8 Very Quick Book Reviews

So my goal is to read 100 books this year. So far I have read 38 and I am in the middle of a few others (one on my phone, one devotional book, etc.) Some I’ve already reviewed on Facebook – but here are eight interesting (not always happy) reads.

What are the best ten I’ve read so far? My favorites have jumped all over the genres.  But here goes …

  1. Product DetailsWhy God Calls you to Dangerous Places (Kate McCord). I have read all Miss McCord’s books about her time in Afghanistan. If reading about difficult ministry challenges you – these books will make you think.


2.Issac’s Storm – Product DetailsErik Larsen’s book about the flood in Galveston, Texas in September 8, 1900. Again, not an enjoyable book as much as challenging thinking about the people who went through such a devastating experience … and so many lost lives.


3. Product DetailsLittle Girl Blue – Another sad book – the story of Karen Carpenter. Those of you who know the story know she died of anorexia. People could see her wasting away, but didn’t know what to do about it.


4. The Invisible Girls by Sarah Thebarge. Unique story of a girl who met a family of Somoli refugees on a train. She takes an interest in them and becomes their friend.The children excitedly waited for her visits. She came with games and pizza and worked with the mom to help the kids with their education. The book itself was written to provide college money for “The Invisible Girls.”


Product Details5. J.R.R. Tolkien – the Making of a Legend by Colin Duriez – I have read the Hobbit and I have read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, but I can’t say they’re my favorite books. That being said, I do know that Tolkien was a man of faith and had a lot to do with C.S. Lewis’ own faith. (They were great friends at Oxford.)

Tolkien met his wife when he was 16 and she was 19 and the priest (who acted as his father) made them separate for three years because of the age difference. She waited for him. He came back to her. From the earliest, he was a philologist – someone who could develop languages. Many of his stories began as bedtime tales for his kids … and all his kids turned out quite well.


Product Details6 .Where the Light Gets In – by Kimberly-Williams Paisley. A recently published book by a well-known actress (and wife of country singer, Brad Paisley). But unlike many books by well-known people, this is beautifully written. Not surprising that Kimberly’s parents were both journalists.

This is the story of Kimberly’s mom who developed a form of dementia at a fairly early age. Kimberly writes of watching her mother grow more and more distance and what that did to her and her family. This is a story of a family who loves and supports ea51EmdSsBp8L._AC_UL115_.jpgch other amazingly well.


7. Five Brides by Eva Marie Emerson.(Finally a happy book.)  Five career girls live in Chicago after World War II. They live in the same apartment but aren’t always connected with each other. Busy schedules keep them apart until one afternoon when they are all there. They go downtown for a movie and then do some window shopping – when seeing a beautiful bridal gown in the window of Carsons, they decide to go in and try it on. They are all the same size, so they split the cost and decide they will all wear it at their weddings. A good view of life after the war … and the story is true and yes, they all wore the dress.


8. Double Play by Ben and Juliana Zobrist. The story of their courtship, their marriage and Ben’s depression when things didn’t go exactly the way he wanted them to. You 51g7vgdnMBL._AC_US60_SCLZZZZZZZ__.jpgdon’t have to be a Cub fan to get something out of this book – two PKs finding their way in life. Although Ben is a great hero for kids – probably not something an elementary boy would enjoy since it’s not only about his baseball abilities, but his courtship and depression.



Cubs Spring Training

I don’t really have a bucket list, but if I did, going to a Cubs spring training game would’ve been on it. However, I’ve only been in Arizona maybe four times in my life and none of those have been during spring training.

Until this year … We didn’t go out of our way to work it out, but our visits at the Phoenix churches just happened to be during the same time as spring training. We had a church visit in the morning and another one at night – but were able to get to Mesa for the game.

A thanks to Cindy because although she is a big A’s fan, she made the sacrifice to go with me.

Sloan field (named so romantically after the Sloan Valve Company) is the largest of all the Cactus League parks with seating for approximately 15,000. The day we were there, the attendance was 15,300. Tickets for the Cub games are also the most difficult to get – so you need to order them early.

The park is has a touch of Wrigley Field in its designe, which is very cool (although instead of rooftop seating, Sloan has grass sitting.) We bypassed the grass and sat along overlooking left field – right at the fence. The players are not accessible – though I guess if you know exactly where to stand when, you can get autographs – but you’re talking a fairly major park here.

The announcer welcomed us:

It’s a beautiful 64 degrees for today’s ballgame! And in Chicago it’s a beautiful 66 degrees!

But the day was baseball-playing perfect!

Cubs loss, but even that was ok. The game didn’t count and it was all rather glorious.

Wandering through the Desert

I don’t usually have the opportunity to hike through a desert, but that sunny afternoon in early March was absolutely perfect desert-hiking weather.

We headed to the outskirts of Phoenix to the Sonoran Desert Preserve. We didn’t have a lot of time, but time enough to wander up the hillside through the blooming brittlebush and saguaro. Each cactus seemed to have a different personality as they stood guard over the park.

Cindy’s favorite were the cholla cactus (also known as the teddy bear). Their spikes glistened in the afternoon sun, illuminating them against the royal blue sky.

The first thing we saw as we started up the path was a lady on a horse, adding to the old west panorama (though I don’t think old west cowboys/girls wore helmets.)

I am intrigued at all the different landscapes – even in our own country.  Each has a different type of beauty and is breathtaking in its own way. I think that’s why I love to travel so much – to think God created this all for us to enjoy.

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)


Spring has come to the desert


Horse and rider



Cholla or teddy bear cactus


Phoenix in the distance



Me by a saguaro cactus


A blooming brittlebush



Cindy standing by a saguaro



Cholla cactus



Cactus on a Hill



One night we had an appointment with some people who lived about 30 miles outside of Phoenix. As we drove down the highway … we enjoyed an unbelievably colorful sunset that changed from oranges and yellows to pastel colors. For miles and miles we watched the sky as it faded into darkness.



Cornish Pasty

We went to a lot of indigenous restaurants on our trips. One of our favorites was Cornish Pasty. DSC_0330

Cornish Pasties (meat pies) started in Cornwall, England back in the 1200’s. The miners would take the pasties to lunch in the mines. Because the miner’s hands were covered in arsenic, they would hold a pasty by the crimped edges and then discard the rest of the crust for the “ghosts” in the mine. (Or something like that.)

Originally a pasty would have meat and veggies in one end and something sweet in the other.

When mining in Cornwall slowed down, many miners came to the copper mines in the Upper Peninsula to find work … which is why you find a lot of pasty shops in the U.P.

Which does not explain why the Cornish Pasty restaurants are in Arizona .. We ate at the one in Tempe.

I had a shepherd’s pie pasty and let’s just say, that’s my kind of food. Really delicious.


Wandering Around Phoenix

So one night we decided to head to downtown Phoenix and wander around and see what we could see. What we saw was a city with skyscrapers and a park with some artsy stuff including a netting sculpture entitled “Her Secret is Patience.” (Truly, I could spend the rest of my life staring at the huge net before guessing that name. More commonly it’s called Jellyfish or Tornado.)

We walked around looking for a place to eat and ended up at Steve’s Greenhouse Grill which says its burgers were voted the best in downtown Phoenix – not sure how many burgers are in downtown Phoenix – but it was fine. Though the memorable part of this restaurant was the server who was surprised to “see me on the weekday, because I’m usually there on the weekend.” Though I told him I had never been there before, he was sure I was one of his regular customers or my twin sister is. Interesting. Unless my parents aren’t telling me something, I didn’t know I had a twin sister. He was so insistent, I almost wanted to stick around and meet this other me.

We headed back to the car and passed “Her Secret is Patience” once again – which was now lit up – a neon beacon in the night sky.




Lewis’ Wardrobe. Tolkien’s Desk.


The desk where J. R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit

Tucked away on a quiet street in Wheaton, Illinois is a place called the Marion E. Wade Center. A research goldmine for those studying seven world-renown authors: George MacDonald, G.K. Chesterton, Owen Barfield; J.R.R.Toikien; Charles Williams; Dorothy L. Sayers and C.S. Lewis. The place has a library room where scholars can peruse dozens of books written by them and about them. The library includes dissertations about the various authors, letters and private papers.

And although the “museum” part of the Center is small, it contains some fascinating pieces including C.S. Lewis’ teapot and Dorothy Sayer’s glasses. The three centerpieces of the collection, however, are the actual wardrobe that inspired Lewis to write The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, his desk and also Tolkien’s desk where he sat to write The Hobbit.

Their lives often intertwined and the collection includes letters they wrote to each other. You might have read their books, but did you know these facts?

  1. Dorothy Sayers (author of several classic mysteries including The Nine Tailors and several non-fiction books about her Christianity) credits Chesterton with saving her faith.
  2. Lewis encouraged Tolkien to finish the Lord of the Rings. He also wrote reviews of Toilien’s work (a great marketing tool).
  3. IMG_3767

    The Wardrobe, carved by Lewis’ grandfather in Belfast and then taken Lewis’ home in Oxford … and eventually to Wheaton.

    C.S. Lewis stated: “Though it seems like a kindness to wrap a child in cotton-wool, it is in the end unwise, for the child must learn to stand on his or her own feet one day. The longer that day is needlessly delayed, the likelier it is that the child will be overwhelmed when it finally comes.” 

  4. All the authors were open about their Christianity at a time when the world saw Christianity as a belief system scorned by the intellectuals and only adopted by the superstitious.
  5. Lucy, in “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” was dedicated to Owen Barfield’s daughter, Lucy.
  6. Lewis had a habit of losing his hat and when finding it (no matter how soggy from being left out all night), putting it on his head and continuing to wear it.
  7. Tolkien did not like The Chronicles of Narnia.
  8. Four of the authors were part of a group of Lewis’ friends called “The Inklings.” They met once a week to challenge and encourage each other – often in a pub called The Eagle and Child near Oxford University which is still open today. (Wouldn’t it be fun to go there for lunch?)


    Lewis’ Desk

The Wade Center isn’t huge and exhibits cover only a large room – but if you enjoy reading or learning about seven authors who wrote about their faith at a time when doing so was not popular (is it ever popular?) you will enjoy a visit here.