does move rather slowly, and the reader spends a good deal of the book with a vague sense of confusion. I think it was worth it, and though I'm not planning to reread, I do want to get my hands on the sequel, "The Queen of Attolia." I've heard it's the best of the trilogy. So I'll let you know!

Favorite Quotes:

"To pass time, I concentrated on pleasant memories, laying them out in order and examining them carefully."

"I was discreet, I suppose. Really, I didn't care, and I see now that it amounts to the same thing."


For Women Only

For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men
by Shaunti Feldhahn
The result of extensive surveys, this books teaches wives about the thoughts and concerns of their husbands.
Appropriate for adults
My Library

Reading a book about marriage every so often is a good way for me to focus some attention on my preeminent relationship. I have a fabulous husband who outdid himself by reading the companion volume "For Men Only" before I even began mine. He's fast like that. ;)

For me this book was an amiable mix of the familiar, the challenging, and even the thoroughly perplexing. The author, a woman, takes it upon herself to open the male mind to women; she's done extensive research and shares lots of quotes and personal accounts from her interaction with these mysterious creatures. It's a small book and a quick read but it is the immediacy it gains from the quotes that really packs a punch. The quotes are so personal, so soul-baring that I occasionally found myself embarrassed, not from the subject matter, but from feeling as if I was invading another's privacy.

The accuracy of the insights as well as the possibility of making such generalizations is hard to fathom. That uncertainty leaves me a bit undecided about this book. I must say that I love that she shares survey results so you can see that thought 75% of men think "x" there is still another 25% thinking "y." That reminder that these ideas are just generalizations was valuable to me. But at this point I think I'll have to live with these ideas, sneak in a few clandestine conversations with my husband and implement a few suggestions before I can come to a firm conclusion. In the meantime I'll share extensive quotes, so this post can serve as my notes going forward.


"The only time a guy's guard is completely down is with the woman he loves. So she can pierce his heart like no one else."

"As one man advised, "Don't say 'I'm sorry I made you feel XYZ.' Men don't want to be told how they are feeling! And honestly, sometimes we don't even know how we're feeling so it's better to let us process it for a while." Instead the men recommended saying something like, "I'm sorry I did that -- that was disrespectful.""

"Not surprisingly, men said they judge themselves -- and feel that others judge them -- based on the happiness and respect of their wives."I was telling one man how surprised I was at how intense guys are about being the provider. "Maybe you should see this as the flip side of how we think about sex," he offered. "About sex , men are pretty utilitarian and women are emotional. About money, work, or providing, women are utilitarian but men get emotional!""
(this quote is very illustrative in terms of the way men view providing, but doesn't represent the books take on men and sex)

"A man really does feel isolated, even with his wife. But in making love, there is one other person in this world that you can be completely vulnerable with and be totally accepted and nonjudged. It is a solace that goes very deep into the heart of a man." (quoted by the author)

"Do we love the men in our lives for who they are, or for who we want them to be?"

"Make yourself the kind of friend and lover he constantly wants to pursue."
(from the idea that pursuit is at the heart of romance)

(on the topic that men care as much or more about the effort that their wives put into caring for their physical appearance as the outcome)
"If your husband truly puts effort and thought into a romantic event, do you really mind if it's not perfect? If it's your birthday and you come home from work to find that he has gotten friends to watch the kids, the house has been cleaned, and he has slaved over a meal, are you really going to care if the veal piccata is overdone? Of course not. You'll feel love and cared for."

"Men really do have an unspoken longing to be able to say or show 'I love you' but they rarely feel successful at accomplishing it."



Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus
by Orson Scott Card
A mind-stretching tale of time travel, human nature, and the possibility and peril of revising history.
Appropriate for adults
My Library

This was a good one!!! I'm a big OSC fan and this novel was another winner. I didn't find myself deeply investing in any of the characters (there's no "Ender" in this cast) but the story line is fascinating and the worlds Card creates feel so real that the edges of my mind start to believe in their possibility.

The novel alternates between two story lines which eventually merge. One of our world far in the future where the ability to view and study the past is stretched until actual interference seems possible and maybe even desirable. And the other is the life of Christopher Columbus, his character richly developed and seasoned with a twist both captivating and compelling. Card makes us look at history, at responsibility, at ourselves with unaffected vision. He has the artist's gift of making us look long enough that new understanding can sneak through our old prejudices.

Favorite Lines:
"Why make your lives into a a perpetual museum of an era when life was nasty, brutish, and short? Kemal loved the past as much as any man or woman now alive, but he had no desire to live in it...The citizens of Juba of two hundred years before ahd got rid of the grass huts...as quickly as they could. They knew. The people who had had to live in grass huts had no regrets about teaving them behind."

"He had come expecting to find a group of people committed to a course of madness. What he found instead was a a commitment, yes, but no course, and therefore no madness."

"And one more thing, Cristobal," said Father Perez. "You are good with women."
Columbus raised an eyebrow. This was not the sort of thing he expected to hear from a Franciscan prior.

“She will look at you as women look at men, and she will judge you as a woman judge men...not on the strength of their arguments, and not in their cleverness or prowess in battle, but rather on the force of their character, the intensity of their passion, their strength of soul, their compassion, and--ah, this above all--their conversation.”

“There is no good thing that does not cost a dear price. That is what Cristoforo learned by looking back upon his life. Happiness is not a life without pain, but rather a life in which the pain is traded for a worthy price.”

The Silent Governess

The Silent Governess
by Julie Klassen
A little mystery, a little romance, a little victorian backdrop, a little Christian transformation, a little distraction.
Appropriate for adults or older teens
My Library

Miss Klassen provides a lovely, if not weighty, diversion. A steady diet of these novels would be worse than drinking nothing but hot chocolate. But on a cold and dreary day, a little creamy sweetness never hurt anyone.

A Love That Multiplies

A Love That Multiplies: An Up-Close View of How They Make It Work
by MIchelle & Jim Bob Duggar
An inside look into the lives and philosophies of America's favorite extra-large family.
Appropriate for adults or interested young people
My Library

Though it's been a couple of years since I read it, this book seems very similar to the Duggar's first book "The Duggars: 20 & Counting." It covers new territory but with a similar feel. It covers their personal convictions, shares some resources, and recounts recent family experiences - especially those surrounding the birth of their youngest child, micro-premie, Josie.

I enjoyed spending some time with the Duggars. I admire the way they view children as gifts from God, and their willingness to make obedience to God a primary and public part of their lives. Their happy and loving attitudes are a little bit contagious, and I need all of that I can "catch."

The book reads a bit like a late night conversation, personable, full of detail, sometimes randomly heading into unrelated territory, and occasionally repetitive. Yet it's sincerity wins the day, and it leaves readers feeling like we really have spent time with this fascinating family.

Some ideas I found interesting:

One of the most intriguing ideas the Duggars shared, and repeated, was their desire to keep their kids guessing. They would announce an adventure in the afternoon and proceed immediately to do it (plastic waterslides on the lawn). Or in the middle of a school day Michelle would ask where a historic figure lived, the kids would look it up on the map and she would say, "Why don't we go visit?" and load up in the van. (For this type of adventure the parents would generally have planned in advance, but to the kids it would feel like a spontaneous adventure.) For a plan-lover like me this seemed unfathomable, the kids didn't even get to look forward to it, for goodness sakes! But the more I thought about it the more value I saw in this technique. Life is full of surprises and growing up with the experience that lots of these surprises are fun and exciting can build optimism into our children.

Growing Up Basket
One simple idea they shared was giving what they called a "womanhood kit" a special basket to their daughters as they approach puberty. It included the more practical things, but also some girly items like perfume, hair clips, and lip gloss. I've seen many ideas for parenting during this transition, but loved the simplicity of this special gift.

Collared Shirts
The Duggars have a distinctive look, and they like it that way. Though I'm not ready, nor are my daughters to start wearing dresses, I was impressed with the approach they take to dressing their boys. The Duggar boys wear colored shirts, generally polos, and jeans. I decided to give this a try at my house and have been very pleased with the results. My boys no longer look like they just rolled out of bed (t-shirts and sweats will do that to a kid) and simplistic or not, sharper looking boys act better and may even get more respect from mom.

The Power of an Enthusiastic Greeting
The Duggars teach their children that to be joyful and greet others warmly is part of sharing Christ's love and valuing others. They practice and encourage them to overcome their shyness as it is an extension of selfishness. This was another idea caused me a lot of thought. My final conclusion was that my children are sometimes "shy" out of selfishness and I would like to encourage them to focus on others as they interact. It's definitely counter-culture to believe that such fixed standards could be appropriately applied to almost twenty unique children. But just as I value my right to parent my children according to my values and insights, I believe the same respect should be given to this amazing family.


Portrait of a Spy

Portrait of a Spy
by Daniel Silva
Another riveting tale of everybody's (well... at least, my) favorite Israeli assassin/art restorer.
Appropriate for adults
My Library

Oh, I love Gabriel Allon. The series that is. This is number 11, and I have read every one. I wasn't so keen on the previous, The Rembrandt Affair - but since I read almost all of it on some not so fabulous plane rides last fall, I'll try to withhold judgement. My favorite Allons are the trilogy dealing with the "unfinished business of the Holocaust" -- The English Assassin, The Confessor, & A Death in Vienna. (quote from Silva)

Silva gives us an intelligent spy story, intriguing characters, and small doses of stimulating commentary on global politics. And like any series, part of the fun is watching the principles act in their predictably charming, and comfortably familiar ways. Gabriel is the kind of leading man that seems totally unbelievable in summary, but is so charming you are willing to suspend your disbelief. Part pensive artist, part genius operative, Gabriel's intense presence downplays his violent past and seriously protective streak.

This installment focuses on the new realities of global terrorism and is, as always, very pro-Israel. I enjoyed it very much; there is just something about having a host of your friends in the middle of an adventure waiting patiently on your nightstand.

And I do think it is perfectly acceptable to jump in anywhere in this series (I started with #5), but after you read one, you'll probably want to start at the beginning (that sounds very "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie"-ish).

Favorite Quotes:
"Gabriel believed the craft of restoration was a bit like making love. It was best done slowly and with painstaking attention to detail, with occasional breaks for rest and refreshment. But in a pinch, if the craftsman and his subject matter were adequately acquainted, a restoration could be done at extraordinary speed, with more or less the same result."

"Shamron appeared annoyed. He considered the use of American sports metaphors to be inappropriate for a business as vital as espionage. In Shamron's opinion, intelligence officers did not blow fourth-quarter leads, or strike out, or fumble the ball. There was only success or failure--and the price of failure in a neighborhood like the Middle East was usually blood."