Doll Bones

I read this book out loud to my children and they loved it! This book is about 3 coming-of-age children – Alice, Zach and Poppy. They are in that awkward stage in their lives when they want to play children games, but feel pressure to stop acting that way. Most of the pressure is place on their own selves and a lack of communication among this trio places them at risk of ending their friendship.

With the encouragement of Poppy they set out on one last adventure to find the gravesite of an old ceramic china bone doll. The thing is super creepy and is said to contain the ashes of a murdered girl with the hollow of her body. The adventure is super fun and exciting and a bit scary. There was never a dull moment.

I truly enjoy reading these kinds of books to my kids. The book has real characters with real problems. They hurt each other feelings, they misunderstand their parents, they feel overwhelmed by the pressures of life. They cry, the yell, they hope and they lose hope. Talking about all these moments is why I love fiction. My kids and I had great talks about so many different things and it was great to hear their perspectives and walk them through better understandings of things.

This book would be perfect for a middle-schooler.

I gave this book 4 stars out of 5 on Goodreads

You can buy the book here.

13 Reasons Why I Hate This Book

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher is a book about a teenager who commits suicide. Her name is Hannah. Before her death, she makes these tapes outing all those whom she blames for causing her to commit suicide. She mails out the tapes to the first person she blames and kills herself soon afterwards by taking pills. The story is told between Hannah and Clay – one of the persons on the tapes.

I truly wanted this book to help me delve into the minds of teens. I have 3 teenagers myself and was hoping for some insight. The whole time I was reading this I was thinking that Hannah was everything I hope my daughters never become. She is shallow, a bully, and a hypocrite. And in the end, I saw her death more as a tantrum than a virtuous cause. The summation of all the reasons she gave to justify her suicide didn’t add up for me.

Reason 1: Hannah and Clay place the blame on a rational counselor.
All the adults in Hannah’s life were in the backdrop and those that were actually good to her, she deems as unimportant. If she would have focused on building those relationships instead of seeing just how awful the other ones are, this would be a different story.

Reason 2: Hannah acts as if all her problems started with her first kiss. Hannah, you had problems before that, we all do.

Reason 3: Hannah has low self-esteem when she knows she’s pretty! UGH! False low self-esteem is so unbecoming of a young lady. You know those girls who put selfies up and then bait people by saying something like: “I know no thinks I’m pretty but that’s okay”.

Reason 4: Hannah goes SEVERAL TIMES to sleazy parties where people are getting drunk, high and having teen sex AND she expects to be treated like a lady by horny teenage boys. Her contempt is laughable.

Reason 5: She knows the guy could be bad news, but hopes for the best. Her judgement is lacking, and that’s fine an all, but goodness me blame yourself a little for being such an idiot!

Reason 6: The virtue signaling is strong with this one!

Reason 7: Hannah makes fun of people’s looks and judges their outer appearance throughout the whole book. I honestly don’t mind it except for the fact that one of the flipping reasons she kills herself is because people make fun of her!

Reason 8: You throw fits when someone doesn’t notice your haircut or when you are not complimented. Did I tell you she’s shallow?

Reason 9: She constantly places herself in situations where there is so much potential for emotional pain. True other people can be stupid, but you can’t totally blame others when you participate in the stupidity itself! For example, for Valentine’s day a survey is done for a potential Valentine. It’s a fundraiser. The survey then matches you to other people. It’s like a dating game. You get 5 names and their phone numbers. In my mind I was hoping she wouldn’t participate because Hannah is so sensitive, but of course she does and ends up being stood up by her date. He later shows up though an inflicts more emotional pain to her. Again, you know it’s stupid. And boys are stupid! And you’re stupid.

Reason 10: Teenage dating is so annoying. This is why I forbid my children to date in high school. I rather have me be the reason why they are pissed and crying, than have it be a teenaged idiot! They’re going to end up pissed and crying anyways, might as well be me. I come with a lot less baggage.

Reason 11: She hates those who didn’t protect her from the advances of others. I get that, but she herself failed to protect a girl that was getting raped! Can you be anymore of a hypocrite Hannah! A guy tries to kiss you and you feel trapped. He doesn’t get to kiss you because you push him off and he leaves angry. Another guy who saw this happen doesn’t come to your aid. And you add BOTH these boys to your list. BUT THEN, a girl is left on a bed drunk asleep at one of those sleazy parties you like going to, and as you hide in the closet and see her get raped, YOU DO NOTHING. There was no potential danger to you at all. And I would understand if you were too scared to stop it. But my understanding goes out the window when you blame others for being too scared to have stopped what happens to you.

Reason 12: You actually had a nice guy and nice friends. You say this towards the end of the book. Why didn’t you hang out with them more. Why didn’t you build on those relationships. Instead you knowingly cultivate relationships with toxic people, hoping for the best. Don’t blame others for your decisions. You actively sought out the scum of that school, and now are upset because you feel dirty.

Reason 13: You passive-aggresively tell the drunk-passed-out girl she was raped! Not in person, not the day after! But on the tapes when you are dead! This girl didnt know what had happened to her because of her state of mind, so you decide to tell her this way, and for others to know about it! What a jerk! Now she has no way of preserving any physical evidence of what happened to her!

There were so many more reasons, but I chose to do 13 for poetic effect.

I hope my daughters never act like Hannah, and if they do, I hope they are woman enough to face the consequences of their decisions. Hannah played the victim in her life and blamed others for how she felt. This book is awful and it saddens me that there are so many teens reading this mess. There is a NETFLIX series based on this book and I am afraid of watching it because if it is anything like this book, these girls we love are doomed. From what I hear these kids are eating this stuff up like candy!

There were several instances where Hannah could have corrected what was done to her, but she chose not to. She was sanctimoniously so brave on those tapes though! But when actual wrongs were done to her, no one owned up the consequences because she refused to do anything about it. And I get confrontation is difficult, but people – especially teenagers – cannot read your mind. And blaming them posthumously is not fair at all.

I can’t help but wonder if this is what post-feminism has cultivated into our girls. You can act and be however you want, and in the end, its everyone else’s fault how they treat you. May it not be so for the young women God has placed in my life. Our actions and desires have consequences. We must renew our mind and remember that our worth does not come from what the world says about us or what we say about ourselves, but what God says about us. That we are NOTHING if we don’t have Him. How’s that for self-esteem? That is what I teach my girls. So when Satan tempts them to despair about their looks, or their intelligence or their worth. So when Satan manipulates their minds. So when their negative feelings are so strong that they become real to them. THEY DO NOT LOOK TO THEMSELVES, but to CHRIST who has made them worthy, not because of what they do or think, but because of what He did for them.

I know that suicide in young people is a real thing. Most people who do commit suicide though have struggled with mental disorders for years. Others have faced such trauma that they see no other way out of their pain. This is why Hannah’s 13 reasons seem just so shallow to me. Hannah was not healthy or a typical teenager if these are the reasons she killed herself. And that’s my fear when these kids read this mess. Not one time was there a hint of a mental disorder she was battling, and that’s the danger of this false narrative. Hannah was not normal. She was not typical and I fear a lot of girls will identify some of themselves in her or make her out to be some heroine. If Hannah did not have a mental disorder, she is NOT a heroine or a champion for the oppressed. If she did, the author should have inserted a snippet of that part of her life, but I think the author intentionally made Hannah to be a normal kid. What an awful thing to do Mr. Asher since over 90% of people who do kill themselves have been diagnosed with a mental disorder and the others were due to major emotional trauma – like a sudden death in the family, an exposed dark secret or financial ruin.

I do not recommend this book unless you want to use it for kindling.

#13reasonswhy #ihatethisbook #awful #dosomethingelse

Literary Christians

After the disappointment that was The Boy, it was nice to read this detective/thriller novel.

Nine Elms is a book about the disgraced Kate Marshall. As a young police officer, Kate has the drive and ambition to climb the professional ladder at her workplace, but soon that changes after a life altering affair. Now, 15 years later, she must face the demons of her past again.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The first couple of chapters gripped me and then never let go. The characters are very well developed. The story is a bit dark and gritty, but if you are a fan of Karin Slaughter, you will love this book. The book does have cuss words and gory scenes. The villains in the book are sick and depraved and Mr. Bryndza does a superb job in capturing their twisted nature. The book’s darkness also encompasses sex and this adds another layer of just how degenerate the villains are. There is also cannibalism involved. Did I mention the book is dark?

As a Christian, I am not oblivious to the depravity of the human heart and mind. Verse after verse speaks about how quickly and naturally we resort to evil behavior. Without God, there is no hope for us. This is what I get from reading books like this. It provides a window into the world that, if I am not careful, can become invisible in my sweet little Christian life. I was depraved, but God saved me. I heard the call and I became a child of God. There is no hope besides Him. The world, in all its darkness, needs the light. I appreciate authors that lead us into these black hearts and minds. It gives Christians more to be Christians with. Here is a great article that makes the case for the need for Christians to read works of fiction.

I am looking forward to the second book featuring Kate Marshall in “Shadow Sands.” This book is set to hit shelves in the U.S. in November.

#nineelms #cannibal #thriller #killer #katemarshall #robertbryndza

The Boy – No thanks

Look, I get that not all Christians are perfect and that all of us struggle with hypocrisy, but so do atheists, so do agnostics and so do the “cool” protagonists in books.

I have never read Tami Hoag before and reading this book I can tell that she is a great writer. I love it when books draw the reader in and an hour can pass by without you even knowing it! Mrs. Hoag is this type of writer, but the way she portrayed any Believer in her book was like a punch to the kidneys. The sleazy adulterer is a beloved Christian leader, the snobby sheriff’s fiance is a gossipy Christian woman who is a push-over. The devout Christian parents abandon their daughter in her hour of need. Not one of the faithful helped, loved or was kind to any person in the book. Not one! I know I shouldn’t expect much from the world, but goodness me. At least in some books there is a tiny smidgen of kindness from a Christian. Some books don’t mention Christians at all and that’s fine by me also. To top it all off though, all the protagonists that Mrs. Hoag develops in a glowing light are atheist who shake their tiny fist at God. They constantly point out the hypocrisy in Christians – never seeing their own, and blame God for everything.

All this said, the book is very well written, but I will not be reading her again. She is obviously biased in her writing and I was offended at how Christians were personified. I know we are not perfect, knowing our imperfection is what helps us rely on Christ’s work not ours, but the jabs towards Christians was more than I wanted to take. I also am not an easily offended reader, but unfortunately for me Mrs. Hoag took her level of prejudice for Christians to a height I didn’t want to experience. It seemed forced on some of the characters and jolted the believeability of those specific characters. The obvious contrast between the villains and the heroes was plain to see that if the character was a villain, he had Christian roots or sayings and if character was a hero, they mocked God.

No thanks Mrs. Hoag. But if you like dark murder mysteries,and don’t mind stereotypical prejudice against Christians, then you will like this book. Personally, I didn’t.

What can I learn from this? I realize that there is artistic license in all works of fiction, but I don’t have to like it. I also realize that authors put a little of themselves into their work, but I don’t have to buy those works. That’s the beauty of a free opinion, and this is mine. We as Christians, do need to work on our testimony. We fail all the time to portray the grace to others that was so freely given to us by Jesus. I don’t know one Christian who doesn’t struggle with their sin and who has a tendency to hide those struggles leading many to think of us as hypocrites. Let us live godly lives, constantly being aware of our testimony because the world is watching us.

I encourage you with these verses found in Titus 2:8-9 – In everything, show yourself to be an example by doing good works. In your teaching show integrity, dignity and wholesome speech that is above reproach, so that anyone who opposes us will be ashamed to have nothing bad to say about us.

Real life is better than fiction

History dramatized in historical fiction is so entertaining.  So many times it is better than fiction!

I love the era of the Tudors and the War of the Roses, it is full of intrigue, beauty and so much drama. The lives of these kings and queens is unbelievable sometimes. Some authors do so well in bringing us back to those times and immersing us into the lives of these extraordinary people. Two of my most favorite authors are Phillipa Gregory and Bernard Cornwell, but I have another favorite, Maurice Druon.

I have really enjoyed the first 2 books of the series of the Accursed Kings, and highly recommend the books to any lover of historical fiction.The iron king & The strangled queen This series follows the reign of Phillip the Fair, King of France. The king is ridding himself of the Knights Templar by way of torture and gruesome deaths through burning at the stake. Then a prophecy is proclaimed from the burnt mouth of the Grand Master of the Templar before he dies and everything changes for the worse for the Iron King of France. Soon, the kingdom is shaken by the treasonous lives of the King’s son’s wives and chaos presumes.

The second book speaks about the daughter of the Iron King and the adulterous wife of his son. If you remember the beautiful French queen in Braveheart, well that’s the daughter of Phillip the Fair. This book continues the line of the Iron King and is full of so much betrayal, death and torture!

Happy endings are nice and all, but in real life sometimes there are no happy endings.  Main characters die, beautiful princesses and queens don’t find true love, powerful kings fail and innocents are wrongly executed. This is probably why I enjoy historical fiction because I get an incredible story and I may not know how the story ends, or I may not like how it ends.  That’s totally okay with me.

To the Christian, this series gives us a glimpse of the history of the church. In the 1300’s the Catholic Church wielded a lot of political power. There was a lot of corruption and most of Europe was Christian. It was a dark time in Europe. Only a select few could read His Word and whatever a bishop or priest said became what the people believed. It is a very sad time in our history. There were voices, though, in that time, crying out in the wilderness. Very few voices, but God’s Church prevailed. These were the dark ages and soon the black plague would wipe out almost half of them.

I highly recommend these two books if you enjoy historical fiction. I am looking forward in reading the whole series and have them on my summer reading list. If you would like to buy the books, click here.

#historicalfiction #mauricedruon #books #read #bookreview

First book I read by Ruth Ware

turn of the key

Turn of the Key is a mystery thriller written by Ruth Ware. The book is composed of several letters mostly written by the protagonist, Rowan Caine. When Rowan finds  an advertisement for a full time nanny position in the Highlands of Scotland with great pay, she cannot believe her luck. She gets hired and begins this new chapter in her life soon afterwards. She is to watch 4 girls, ages 1, 5, 8 and 14. The house where she will watch the girls is super high-tech, full of cameras and said to be haunted. Several other nannies have fled, none lasting more than several weeks. Little does Rowan know that the house has a lot more secrets than just the hauntings.

SPOILER ALERT! DO NOT READ ANYMORE IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK!

 

 

 

 

I really enjoyed this book overall. What I didn’t enjoy was that this whole book is basically a letter from Rowan behind bars writing about her innocence to a lawyer. Yes, the whole book is a letter, and Rowan became quickly annoying because she wouldn’t get to the blooming point of the murder she was charged with. This just made me read even more, which I think was the intention of the author. The ending was great and the twist at the end was also perfect. I didn’t see it coming, but Mrs. Ware does leave some of the ending to our own imagination. What did happen to Rowan in the end? What happened to Ellie? Did she get the help she needed? Living with such a burden is bound to cause a lot of mental torment in such a young little girl. Mrs. Ware doesn’t answer those things in the epilogue. We are left to guess for ourselves, and that leaves for a great conversation with this book’s fans.

As a Christian, what I noticed was that the book had a lot of profanity in it and Rowan is a liar. The teenage daughter, Rhionnan is very wordly also. There is the pain and baggage that comes with adultery and that is where I want to focus on in this blog post. There are two men in this book that are developed into characters. Both of them are the opposite of what God expects them to be. They take advantage of the women they are meant to protect and are scoundrels. The mess they leave behind because of their need for immediate gratification are a bunch of hurt children and broken homes. That is what adultery does. It shatters those we love and exposes the soft core of their hearts. Rowan is broken. The Elincourt girls are broken. Sandra, the wife, becomes broken. The wife of Jack becomes broken. These men are worthless in this book.

Books allow us to see into how the world interacts and lives its lives. We get a clear picture of families and how they deal with the pressures of day to day life without God. Yes, some books we read may have a faith element sewn into them, but most secular fiction books do not. I see in books like these, I really am not missing out on much. Yes, believers and the lives we live can be dark and yield forth bitter fruit, but the world yields way more and frankly it should since they go against what God says is right. This reminds me of Psalm 37:1-2 – “Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.”

I recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries and or thrillers. This book did have a Gothic feel also, so if you are into those, you will love this book. If it wasn’t for the frustrating narrative of Rowan, I would have given this book a 5 stars on Goodreads, but I gave it a 4.

The book is scary and frightening, I would only allow my older teens to read it. There are no explicit sex scenes. There is cussing throughout the book.

 

#readingchallenge #ruthware #turnofthekey #books #goodreads

Sweeney Todd: Just stop singing already!

I wanted to start writing and critiquing older movies that I have never seen that maybe I should have seen already. So when I saw this movie available on Prime Video, I decided to watch it as I folded laundry and wiped down counters. I also, regrettably, ate lunch as I watched this gory tale.

sweeny todd

I didn’t know that this movie was a musical! The genre I can’t stand the most is musicals. The songs just seem so conflicting and in “Sweeney Todd” it seems to clash even more just because the genre is so dark and the songs are a bit silly. But leave it to Tim Burton to do just that. With movies he directed like “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure”, “Beetlejuice” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, Mr.Burton is no stranger to combining the weird and the dark.

I hated the songs. And there were so many songs! All the time! There was no rest from them! I also didn’t care much for the gore either. I somewhat knew the story of Sweeney Todd, but the bloodshed was preposterous at times. It was about the 30 minute mark that I checked the rating on the movie because I just couldn’t believe this was a PG-13 movie, and lo and behold it wasn’t! This movie is rated R for graphic bloody violence!

But I didn’t hate all of it. The story line was one of total depravity. The lack for human dignity that Mr. Barker/Sweeney displayed and his vengeful and unforgiving spirit caused him to destroy the things he loved the most.  What a wretch of a man! He needs an even greater Savior, but like all tragedies, he finds none. He wallows in his self-pity. He destroys any good thing he receives and lives in the memory of a romanticized past. 

I do not recommend this movie, even if you like musicals. It was awful. The songs were horrid and I felt a little dirtier after watching this movie.

#movies #johnnydepp

Arc of the Scythe Trilogy – Book Review

Last night I finished “The Toll” by Neal Shusterman – the third and last book in the Arc of the Scythe series.

scythe 2

I first started this series when Goodreads recommended Scythe back in the beginning of this year. Little did I know how fun and thought-provoking this series would be. The first book (Scythe) was incredible, the second book (Thunderhead) superseded the first one by miles, but unfortunately, the third book (The Toll) fell short for me. I don’t want to spoil any of the books, but the social justice warrior was strong in the third one and there were several times that this agenda was so forced down my gullet that I wanted to throw up. I get that not everyone is going to share my point of view on things, but Shusterman’s obvious bias against Christians, gender and weapons was evident ad nauseum. It wasn’t even subtle.

scythe

This doesn’t take away from the story line. It was good, the ending was well done. What happened to the villain was satisfyingly different. The main characters Rowan and Citra were deep and well thought out. Citra, did get on my nerves a little towards the end though.

My teenage son loves this series and is still finishing up the third book. I really want to hear his take on it.

If you love dystopians, this is a very rewarding book series. There is so much in it that makes you think about absolutes, about Deity and about what the purpose of life really is. The books are delightfully provocative, but the last one really made up your mind for you. Don’t mind-screw me, and I felt that is what The Toll tried to do.

If you are interested in this series, you can buy it here. This last book was 627 pages long.

The Shining – Book Review

I’ve never seen the movie The Shining. Don’t judge me. I know it’s a classic, but I just never got around to it. Although, I have seen the forever-famous scene of Jack Nicholson baring his pearly whites all wild-eyed exclaiming “here’s Johnny”. That is all I know of the movie. Oh yeah, and the little boy riding his tricycle and staring down the twin girls in the hotel hallway. That’s about it. book3

This is the first time I have read Stephen King as an adult. I read “Pet Sematary” as a teenager and couldn’t finish it. I just couldn’t handle some of the scenes in the book. Little children coming back from the dead just isn’t my thing.

The Shining is a book about a remote hotel set in the Colorado mountains and our main character, Jack, not Johnny, gets a job as the caretaker during the off-season which spans from October until May. During the off season, Jack (also a recovering alcoholic) has to maintain the grounds and the hotel. He takes with him his wife and young son to wait out the winter and early spring months. During this off season, the family is closed off from all communication due to the extreme weather. As they are left on their own, soon the family starts seeing and hearing things. The different scenes are awful and I don’t know how he did it, but Mr. King makes the most mundane things scary! Things like clocks, hallways and topiary animals creep me out now!johnny

 

It was hard reading this book because of Jack’s alcoholism. Mr. King develops his characters very well. I hated Jack, I pined for Danny to be free of him. The hotel took on a character of its own, and I hated the hotel’s manipulation. Towards the end of the book, you are gripped with fear, almost unable to breathe until the horror finally ends.

The book is very well written. There is a reason why Mr. King is a famous author. This book just sucks you in and you are there to witness every moment of the terror this family experiences. But if you have struggled with an alcoholic and/or abusive parent or spouse in your past, this book will trigger you. It did me. To my core.

I recently found out that there is a sequel to the book called “Dr. Sleep”. I am not sure if I will read it. I think I need a break from Mr. King, but we will see.

If you like horror, I recommend this book.

I do plan on watching the movie with the hubby, just so I can compare the book and the movie. I have heard that Mr. King didn’t really like the movie. It will be good to see why. I did let my husband know that I would be forwarding the more intense scenes. Yes, I’m a wuss.

If you are interested in buying the book. Just click here.

The book is 659 pages long!

Overcomer – Movie Review

I saw this movie on Sunday with 58 of our church members. And there really isn’t much I can say about it that you  probably have not already guessed. “Overcomer” is another Kendrick movie. They are wholesome, heart string pullers with mediocre acting and this one is no different. The story line is about a coach losing his basketball team and finding his identity in Christ. He then ends up coaching an asthmatic girl in cross-country. There is also a sub plot regarding her that was the heart-string puller. The movie focuses on who our identity is in Christ and that He is the one who defines us.

We took our family of eight and most of them liked the movie. The younger ones liked it more than my older ones. Unfortunately, the movie was predictable, but if you generally like Life-Timey Hallmarky movies or love the Kendrick movies, you will also like this one. I am not at all into this genre of movie. I went because my kids begged me and I like hanging out with my church, but if you like sappy movies, you’ll love this one!

overcomer 2

I did cheer on the little girl running and there were some sweet moments in the movie and I like that the Kendrick brothers portrayed a very “Christian” family. It reminded me of how movie cultures can impact us negatively or positively and this movie motivated me to be a better mom and wife. It also hit Christian hypocrisy hard, and I was grateful for the obvious exhortation.

I didn’t like the “repeat-after-me salvation prayer” Priscilla Shirer lead the little girl in. But I did like that she pointed her to Scripture afterwards, I just wish the prayer would have been her own maybe after reading the Scripture recommended by Shirer. Other than that, the movie was tolerable for me and afterwards the kids and I had a good conversation about hypocrisy and identity – two very important topics in this generation.

overcomer 3Please don’t get me wrong, these movies are good and needed. And I am so happy that more and more are coming out to provide other options to a lot of the filth out there. I just wish the stories were better and not so predictable. In the real world, sometimes our prayers are not answered. Sometimes we lose. Sometimes there is no healing.  And all these awful experiences point us to another home where there is complete healing and where we have already won! So let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us!