How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Five Fall Favorites Day 5

 

Welcome to Day 5 of Five Fall Favorites, hosted by Kate Willis! Today I’m sharing my Top 5 Historical Fiction Books. After classic literature, historical fiction is my favorite genre. I love it when a book transports me in time and place so that I actually feel as if I am living there, when the book is both open and closed. There’s so much to learn from history, and so many adventures—both great and small—took place. It’s just enough removed from this present world to be as fascinating as fantasy, yet it has the added layer of realism.

 


Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge

A Goudge novel has made it to almost every list this week, hasn’t it? I can’t help it. Green Dolphin Street is perhaps my favorite of hers. Set in the 1830s and inspired by a true story, it takes readers on a journey from an English Channel island to the wilds of New Zealand. A love triangle among two sisters, Marianne and Marguertie Le Patourel, and a young sailor, William Ozanne, brings heartache but also tremendous spiritual growth to the three. As always, Goudge’s incredible descriptive powers and keen spiritual insight makes this novel something to savor. Read my full review HERE.

 

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow

The newest book on my list, The Other Bennet Sister is what I consider to be the best Jane Austen spin-off novel I’ve read yet. It follows Mary, the overlooked middle sister in Pride and Prejudice, as she observes the events of Austen’s novel and then pursues her own journey of growth and discovery. Written by a historian, the dialogue, details, and mindsets accurately reflect the Regency era. But I also found it incredibly moving and completely absorbing. Read my full review HERE.

 

The Zion Chronicles by Bodie and Brock Thoene

This series of five is a riveting, detailed adventure that traces the miraculous reestablishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Sweeping in scope, it follows a multitude of characters as they fight for or against the Jews battling for their God-given homeland. It has it all—accuracy, suspense, character development, faith, and transformation. One book leads seamlessly into the next, and the whole series is hard to put down until you read them all.

 

The Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Do these books need an introduction? Based on Laura’s childhood and youth, these classics bring us back to the heroic pioneering days of the American Midwest. The Ingalls family travels from Minnesota to Kansas to South Dakota in search of home. Filled with fascinating details and touching family warmth, these books were also a large part of my childhood. My mom and I read them together, and I illustrated passages in notebooks that I can still look back on today. When I reread them as an adult, I loved them just as much, if not more. I also based my novella, Prairie Independence Day, on Laura’s life in South Dakota.


The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge

Another Goudge novel? I’m sorry, I really can’t help it! The Dean’s Watch is one of her best. Set in the Victorian era in an English cathedral town, this book is “a compelling saga of an unlikely friendship threaded together by redemption and grace. … The cathedral Dean, Adam Ayscough, holds a deep love for his parishioners and townspeople, but he is held captive by an irrational shyness and intimidating manner. The Dean and Isaac Peabody, an obscure watchmaker who does not think he or God have anything in common, strike up an unlikely friendship. This leads to an unusual spiritual awakening that touches the entire community.” (I borrowed from the synopsis, but that sums up the story better than I could.) Read my full review HERE.

 

 

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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Five Fall Favorites Day 4

 

 

Welcome to Day 4 of Five Fall Favorites, hosted by Kate Willis! Today I’m sharing my Top 5 Romance Books. Romance as a genre is not my favorite, but I agree that it adds interest to almost any plot. Many of my favorite books revolve around romance, or at least include it as a subplot. If done well, it can make for some deep character studies, which I love in a novel. (Note: This list doesn’t include favorites from other genres, like Jane Eyre or Sense and Sensibility.)

 

 



Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

This is the ultimate romance novel in many readers’ minds, and I’m no exception. But it’s much more than a simple romance; it’s got great characters, Jane Austen’s sharp societal commentary, and her intrepid wit. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy are iconic romantic leads as they battle it out, but they’re also delightful and lovable characters who grow and change. Read my full review HERE.



Persuasion by Jane Austen

I could have included all of Jane Austen’s novels on this list, but I limited myself to the works of hers I think most romantic. Persuasion involves a slow romance between two people, Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, who think that their love for each other died eight years ago when Anne rejected Wentworth due to her family’s influence.


Christy by Catherine Marshall

This classic in Christian fiction involves more than romance; it’s a thought-provoking story about nineteen-year-old Christy Huddleston, whose faith and ideals are challenged when she pursues God’s call to teach in the Smoky Mountain community of Cutter Gap. Her heart is torn between two drastically different men as she navigates life in this rural world. I love the book for Catherine Marshall’s beautiful writing, well-drawn characters, and keen realism about faith.


Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

This novel by one of my favorite Victorian authors is long but well worth the read. The book explores many different relationships … primarily between Molly Gibson and her father, stepmother, stepsister, and her friendship with the Hamley family, of whom one of the sons, Roger Hamley, becomes very dear to her. Inner conflict arises when Roger and Molly’s stepsister, Cynthia, form an attachment. I love how Gaskell’s characters are so complex and realistic and how she depicts each one fairly. The BBC miniseries adaptation is also one of my favorite movies.


Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

Another of my favorite Victorian authors, Dickens of course always writes more than romances. His novels are like TV series, in which romances are often an important part. My favorite romance in his canon is Little Dorrit. Almost twenty years apart, Arthur Clennam and Amy Dorrit are an unlikely pair on the surface, but when you consider their gentleness, their self-sacrificing characters, and their love for family and friends, it’s a beautiful thing to watch. Little Dorrit has about a dozen other plot threads, but this aspect of the book makes it one of my favorites.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Five Fall Favorites Day 3

 

 

Welcome to Day 3 of Five Fall Favorites, hosted by Kate Willis! Today I’m sharing my Top 5 Mystery Books. For a long time in my childhood, my favorite genre was mystery. I still savor a good mystery to this day, though I don’t make a steady diet of them as I find them too stimulating (like coffee or desserts!). On this list are some of my most favorite books, however. There’s nothing like a mystery to keep you reading.



Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene

In my tweens and early teens, I adored these 56 classics, written by various authors under a pseudonym. My favorite are the revised titles from 1959 on. Nancy Drew is too good to be true, but I loved and admired her anyway. Her mystery-solving savvy combined with humility endears her to many readers. I also enjoyed her friends George and Bess and all the various locations she traveled to. Definitely books I would recommend to any tweens.


American Girl History Mysteries by various authors

My other favorite genre as a kid was historical fiction, so this combination of history and mystery was right up my alley. A series of 22 books, spanning from 1621 Jamestown to 1958 Tennessee, touching almost every era and important event in USA history … starring eleven- or twelve-year-old girls who find themselves embroiled in a wide range of mysteries. They’re as excellent as they sound.

 

 

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

As a prototype of detective fiction, this Victorian tome is a page-turner. The complex plot involves a young drawing master named Walter Hartright who meets a strange woman dressed all in white on the road one night, later learning that she has escaped from an insane asylum. This sets in motion a chain of events that threaten the girl Walter loves. There’s far too much plot to summarize, but chief among the novel’s wonders is a cast of amazing characters, especially the strong, intelligent Marian Halcombe and the charming, enigmatic Count Fosco. Oh, and the climax! Absolutely superb. Read my full review HERE.


This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart

Mary Stewart brings exotic locations to life with her evocative writing and suspenseful plots. This Rough Magic is my favorite of hers that I’ve read so far. Set on the island of Corfu off the coast of Greece, the mystery kept me guessing, as well as how the heroine, Lucy, would survive. Another reason I really like this one is because of the allusions to Shakespeare’s The Tempest (Corfu is speculated to be the setting) and, most of all, because of the dolphin. Read my full review HERE.

 

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I’ve enjoyed many of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, but this iconic, haunting novella-length mystery is my favorite. Fascinating, complex, and chilling, this made my pulse accelerate several times while I was reading it. Doyle’s descriptive powers are at full play, bringing the moor and the mysterious mansion to life.



Bonus: The Father Brown mysteries by G. K. Chesterton are short but back a punch! I highly recommend them. 

Monday, October 3, 2022

Five Fall Favorites Day 2

 

 

Welcome to Day 2 of Five Fall Favorites, hosted by Kate Willis! Today I’m sharing my Top 5 Fantasy Books. I don’t read a lot of fantasy, but some of my favorite books are in this genre, which means I certainly appreciate a well-crafted and deeply imaginative fantasy world.

 


 

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

The ultimate epic of fantasy, this trilogy (or rather, a massive single work divided into three volumes) has it all for me: lovable characters, deep world-bending themes, high stakes, beautiful description, and a world that feels as complex and complete as our own. I grew up knowing the story from movies and endless discussions of the story with my family, though I’ve only read the complete work once. It was one of the most profound and moving books I’ve ever read. Time for a reread!

 

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

A completely different type than the high fantasy Lord of the Rings, this children’s novel is set in Victorian England but contains delightful elements that skirt reality, like anthropomorphic animals and fantastical places. Just listen to the first line of the synopsis: In 1842, thirteen-year-old orphan Maria Merryweather arrives at Moonacre Manor, her family’s ancestral home in an charmed village in England's West Country, and she feels as if she’s entered Paradise.” Doesn’t that sound tantalizing? Read my full review HERE.



The Thaw series by E. Kaiser Writes

This spinoff of “The Snow Queen” fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson goes in a different direction from the movie Frozen, exploring the rich themes of forgiveness, honor, responsibility, and one man and one woman’s quest for redemption and restoration. It’s set in a beautifully imagined world reminiscent of Europe, replete with fascinating details from Nordic culture, wonderful character development, and breathtaking adventure.

 

 

The Map Across Time by C. S. Lakin

I’ve read four books out of the Gates of Heaven series, but this one, book two, is my favorite. It begins with a typical premise—a brother and sister must save their kingdom from a curse. But a magical map adds a mind-blowing time-traveling twist to the story that kept me up late reading. I loved the characters, the Hebrew and Scriptural elements, and the well-crafted world. Read my full review HERE.

 

The Harry Ferguson Chronicles by William David Ellis

This series is almost complete—just one book to go. It’s a highly imaginative, complex tale weaving together down-home modern-day East Texas characters, dragon riders, a medieval princess, Nazis and the Holocaust, mythical monsters, and more, all coming together in a page-turning adventure that keeps you guessing with endless twists and turns.


Bonus: I did not include the Chronicles of Narnia because I included it on my Top 5 Books That Make Me Me post yesterday. :)

 

Don't neglect to enter the giveaway!

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Five Fall Favorites Day 1



Welcome to Five Fall Favorites, hosted by Kate Willis! We're celebrating books this week. Keep reading for my favorites, and don't neglect to enter the giveaway!

 

Every season is reading weather, but there’s something special about fall as we enter into the cozy time of year … when it’s pleasant to read outdoors or in, when we anticipate holidays and sharing books with family and friends, when the beauty of nature and the warmth of fall decorations inspire flights of imagination.


On Day 1 of this week celebrating reading, I’m sharing my Top 5 Books That Make Me Me. These are the books that I can’t imagine my life without. For one reason or another, they’ve settled into my soul and either helped shape me and my interests or answered a yearning I didn’t know was there. (I will leave out the obvious here—God’s book, the Bible—because that is an absolute given, the ultimate Book that has shaped me and fulfilled me.)

 

 

 


Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I first read Sense and Sensibility. This novel ignited my identity as an Austenite, heavily influenced my identity as an Anglophile, and helped establish me as a classic literature lover. This story of two very different but loyal sisters, their loves and losses, inspired me to write my novel Suit and Suitability. Strong yet tender Elinor Dashwood, the main character, will probably always be my favorite literary character. Read my full review on Goodreads HERE.



The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

My mom read many books aloud to my brother and me, which helped make me a reader, but the Chronicles of Narnia were something special. I grew up with these stories as part of my psyche—the perfect blend of great storytelling, profound theology, and beautiful allegory captured my imagination and influenced my view of life and literature.

 

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

Anne is the most famous literary character with red hair, but apart from that similarity we share, I feel she is a kindred spirit. And I have her to thank for introducing that term to me. Her view of the world, finding beauty and cherishing the power of story, has helped shape mine. Her life on Prince Edward Island brought me to visit that lovely, peaceful place several years ago, and it remains one of my favorite places to this day. Many of Montgomery’s other novels also capture that beauty of life and story, but Anne of Green Gables is still foremost to me. 

 


Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Out of the canon of classic novels, I love Victorian the most. Jane Eyre is my favorite out of that era. It’s iconic in every aspect with a strong and relatable protagonist, deep characterization of all the characters, atmospheric setting, compelling plot, and lyrical prose. I love Jane, and this novel inspired a novella of my own, The Promise of Acorns, so you can see just how important this story is to me. Read my full review HERE.


The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge

This is the most recently published and my most recently read novel on this list. I’d never heard of British Christian novelist Elizabeth Goudge until 2015. My mom recommended The Scent of Water, and I fell in love with Goudge’s style instantly. It’s about a group of people in a mid-twentieth-century English village who find themselves at the crossroads of personal change. Her writing and descriptions are pure art. She reveals profound spiritual truths that always seem relevant to my life at the time I’m reading. And in a most uplifting way, she celebrates what is good and beautiful. Read my full review HERE.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Editing Articles on Tame Your Book

Hey everyone!

One of my favorite websites for writers, tameyourbook.com, has published two articles I've written on self-editing. Grant Ferguson, the owner and administrator, has tons of great resources for planning, structuring, and writing the novel you've always wanted to write. Below are the links to my articles for May and June, but definitely explore the rest of the website and blog. You'll discover advice and encouragement for all sorts of writing issues, from overcoming resistance, to crafting memorable characters, to fashioning a strong skeleton to support the fleshing-out of your novel. 


All About Action Beats

“Like most words in our final draft, action beats are important to select carefully. A prevalent problem I come across while editing manuscripts is overused action beats… a certain action or two gets stuck in a writer’s brain like gum on a shoe and shows up over and over in a manuscript, with multiple characters with multiple emotions in multiple situations.” Read more...

 

Break Out of the Mold: Creating Fresh Similes and Metaphors

“In contrast to familiar clich├ęs, unique similes and metaphors help readers see something in a new way. They awaken readers’ imaginations and draw them deeper into the story. They contribute to fiction’s ability to alter the readers’ way of seeing the world and make them experience things they haven’t experienced in real life. In short, they’re integral to powerful storytelling.” Read more...

 

Tame Your Book!

Write a book readers will love.

 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

My Top 15 Books of 2021

Although I haven’t appeared very often on my blog this year, I do still regularly read and write. And so I couldn’t ignore the tug that every December exerts on me to make my top 15 list of books read throughout the year. I read more individual titles in 2021 than the past several years: 65. But according to Goodreads, the number of pages was virtually the same as last year, which apparently means I read a slew of shorter books. That makes sense because I didn’t read as many classics this time around. If you’re curious about my whole list, you can find my year in books HERE.

And now, on to the list … which, as usual, was very hard to rank!


#15

The Heir of Redclyffe

by Charlotte Mary Yonge

This was the longest book I read in 2021. My friend Sarah and I read it as part of our monthly classic buddy read. Published in 1853, it’s a fairly normal sentimental Victorian novel, but with an extra layer of depth because several of the characters were heartfelt Christians who openly discussed their faith, and there was a beautiful redemption arc. Read my full review HERE.


#14

Mercy Undeserved

by Kristina Hall

Book 2 of the Moretti Trilogy, this tense historical novel set in the 1920s kept me flipping ebook pages. I really appreciated the message and how the main characters were depicted; they were new believers, and the way they learned to trust God while still struggling with their old nature was impactful as it wove into the suspenseful plot: running for their lives from gangsters. Read my full review HERE.


#13

Hannah Coulter

by Wendell Berry

I’ve heard a lot about Wendell Berry and determined that this year I would read one of his Port William novels. Hannah Coulter is a lovely contemplative novel about an elderly woman in rural Kentucky looking back over her life, spanning most of the twentieth century. Read my full review HERE.


#12

Irena’s Children

by Tilar J. Mazzeo

For the past few months, I’ve been on a research kick about World War Two and the Holocaust. Irena Sendler, a social worker active in the Polish resistance against the Nazis, has fascinated me ever since I heard of her. She is one of the “Righteous Among the Nations,” named by Yad VaShem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial. She and her allies within the resistance rescued 2,500 Jewish children in Warsaw. This information-dense biography not only gave me a deeper appreciation for Sendler; it set me on a sobering train of thought: What would I have done? Read my full review HERE.


#11

Educated

by Tara Westover

I didn’t expect to like this modern-day memoir as much as I did. Westover’s story is intriguing; raised in a survivalist family in rural Idaho, she educated herself, went to college, and excelled despite her lack of formal schooling and family support. I was drawn in by her masterful writing and her classic underdog story. Read my full review HERE.


#10

Three Men in a Boat

by Jerome K. Jerome

Three men and a dog take a boating expedition on the Thames, and everything hilariously goes wrong from there. This 1889 British novel is nothing profound, but it’s one of the funniest books I’ve ever read, and at that point in my year, I really needed to laugh. It will always hold a fond place in my heart for that gift. Find the book on Goodreads HERE.


#9

Before We Were Yours

by Lisa Wingate

Wingate’s powerful novel is a dual timeline narrative, telling the story of five siblings in the 1930s taken from their parents by the Tennessee Children’s Home and adopted out to separate families. Decades later, a successful career woman and daughter of a South Carolina senator discovers this terrible history and its repercussions in the present day. Find the book on Goodreads HERE.


#8

The Rosemary Tree

by Elizabeth Goudge

All of Goudge’s books are beautiful, but this one seemed exceptionally so. There’s much that this mid-twentieth-century English story encompasses; mostly it’s about a minister and his family and the various troubles and sorrows that they encounter and overcome. Goudge always leaves me feeling uplifted. Find the book on Goodreads HERE.


#7

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography

by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Anyone who is an ardent fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder will enjoy this beautifully printed early version of her beloved series. Not only does it contain the Pioneer Girl manuscript that she tried to get published before fictionalizing and expanding it into the stories we know today; it also gives extensive commentary in the margins and other explanatory notes. Since I published a Little House–inspired novella last summer, this book meant a lot to me. Find the book on Goodreads HERE.


#6

Dr. Thorne

by Anthony Trollope

I enjoy almost every thick Victorian novel I read, but not every one becomes a cherished favorite. However, Dr. Thorne did! The love story, the twists and turns, the characters, the satisfying plot, and the humor all combined to make a lovely read that was hard to put down and left me with a book hangover. See my full review HERE.


#5

The Meaning of Marriage

by Timothy Keller

As the title suggests, this book provides meaningful and realistic insights into marriage. Besides the practical advice, it also gives a beautiful picture of what marriage means in God’s economy. Find the book on Goodreads HERE.


#4

North and South

by Elizabeth Gaskell

I reread North and South this year and loved it just as much as before. This is another classic that my friend Sarah and I read together. Published in 1854, this novel shows Gaskell’s writing at its finest—her deep characters, her development of tension, and her sympathetic grasp of all sides of an issue. The story deals with the clash between mill owners and their workers in northern England, through the eyes of a mill owner and a young woman from the south with a tempestuous relationship that develops into something more. Read my full review HERE.


#3

The Zion Covenant series

by Bodie Thoene

I’ve read four of this six-book series so far, and though some parts are tough to get through, they tell the harrowing, disturbing, yet important story of the lead-up to World War Two in Europe. I relish Thoenes blend of tension, character development, and descriptive details that bring history to life. Find the first book on Goodreads HERE.


#2

If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat

by John Ortberg

With humility and humor, Ortberg encourages readers to put their faith into practice, trust God, and follow His calling for their lives. He addresses fear and other hindrances people encounter when they seek to draw closer to God and His plan. Find the book on Goodreads HERE.


#1

The Life You’ve Always Wanted

by John Ortberg

This eye-opening book explores “spiritual disciplines” and how they can help you live a more fulfilling and dedicated Christian life. I’ve really enjoyed reading Ortberg because he offers deep, meaningful truths in an easygoing style that makes me sit up and take notice, even when I feel convicted. Read my full review HERE.


What were some of your favorite books that you read in 2021?