A Birthday Bash & A Break!

Happy Monday internet!! So today is officially my birthday :) and to celebrate turning 30 + some, I thought it would be fun to give away a set of books!

Also, last week I had an epiphany. While I was stressed out about being behind on blogging (I blame Delta and American, red eye flights that weren’t supposed to happen and starting the week off in Memphis when Memphis was never in the travel plans ;), I decided I’d take my birthday week off from blogging (minus this fun giveaway of course!) and then thought it might be something nice to do annually. So there you have it, my first annual week break. I know…I made it sound so dramatic, but since I never break unless I’m out of the country, I thought I’d take my own advice. :)

Alright, here’s the birthday stash and thanks for stopping by!

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Any guesses why 5 books? I’ll give you a hint – it’s something to do with my age :)

P.S. The newsletter will be out this week, so sign up if you haven’t! I’m all about subscriber only giveaways.

P.P.S. If you missed it, check out what’s up next for the Inklings Series. Woot!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I’ll still be around checking blogs, twitter and such, but I’ll see y’all back on the blog in a week!

The Study Bible for Women | Book Review

There’s not too much to introduce when reviewing a bible right? If you love Jesus, then I’m thinking you love this book too, so let’s get right to it with this women’s study bible!

The Study Bible for Women will equip you to reach deep into God’s Word. Perhaps the single most powerful aspect of this Bible are the “threads” of specialized study thoughtfully woven throughout, pointing you to God’s larger story and allowing the Holy Spirit to write His revealed truths on your heart.

In The Study Bible for Women, you’ll join a host of other women, all academically trained in the original languages of the Bible and passionate about God’s Word, for an intimately deep dive into Scripture that will equip you to unlock the riches and majesty of His Word, and ignite a passion to mentor others in your life to do the same. The Study Bible for Women includes the full text of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, a clear, contemporary English translation that’s faithful to the original languages of the Bible.

Features include extensive commentary notes, word studies, answers to hard questions, doctrinal notes, Biblical womanhood articles, character profiles, Written on My Heart applications, extensive book introductions, presentation pages, in-text maps, charts & timelines, full-color maps section and concordance.

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Let’s Talk Aesthetics

Labeled as the Teal and Sage LeatherTouch, it’s so pretty! It’s quality and long lasting, so this one will be able to weather the storms of life. There’s also a few glossy pages in the beginning to record important moments in history (whether a wedding, a family event or your family tree).

THE MAPS ARE IN COLOR. And vibrant color too! There’s maps throughout the pages, but the end ones are really pretty! It might seem like a random fact to point out, but I really like them.

As you can tell from the images, the pages are also pretty – with a teal vignette, highlighted features and clear notes/commentary.

Holman Christian Standard Bible

Confession. I’ve never heard of this translation before and its roots go back to 1984 and Holman Bible Publishers are the oldest Bible Publishers in America. Oops. But good news, nothing heretical here folks! Not that I thought it would be ;), but just letting the World Wide Web know. They explain the purpose behind their translation well in the helpful introductions:

“The name, Holman Christian Standard Bible, captures theses goals: Holman Bible Publishers presents a Bible translation, for Christian and English-speaking communities, which will be a standard in Bible translations for years to come.”

They also have a bit different formatting than what I’m used too (mainly NIV or NASB), but they explain what and why, so you know what bullet points, specific typesetting, italics and other such things mean. They do an excellent job of explaining the translation.

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The Spiritual Stuff

I’m a real fan of the extras this bible has. It’s what really makes this study bible stand out. Here’s a look at some of them:

Answers to Hard Questions: Throughout the Bible, hard questions are brought up, to wrestle though, think through and read scripture about. Questions like: Did Paul hate women? Does God care about victims of rape? What to do with temptation? How could a good God allow evil to commit atrocities? Why is the Bible considered different from other books? Backed by scripture, the variety of questions will help you learn, but also better equip you.

Biblical Womanhood Articles: Another fabulous aspect of this study bible are these articles which share insight on various topics and issues we women think about. Articles like “Inner Beauty,” “A Woman Who Fears the Lord,” “Antidote for Worry,” “Sexual Integrity,” “Submission in Marriage,” & “Sisters in Christ.” Of course there are several other topics, but they are really helpful and insightful!

Character Profiles: These were fabulous as well. Each provides a quick snapshot of the woman’s background, her story and life lessons. There’s so much to learn from the incredible women in the bible (and the not so incredible ones), I found these profiles valuable.

Written on My Heart Applications: These short and sweet paragraphs are sprinkled throughout, encouraging women in ways to grow in faith. I know I can always use encouragement.

Book Introductions: These are some of the best introductions. Not only to they offer a timeline, the basic who/what/when/where, but also why women should read it. There’s also helpful outlines for my fellow planners.

I love this bible! It’s worth every penny. I most definitely will be using for my quiet times. I also think it would make a beautiful gift for those looking for something extra special. What about you? Do you have a favorite bible version?

(Thank you B&H Publishing for the copy in exchange for my honest review)

Where to buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christian Books

…a thousand times over…

“For you, a thousand times over!”
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

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I read this last winter and I wanted to share it again. This is one of those quotes, as short as it is, that hits you every time you read it. If you’ve read The Kite Runner, then you know all this quote means. Have you read this one?

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis | Inklings Series Discussion

(The Inklings Series is a monthly series featuring the works of my two favorites, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, or books about them. But I don’t want it to be just me chatting about these books, so that’s where y’all come in! I’ll announce the book at least four weeks in advance of when the discussion post will go live, so you have plenty of time to get the book and read it. Then, the following month, I’ll post a discussion post and let the fun begin!!)

Today is discussion day! Woot! We’re discussing C.S. Lewis’ last work, Till We Have Faces. He considered this his most mature work (a.k.a. favorite) and it was also written with his wife, Joy. Plus, I have always enjoyed Greek history (and the mythology that comes with it), so I have definitely been looking forward to Lewis’ retelling of Cupid and Psyche’s story.

Haunted by the myth of Cupid and Psyche throughout his life, C.S. Lewis wrote this, his last, extraordinary novel, to retell their story through the gaze of Psyche’s sister, Orual. Disfigured and embittered, Orual loves her younger sister to a fault and suffers deeply when she is sent away to Cupid, the God of the Mountain. Psyche is forbidden to look upon the god’s face, but is persuaded by her sister to do so; she is banished for her betrayal. Orual is left alone to grow in power but never in love, to wonder at the silence of the gods. Only at the end of her life, in visions of her lost beloved sister, will she hear an answer.

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One of my first thoughts after finishing this book was how true it is that all of us long to love and be loved in return (and not just in the romantic Moulin Rouge sense). Both Orual and Psyche love fiercely and this tale is one of self-discovery and that love. The way Lewis chose to revise the story reminded me of Disney’s Cinderella vs. the movie Ever After. Did anyone else think that? Where in the original, both step sisters are terrible, but in a retold version one sister is good. Random, I know, but I may have just watched Ever After.

I thought the story worked incredibly well from Orual’s point of view.

“You, who read my book, judge.”

One thing she didn’t lack was honesty. She was always true to what she thought, did and why. In the second half, she is willing to admit her earlier faults and be the better person for it.

“Today I shall meet cruel men, cowards and liars, the envious and the drunken. They will be like that because they do not know what is good from what is bad.”

Plus, as always, I love the characters Lewis creates.
The King: Simply put: was a jerk. Why you ask? Well, he said this to his daughter: “And you goblin daughter…if you with that face can’t frighten the men away, it’s a wonder.” Then, when he heard about the sacrifice due, after finding out it wouldn’t be required of him, had this happen:

“What?” said the King. (And this is the greatest shame I have to tell of in my whole life) his face cleared. He was only a hair’s breadth from smiling. I had thought that he had seen the arrow pointed at Psyche all along, had been afraid for her, fighting for her. He had not thought of her at all, nor any of us.” Pg 55

So yeah, he was a fan of himself.

I loved Fox.

“I’d lose not only my throne but my life to save the Princess, of I were a King and a father.”

Such a feisty old man, yet fiercely loyal to those he loved. I think he’s character represents a lot of people in the world. Refusing to believe while alive, only to discover things that were true when you are dead (in this case the gods). It reminded me of the story in Luke 16, of the the Rich Man and Lazarus, where the Rich Man only discovered the truth after he died.

I was a big fan of Bardia too. He was the friend Orual needed, although it makes me sad that she loved him and for several reasons, that love couldn’t be returned the way she longed for. But it was the love of a true friend and he was faithful to the end (although according to his wife, maybe too faithful).

This leads me to Orual: don’t mess!
Here’s how Bardia described her: “Why, yes, it’s a pity about her face. But she’s a brave girl and honest. If a man was blind and she weren’t the King’s daughter she make him a good wife.”

While she didn’t follow through with this, this quote was drop this mic style to her selfish sister: “I put my face close up to hers and said very low but distinctly, “Redival, if there is one single hour when I am queen of Glome, or even mistress of this house, I’ll hang you by the thumbs at a slow fire till you die.”

While some of her actions may come into question (think almost killing herself to make a point to Psyche), it was always based in love. Much different from the jealous character of the original tale. It’s interesting to see her character in the second half, from finding part of Ungit in herself, to the discovery and trial of all things with Psyche (and even becoming her). With each new “task” you see her develop more and more, taking on the role of a good Queen who earned respect from her subjects and surrounding kingdom. I enjoyed Lewis’ use of the veil as well. It gave her strength she didn’t have before.

Alright, here’s some more questions I’d love to have your thoughts on!

  • Which part did you prefer? The second half was a bit harder to read. While I enjoyed it, it wasn’t as clear as to what was happening, mainly when it came to Psyche (I had to make sure I understood all that happened, since I didn’t expect that). But I enjoyed her accusation against the gods – in that she realizes her true reason for being angry and why she is finally able to come before them (“They cannot meet us face to face, until we have faces”).
  • While this is a myth, did you see any themes in Christianity? (Lewis started this when he was an atheist, but finished after his conversion).
  • Who was your favorite character?

I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes:

“Not that kind of longing. It was when I was happiest that I longed most. It was on happy days when we were up there on the hills, the three of us, with the wind and the sunshine… Where you couldn’t see Glome or the palace. Do you remember? The color and the smell, and looking across at the Grey mountain in the distance? And because it was so beautiful, it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more of it… I felt like a bird in a cage when the other birds of its kind were flying home.”

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and thanks for joining in! In case you missed our book for August, check out what we’re reading next!

Where to buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christian Books

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton | Book Review

Lori Benton’s debut novel, Burning Sky, hit the CBA scene with a bang last year (and has won many awards to prove it) and her sophomore novel, The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn, has been highly anticipated. Once again Benton takes us back into the days of the open frontier with a stirring story of a woman willing to risk it all for the freedom to choose a life of her own.

Frontier dangers cannot hold a candle to the risks one woman takes by falling in love

In an act of brave defiance, Tamsen Littlejohn escapes the life her harsh stepfather has forced upon her. Forsaking security and an arranged marriage, she enlists frontiersman Jesse Bird to guide her to the Watauga settlement in western North Carolina. But shedding her old life doesn’t come without cost. As the two cross a vast mountain wilderness, Tamsen faces hardships that test the limits of her faith and endurance.

Convinced that Tamsen has been kidnapped, wealthy suitor Ambrose Kincaid follows after her, in company with her equally determined stepfather. With trouble in pursuit, Tamsen and Jesse find themselves thrust into the conflict of a divided community of Overmountain settlers. The State of Franklin has been declared, but many remain loyal to North Carolina. With one life left behind and chaos on the horizon, Tamsen struggles to adapt to a life for which she was never prepared. But could this challenging frontier life be what her soul has longed for, what God has been leading her toward? As pursuit draws ever nearer, will her faith see her through the greatest danger of all—loving a man who has risked everything for her?

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Sometimes I like to think I know where a novel is headed and where it’s going to end. You know, like I’m the book prophet of Christmas past or something.

I am not. This book isn’t all you expect it to be.

With intriguing details of a complicated time in history, Benton’s novel drew me into a world I didn’t know much about. While it took me several chapters to really engage, I kept with it, because I know the author’s skills of weaving a beautiful story.

But I’m glad I did. Not only because some of the unexpected happenings with several characters and their stories, but it’s a sweet story of faith, hope and love. All things I’m a fan of. If you enjoyed Benton’s first novel and enjoy Laura Frantz’s stories, then I think you’ll enjoy this one as well.

Have you read this one? Are you a fan of frontier era stories?

(Thank you Blogging for Books and WaterBrook Press for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)

Where to buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christian Books