Book Review: Becoming Elisabeth Elliot

Elisabeth Elliot has been one of my heroes for decades. I first discovered her in college when I read Through Gates of Splendor, her book about the ministries and deaths of her husband and four friends. Then I read nearly everything she had written, received her newsletter and a Back to the Bible devotional mailing of her writings for years, and got to hear her speak in person twice.

The Elliots and their friends had wanted to reach out to a seemingly unreachable tribe in Ecuador. Though the beginning seemed promising, all five men were speared to death by the tribe, known then as Aucas (later by their own name for themselves, Waodani). A few years later, Elisabeth and her young daughter, Valerie, and Rachel Saint, sister to one of the other men, went to live among the Waodani. Some became believers, with a testimony that still stands to this day.

Elisabeth eventually came back to America. She authored 30 books and spoke to women, eventually hosting a radio program, Gateway to Joy, and sending out a monthly newsletter.

She surprised herself by remarrying a college theology professor, Addison Leitch. He succumbed to cancer four years later. She was an adjunct professor for a while. A few years later, she married Lars Gren. She had dementia the last several years of her life, lost the ability to speak, and died at age 88 on June 15, 2015.

Those are the spare details of her life. But they don’t capture her personality, her character. Why did so many women love to read her words and hear her speak and write her letters asking her advice about their problems?

Ellen Vaughn has attempted to answer those questions in her authorized biography, Becoming Elisabeth Elliot. I admit I had mixed emotions when I first heard of this project. Vaughn was well aware that she was going to be up against a number of expectations. She had access to Elisabeth’s multiple journals as well as many friends and relatives.

Of course, Elisabeth didn’t start out as the Elisabeth Elliot of such wisdom and depth. She began life as Betty Howard. Her early journals reflect a normal girlhood and a fair amount of teenage angst over boys and disagreements with her mother. Yet even as young as eleven, she showed a depth of thought and desire to follow and obey God. Betty Stam, who was killed by the Chinese along with her husband, John, had been a guest in the Howard home and made a great impression on young Betty. As a child, Betty Howard wrote and took Betty Stam’s prayer for her own.

Vaughn goes on to follow Betty’s education, meeting of Jim Elliot, and the long wrestling over whether they should marry. Jim had thought God wanted him to be a single missionary. When he became attracted to Betty, he wasn’t sure whether that was a result of God’s leading or his own desires. It took a few years to figure out. Finally he and Elisabeth married and worked among the Quichua Indians in Ecudaor. Then there are the details leading up to the Waodani outreach, the men’s deaths, Elisabeth’s wrenching grief, working with Rachel Saint, and return to the US.

The biography stops there, with a second volume in the works. I hadn’t realized that this was only part one until I started reading it. I wish that had been made more plain, but it wouldn’t have affected my desire to own and read the book.

Elisabeth was a critical thinker and wrestled with the ways of God, pat, churchy answers, what worldliness and being a missionary even meant, and so much more. She was strongly introverted and could come across as distant and aloof (when she first met Jim’s parents, he told her she had “made a universally horrible impression.”) She could seem unemotional, but she poured out her emotions in her journals.

One thing that Elisabeth discovered in her walk of faith was that God’s ways are inscrutable. She was a gifted linguist, and her first mission was an effort to reduce the Colorado language to writing. But the one man who knew both Spanish and Colorado well and who was willing to help her was senselessly murdered. Her careful work and notes were stolen. Her husband died. Her time of living with the Waodani bore some fruit but was fraught with frustrations. She felt all her work to that point was in ashes.

But she knew God was good and trustworthy, and the best thing, the only thing she could do was obey him, even when she didn’t understand. Her experiences and wrestling over issues of faith and practice made her who she was and gave her a depth and realism that struck chords with other women.

I felt overall that the biography did a good job. Ellen didn’t put Elisabeth on a pedestal, nor did she present her as unworthy of esteem. My one criticism is that, perhaps in an effort to show that Elisabeth was an ordinary woman and not a super-saint, some excerpts from her journals were shared that I can’t imagine Elisabeth would have wanted public. I understand why some people destroy their journals and letters before they die. I’m thankful Elisabeth didn’t, and I appreciate the insight they gave into her thinking. Still, some of it was probably not meant for public consumption.

Also, an index would have been helpful.

I’m looking forward to the next volume. I knew much about Elisabeth’s early life from her writings, but I’m not as familiar with the second half. I did learn several new things, however. For instance, I didn’t know (or forgot, if I had known) that Elisabeth was told about and wanted to go to the Waodani long before she and Jim married, and that part of the groups urgency to reach them was “rumors that the Ecuadorian government and the oil companies might well solve the ‘Waodani problem’ by using the military” (p. 139). Also, Through Gates of Splendor was written in a six-week period while she was in a hotel and her folks took care of her daughter. The publishers urgently wanted the story to be available. In her previous writings, I had sensed some tension between her and Rachel. The problems there are detailed here, and understandable. They were two very different personalities with completely different methods and training. I appreciate Elisabeth’s discretion in not dragging all of it out into the public eye.

I appreciate this summation of the Elliots near the end of the book:

Whether you agree or disagree with their choices, whether you resonate or not with their particular personalities, the takeaway from their lives is a reckless abandon for God. A willingness to cast off any illusions of self-protection, in order to burn for Christ. An absolutely liberating, astonishing radical freedom that comes only when you have, in fact, spiritually died to your own wants, ambitions, will, desires, reputation, and everything else (p. 274).

A couple of my friends reviewed this book as well:

Michele: A Life of Reckless Abandon for God
Ann: Becoming Elisabeth Elliot

(Sharing with Tell His Story, InstaEncouragements)

Book Review: Daddy Long Legs

I’ve read a couple of books based on the 1912 Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster (Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay and Sincerely, Jem by Kate Willis in A Very Bookish Christmas). But I had never read the original story. I figured it was time to remedy that.

Jerusha Abbott,, who calls herself Judy, has grown up in the John Grier Home orphanage. She has just about aged out of the system. She’s finished high school and is working at the home.

Then she receives word that one of the trustees has offered to pay her way through college. One of Judy’s teachers had told him she could be an excellent writer. The trustee will pay all of Judy’s expenses and give her an allowance. The donor does not want Judy to know who he is. He’ll communicate through his secretary. His only requirement is that she write him a letter once a month about what she’s learning.

The rest of the book is made up of Judy’s letters. She was told to address her letters to Mr. John Smith. She had caught a glimpse of him from behind during one of the trustees’ monthly meetings to the orphanage. She could only make out that he was very tall, so she nicknames him Daddy Long Legs.

Although thoroughly excited by her opportunity, Judy faces challenges as well. An East Coast girl’s college is a different environment from an orphanage. Judy faces a social learning curve as well as an academic one.

But for the most part she faces life optimistically. Her letters are usually lively and cheerful. But sometimes she’s downhearted or angry—sometimes with Daddy Long Legs.

Since I’d read other books based on this story, I knew the surprise twist near the end of who “Daddy” was. But it was still satisfying to see how it came about and to see little clues appear.

The original books contained some drawings by the author (Judy refers to them in her letters). But, unfortunately, the free Kindle version didn’t have them.

One thing that irked me, though, was that Judy seemed to feel obligated to make several “digs” at religion. Yes, this is a secular book, and so I don’t expect it to portray Christian values. But I don’t expect it to poke at them, either. What religious instruction Judy had at the orphanage seemed institutional and cheerless (she says of one dinner with new friends, ““We don’t have to say grace beforehand. It’s a relief not having to thank Somebody for every mouthful you eat. [I dare say I’m blasphemous; but you’d be, too, if you’d offered as much obligatory thanks as I have.”]) Maybe that’s what she’s rebelling against. But I couldn’t help wonder if some of these thoughts were the author’s and this was her way to get them out into the world. One thing Judy shares from her vast amounts of reading in college was that “I didn’t know that people used to be monkeys and that the Garden of Eden was a beautiful myth.” Maybe that’s what starts her on a negative religious path; maybe it was there before and this new “learning” brought it to the forefront. Elsewhere she says, “Thank heaven I don’t inherit God from anybody! I am free to make mine up as I wish Him. He’s kind and sympathetic and imaginative and forgiving and understanding—and He has a sense of humour.”

A couple of quotes I enjoyed:

It isn’t the big troubles in life that require character. Anybody can rise to a crisis and face a crushing tragedy with courage, but to meet the petty hazards of the day with a laugh—I really think that requires SPIRIT.

Most people don’t live; they just race. They are trying to reach some goal far away on the horizon, and in the heat of the going they get so breathless and panting that they lose all sight of the beautiful, tranquil country they are passing through; and then the first thing they know, they are old and worn out, and it doesn’t make any difference whether they’ve reached the goal or not.

Normally epistolary novels aren’t my favorite, but this was a pleasant read. The author has a nice style. Someday soon I hope to get to the sequel, Dear Enemy, focusing on one of Judy’s roommates.

I am counting this book as my classic by a new-to-me author for the Back to the Classics Challenge.

Book Review: Be Delivered

The book of Exodus contains some of the most dramatic passages in the Bible: baby Moses being placed in a basket in a river after Pharaoh’s command to kill Israelite male babies and being found and rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, God speaking from a burning bush, the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, the golden calf.

But Exodus also contains chapters that seem a little tedious at first, like the instructions for the tabernacle and all its furnishings and the priests’ wardrobe.

A good study Bible like the ESV Study Bible and a short commentary like Warren Wiersbe’s Be Delivered (Exodus): Finding Freedom by Following God help fill out understanding of these passages.

At the end of Genesis, Joseph had brought his family to Egypt to provide for them during the prophesied famine. He knew this people would be returning to their homeland, but evidently he didn’t expect that to happen in his lifetime. He made his family promise to take his bones with them when they went back.

Wiersbe notes that “the Hebrew text of Exodus begins with the word and, for God is continuing the story He started in Genesis” (p. 17). We’re not sure how much time passed before “there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8), but by that time all Joseph’s generation had died off (1:6) and the children of Israel had multiplied so much that Pharaoh was afraid they could turn on Egypt. So the Egyptians “ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service” (1:13-14). Pharaoh went so far as to call for the killing of Israel’s male babies.

After Moses’ miraculous deliverance, he got off to a rocky start trying to help his brethren: in trying to save one from a fight, he killed an Egyptian. When he realized his deed was known, he fled, married, and tended sheep for 40 years, until God called to him from a burning bush. After a lot of convincing, Moses answered God’s call to go back to Egypt to deliver Israel from 400 years of slavery.

That process did not go as Moses had thought it would, but God was in control. The plagues sent on Egypt were not random. Each plague countered a god the Egyptians worshiped. God was not just rescuing His people: He was making Himself known as the one true God. There’s evidence that at least some Egyptians came to believe on Him.

After Pharaoh finally let Israel go in defeat, they started a new chapter. Not only did God miraculously deliver them: He wanted to actually dwell among them. He taught them His ways and gave them instructions for building a meeting place.

But, though they had been delivered from Egypt, they still carried Egypt in their hearts. They complained over every little thing and blamed Moses. God was patient with them at first: they had been in Egypt for a long time and needed to become better acquainted with Him and trust Him. Eventually the people made a golden calf to worship while Moses was away receiving God’s law. And God had to deal with that. Moses’ intercession in 32:30-34 and chapter 33 are some of the most touching places in the Bible.

When the people repented, they responded to God’s command and made the tabernacle just as God had instructed. And God’s glory filled the tabernacle.

There’s a lot of symbolism in the different parts of the tabernacle, and that’s one area where study Bibles and commentaries help a lot. Wiersbe’s book had a diagram and the ESV Study Bible had several drawings about what the tabernacle and its parts looked like. Wiersbe went into a lot of detail about what each part represented.

Wiersbe’s overarching theme was freedom: the Israelites needed to be freed from Egypt physically but also in their hearts.

Fools use freedom as a toy to play with; wise people use freedom as a tool to build with (p. 13).

Exodus teaches us that freedom is not license and discipline is not bondage. God tells us how to enjoy mature freedom in His will, a quality that is desperately needed in our churches and in our world today (p. 13).

I have multitudes of places marked, but here are a few other quotes that stood out to me:

God used Israel’s experiences in Egypt to prepare them for the special tasks He gave them to accomplish on earth: bearing witness to the true and living God, writing the Holy Scriptures, and bringing the Savior into the world (p. 18).

The phrase as weak as a baby doesn’t apply in the kingdom of God, for when the Lord wants to accomplish a mighty work, He often starts by sending a baby. This was true when He sent Isaac, Joseph, Samuel, John the Baptist, and especially Jesus. God can use the weakest things to defeat the mightiest enemies (1 Cor. 1: 25–29). A baby’s tears were God’s first weapons in His war against Egypt (p. 21).

What does it mean to harden your heart? It means to see clear evidence of the hand of God at work and still refuse to accept His Word and submit to His will. It means to resist Him by showing ingratitude and disobedience and not having any fear of the Lord or of His judgments. Hardhearted people say with Pharaoh, “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice?” (5: 2) (p. 41).

The same sun that melts the ice also hardens the clay. It all depends on the nature of the material (p. 41).

There was one place where I disagreed with Wiersbe. He says of Moses’ famous argument about why he couldn’t do what God commanded in Exodus 3-4 , “Moses was clothing his pride and unbelief in a hollow confession of weakness” (p. 26). I don’t think his claims of weakness were hollow. When Moses left Egypt, he was a wanted man. His misguided attempts to help his brethren had backfired. God didn’t say Moses was wrong when Moses listed his weaknesses. But God promised to be with him and give him everything he needed. I can identify with Moses a lot in these passages and have to lean on the same truth: that it’s through God’s presence and ability that I can accomplish anything for Him.

One aspect I noticed in this trek through Exodus was how Moses grew as a leader from quaking in his boots to confident in God’s working.

Overall I found this commentary very helpful and informative.

Two Dickensian Christmas Stories

In A Tale of Two Hearts by Michelle Griep, Mina Scott is an innkeeper’s daughter in 1853 London. She enjoys Dickens novels when she can borrow them and dreams of a better life. She wouldn’t mind if William Barlow, a regular customer in her father’s tap room, was part of those dreams.

And then the unthinkable happens: William asks her to pose as his wife for a dinner with his uncle. The uncle is trying to determine which nephew will be his heir, and William thinks that appearing married will give him a better chance, especially considering his unstable earlier years.

Mina reluctantly agrees. She enjoys the visit to the restaurant and then the uncle’s townhouse, where she feels like a real lady. But she finds she really likes William’s uncle and feels bad for deceiving him. William does as well. Then they discover a scheme by the other nephew in line for the inheritance, and their focus turns to protecting the uncle. But how will they be believed without sounding like they are just angling for a better position themselves?

In The Old Lace Shop, also by Griep, Bella White is recently widowed, but not in mourning. Her husband was abusive, and she had only married him due to her father’s machinations. While selling off her husband’s property, she decides to keep one industry: a small lace manufacturer. She doesn’t need the income, but she needs to prove she can function on her own.

The shop has a partner, though Bella is the majority owner. When she moves to Nottingham to visit the shop, she’s stunned to find that the partner is the man she loved who left without a word to her several years before. After their awkward getting to know each other again and overcoming his resistance to her partnership, they try to find a good working relationship. But they clash on several points. And then they discover a plot that endangers both of them and the people they love.

These books were the second and third of Griep’s Once Upon a Dickens Christmas series. The first was 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, which I read a couple of years ago (linked to my review). The first two books were released separately in two subsequent years, but now they are combined in Once Upon a Dickens Christmas with the third.

As far as I could tell, the stories didn’t seem to be a retelling of a particular Dickens book. But they were from the same era and in similar style. Dickens himself shows up in the last two (I can’t remember if he did in the first).

Another common thread was a “second chance” coin—not a token of luck, but just a wish or acknowledgement for the recipient.

A few quotes:

Real joy is not found in the best moments of life, but in trusting that God is making the best of every moment.

My mother–God rest her– always told me to think of eternity, then live backward from that. Such a view has a way o’ whittlin’ down our current troubles to a size we can crumple up into a ball and toss aside.

His face was a road map of years.

Maybe, perhaps, true meaning in life had nothing to do with outward trappings but with inward genuineness.

Funny, is it not, that one doesn’t know how bad one really is until trying hard to be good.

One quote was overstated a bit. . . . “The heat of a thousand suns burned along every nerve, and settled low in his belly.”

I got a little frustrated with the characters and their choices sometimes. But these books weren’t bad companions for the last weeks of the year.

Bedside Blessings

Bedside Blessings by Charles R. Swindoll was one of my mother-in-law’s books. I had never read him, but I have heard parts of his sermons on the radio. I decided to go through this book last year.

It’s a small book, 5 1/2 inches by just under 4 1/2 inches. Most pages contain just a paragraph or two from Swindoll and a Bible verse. It takes its theme from Psalm 63:6 (NASB): “When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.” It’s just the right size for the nightstand, just the right length for a thought to begin or end the day with (or turn to in the middle of the night.)

Most, if not all, of Swindoll’s writings here seem to come from his other books. Sometimes his sentences didn’t seem to be on the same theme as the verse for the day—maybe they were in their original context. But for the most part, his words go along with the verse in the readings.

A few quotes from the book:

The Word of God doesn’t tell us about the truth; it is the truth. It doesn’t merely contain words about God; it is the Word of God. We don’t have to try real hard to make it relevant; it is relevant. Don’t neglect it. It is the foundation of a stable life. It feeds faith (p. 22).

When I read God’s Word, I don’t find that many stories about great crusades and city-wide revivals and mass meetings where God’s attention rested on an entire country or a whole community. More often, I find individual men and women who made a difference, who set the pace or cut a wide swath or stood in the gap and changed their times. From Genesis to Revelation, we see God’s hand on the lives of individuals who thought and said and did what was right – regardless- and as a result, history was made (p. 186).

When the temptation to worry first arrives, that’s the critical moment. The tendency is to entertain it. To let it onto the front porch and allow it to sit there. But before you know it, worry has crawled in through the window and made itself at home! No, worry must be stopped. We have to decide that we are going to commit this worry to God right now and refuse to entertain it, even on the front porch of our thinking (p. 190).

When preparing for an unprecedented event, wait on the Lord before getting involved. At least as important as the thing we are waiting for is the work God does in us while we wait (p. 208).

If you are blessed with abilities, if you are gifted, if you are used by God, it is easy to start believing your own stuff. Yet one of the marks of a truly mature life is humility of spirit. A truly humble person looks for opportunities to give himself freely to others rather than holding back, to release rather than hoarding, to build up rather than tearing down, to serve rather than being served, to learn from others rather than clamoring for the teaching stand (p. 315).

God’s redemptive providence is always at work, even through the most diabolical schemes and actions. . . .So, take heart, my friend. God is in full control. Nothing is happening on earth that brings a surprise to heaven. Nothing is outside the scope of His divine radar screen as He guides us safely home. Things that seem altogether confusing, without reason, unfair, even wrong, do indeed fit into the Father’s providential plan (p. 332).

All in all, I thought it was a good resource.

(Sharing with Booknificent Thursday)

Reading Plans for 2021

One of my favorite things to do is chart out my reading plans for the year. I don’t want to be rigid about them: I like flexibility to pick up something unexpected during the year. But being intentional with my plans helps me get to the books I’ve long wanted to read plus expands my reading horizons.

Last year I participated in several reading challenges, thinking that they’d be easy to do since they overlapped and I could list the same books for several of them. But the record-keeping took way too much time and thought. Then one host just stopped blogging in February and one took her blog down during the year. So this year, I am back to the tried and true plans I have used for years plus a couple of new ones that worked out well last year.

Karen at Books and Chocolate hosts the Back to the Classics Challenge. Books have to be 50 years old and fit within the categories chosen for the year in order to qualify. Karen draws a name from participants at the end of the year to receive a $30 gift card towards books, and the number of categories you finish determines how many entries you get.

Here are the categories for this year. We don’t have to name what books we’ll read yet, but I have a couple of ideas (subject to change!)

1. A 19th century classic: any book first published from 1800 to 1899. Probably The Warden by Anthony Trollope, the first of his Chronicles of Barsetshire series. I read the middle book in the series, Doctor Thorne, last year and loved it.
2. A 20th century classic: any book first published from 1900 to 1971.
3. A classic by a woman author. Something from D. E. Stevenson.
4. A classic in translation, meaning any book first published in a language that is not your primary language.
5. A classic by BIPOC author; that is, a non-white author.
6. A classic by a new-to-you author, i.e., an author whose work you have never read. Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster. I’ve read a couple of books based on this one, so I need to read the original.
7. New-to-you classic by a favorite author — a new book by an author whose works you have already read. I’m working on reading what Dickens books I haven’t read yet. Maybe Nicholas Nickleby.
8. A classic about an animal, or with an animal in the title. The animal can be real or metaphorical. (i.e., To Kill a Mockingbird).
9. A children’s classic. Thinking about either Peter Pan or Tarzan.
10. A humorous or satirical classic.
11. A travel or adventure classic (fiction or non-fiction). It can be a travelogue or a classic in which the main character travels or has an adventure.
12. A classic play. Plays will only count in this category.

Bev at My Reader’s Block hosts the Mount TBR Challenge to encourage us to read the books we already own.. Every 12 books read is another level or “mountain” climbed. We don’t have to list the books yet, but we do have to commit to a level. I am committing to Mt. Vancouver (36 books). The one main rule here is that the books have to have been owned by us before January 1, 2021.

The Backlist Reader Challenge hosted by The Bookwyrm’s Hoard has the same idea as Mt. TBR. The main difference is we don’t have to own the books–they can be on our TBR list as well as actually on our shelves.

We don’t have to list what books we’ll read for the TBR or Backlist challenges, but these are some that I want to get to. I only asked for two books for Christmas—a record low for me!—because I had so many stacked up from previous gifts.

The Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted by Shelly Rae at Book’d Out should be easy, since I read a lot of nonfiction anyway. But the books need to fit in these categories for this year’s challenge.

  1. Biography
  2. Travel
  3. Self-help
  4. Essay Collection
  5. Disease
  6. Oceanography
  7. Hobbies
  8. Indigenous Cultures
  9. Food
  10. Wartime Experiences
  11. Inventions
  12. Published in 2021

There are different levels to choose from for goals. Though I know I’ll read more than 12, I am only going to aim for the Nonfiction Nibbler (6 books). If I come up with titles to fit the other categories–titles that I want to read for themselves and not just for the challenge—I’ll see how far I can get.

Finally, Tarissa at In the Bookcase hosts a Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge in June and a Literary Christmas Challenge in November and December. I’ll say more about those when they come up.

So that the plan for this year. I am excited!

Do you have any plans for reading this year? Do you participate in any reading challenges? I’d love to hear about them.

(Sharing with Senior Salon)

Book Review: Mistletoe and Murder

Mistletoe and Murder: A Christmas Suspense Collection contains ten novellas by different authors. Some are cozy mysteries: some are a bit darker. For some, Christmas just happens to be the time of year the story occurs and doesn’t really figure into the plot. Others depend on the Christmas setting more heavily. Most have Christian characters and undertones, some more than others.

Here’s just a brief description of the types of stories in the book:

Dead of Winter by Mary Alford: A deputy receives a mysterious text from her brother and then finds his cabin empty, his rifle missing, and blood on the door frame.

Death the Halls by Adam Blumer: A woman plans to introduce her boyfriend to the family at their cabin over Christmas. But someone has ransacked the cabin and takes the woman hostage.

Revenge Ignited by Liz Bradford: A Christmas thief is hitting houses in Knoxville. But the person who robs the home of an FBI agent on bereavement leave, taking care of her dead sister’s children, seems different from the rest.

The Marked Witness by Vicki Hinze: A security consultant hears from a woman and her daughter who had previously been placed in witness protection. They have reason to believe they’ve been discovered and are in danger.

Ghost of Christmas Past by Shaen Layle: An unstable man stalks his ex-wife and lures their deaf son away from her.

The Confession of John Doe by Loree Lough: An Amish Good Samaritan comes to the aid of a man thrown from his car and badly injured. When he returns to the hospital to visit the man, he is asked an even bigger favor: to hide the man from the criminals seeking his life.

Killing Christmas by Nancy Mehl: A long-dormant serial killer resurfaces and wants a pastor who writes a weekly column for the newspaper to write his story.

Deadly Drive by Cara Putnam: A woman’s twin brother has been shot, and she’s called to make a positive identification. When her plane arrives, she’s met in the airport by her brother’s roommate . . . only her brother didn’t have a roommate.

Dangerous Christmas by Lynn Shannon: A social worker narrowly escapes an attacker. When a policeman takes her home, her apartment has been broken into and someone has painted an ominous message on her wall. But why?

Yuletide Protector by Virginia Vaughan: A woman had told the police that her ex-boyfriend was stalking and threatening her. But he’s also a policeman, and the officers protected him instead of her. She changed her name and took precautions. But now someone with her same name is killed in a car bomb. Had that bomb been meant for her?

Most of these are stand-alone stories, but a few tie in to an author’s previous series. But enough was explained that I wasn’t left hanging.

I had only read Adam Blumer and Cara Putnam before. I’d heard of Loree Lough and Nancy Mehl. The other authors were completed new to me.

The stories were definitely suspenseful! I enjoyed some more than others. Since they were all set at Christmas, they all turned out well in the end.

In some cases, a novella doesn’t really provide enough time for two people to fall in love, especially if they were strangers beforehand. So some of the romances seemed a little rushed.

There was one spot where the theology was a little wonky, but most of the time the faith element was a clear and vital thread in the story.

Christmastime seems to lend itself to anthologies. But I’ve never read a collection of Christmas novellas with as many as ten stories. That added up to 938 pages—a little long, in my opinion, for a book that’s primarily going to be read in one month. I would have enjoyed it more if it had broken broken up into two books read on subsequent Christmases.

But I did enjoy it, for the most part. And I think anyone who likes mystery, suspense, crime drama, detective stories, and the like would love it.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent Thursday)



Literary Christmas Challenge Wrap-Up 2020

A Literary Christmas: Reading Challenge //

Tarissa at In the Bookcase hosts a Literary Christmas Reading Challenge to encourage reading and sharing at Christmas time.

I didn’t get to one book from my original plans, but I did listen to an audiobook I hadn’t planned to—so I guess it all worked out evenly in the end.

Here’s what I finished, linked back to my reviews:

  • Loving My Actual Christmas by Alexandra Kuykendall, nonfiction. Ways to enjoy Christmas as it is rather than an idealized version, with lots of tips.
  • Joy to the World: Daily Readings for Advent by Charles Spurgeon, nonfiction. Short excerpts taken from some of Spurgeon’s Christmas sermons and arranged as a 25-day devotional.
  • A Christmas Longing by Joni Eareckson Tada, nonfiction. A lovely book filled with Joni’s artwork and meditations about Christmas.
  • A Very Bookish Christmas by Sarah Holman, J. Grace Pennington, Kate Willis, and Rebekah Jones, fiction. Four stories each tie in with a classic book.
  • Mistletoe and Murder: A Christmas Suspense Collection of ten novellas by different authors, fiction. Very suspenseful!
  • A Tale of Two Hearts and The Old Lace Shop, two stories in Michelle Griep’s Once Upon a Dicken’s Christmas. I’m not quite done with the last one, but I wanted to get the wrap-up post in before the reading challenge closed completely.

Thanks to Tarissa for hosting once again! I always enjoy it.

Nonfiction Reader Challenge Wrap-Up

Shelly Rae at Book’d Out hosts the Nonfiction Reading Challenge . The idea is to read nonfiction books in the categories she has chosen and choose a level to aim for.

I do read several nonfiction books a year as it is. But I only aimed for the Nonfiction Nibbler (6 books), since I wasn’t interested in all the categories for the next level.

As it turned out, I read 10 books that fit the categories, and several more besides.Here are my choices for this year’s categories, with links back to my reviews:

  1. Memoir:Panosian: A Story of God’s Gracious Providence by Chris Anderson
  2. Disaster Event: Green Leaf in Drought by Isobel Kuhn
  3. Social Science: Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam
  4. Related to an Occupation:  True Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal—and How Nearly Dying Saved my Life, by Kevin Sorbo
  5. History:The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home by Denise Kiernan
  6. Feminism:The Wonder Years: 40 Women over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty, and Strength, a collection of essays compiled by Leslie Leyland Fields (This is more about femininity that feminism, but I think it fits.)
  7. Psychology: Breaking Anxiety’s Grip: How to Reclaim the Peace God Promises by Dr. Michelle Bengston
  8. Medical Issue:7 Steps to Get Off Sugar and Carbohydrates by Susan Neal
  9. Nature:
  10. True Crime:
  11. Science: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  12. Published in 2020: The Answer Is…by Alex Trebek

Because I like to have these all listed in one place, other nonfiction I’ve read this year is:

  1. Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship by Warren W. Wiersbe
  2. Be Authentic (Genesis 25-50): Exhibiting Real Faith in the Real World by Warren Wiersbe
  3. Be Basic (Genesis 1-11): Believing the Simple Truth of God’s Word by Warren Wiersbe
  4. Be Concerned (Minor Prophets): Making a Difference in Your Lifetime by Warren Wiersbe
  5. Be Free (Galatians): Exchange Legalism for True Spirituality by Warren Wiersbe
  6. Be Obedient (Genesis 12-25): Learning the Secret of Living by Faith by Warren Wiersbe
  7. Be Resolute( Daniel): Determining to Go God’s Direction by Warren Wiersbe
  8. Be Reverent (Ezekiel): Bowing Before Our Awesome God by Warren Wiersbe
  9. Be Rich (Ephesians): Gaining the Things That Money Can’t Buy by Warren Wiersbe
  10. Be Victorious (Revelation): In Christ You Are an Overcomer by Warren Wiersbe
  11. Bedside Blessings by Charles Swindoll (not reviewed yet)
  12. Christian Study Guide for 7 Steps to Get Off Sugar and Susan Neal
  13. A Christmas Longing by Joni Eareckson Tada
  14. Daily Light on the Daily Path compiled by Samuel Bagster
  15. God’s Very Good Idea by Trillia Newbell (children’s book about diversity)
  16. Good Tidings of Great Joy: A Collection of Christmas Sermons by Charles Spurgeon
  17. In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character by Jen Wilkin
  18. Joy to the World: Daily Readings for Advent by Charles Spurgeon
  19. Loving My Actual Christmas: An Experiment in Relishing the Season by Alexandra Kuykendall
  20. None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different From Us (And Why That’s a Good Thing) by Jen Wilkin
  21. The Women of Easter: Encounter the Savior with Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene by Liz Curtis Higgs

I had hoped to finish Write Better by Andrew T. Le Peau and The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion by Annette Whipple, but didn’t. Hopefully I will early this year.

Though I gravitate to fiction, I enjoy and benefit from nonfiction. If you’re interested in next year’s challenge, information for it is here.

TBR and Backlist Wrap-Up Posts

Two reading challenges I participated in encouraged us to get to those books we already had but hadn’t read yet. One was the the Mount TBR (To-Be-Read) Challenge hosted by Bev at My Reader’s Block. Every 12 books read is another level or “mountain” climbed. My goal was Mt. Vancouver (36 books). I surpassed that and made it to Mt. Ararat (48 books). Yay! Many of those had accumulated on my Kindle app through various sales.


The Backlist Reader Challenge hosted by The Bookwyrm’s Hoard had the same goal: reading already-owned books. So my result was the same: 48 books.

The Backlist Reader Challenge sign-up link

Each of these is also hosting the same challenges for 2021 if you are interested: Mount TBR here and the Backlist Challenge here. I’ll be joining in next week!

Here’s what I read, roughly in the order I finished them:

  1. Panosian: A Story of God’s Gracious Providence by Chris Anderson (2018)(Finished 1/11/20)
  2. Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke (2012)(Finished 1/18/20)
  3. The Shop Keepers by Nancy Moser (2019)(Finished 1/25/20)
  4. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle (1883)(Finished 1/29/20)
  5. Off the Clock by Laura Vanderham (2018)(Finished 2/4/20)
  6. Good Tidings of Great Joy by Charles Spurgeon (2017)(Finished 2/8/20)
  7. Hard Times by Charles Dickens (1854)(Finished 2/11/20)
  8. The Words Between Us by Erin Bartels (2019) (added 2/18/20)
  9. The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan (2017)(Finished 3/14/20)
  10. Be Reverent (Ezekiel): Bowing Before Our Awesome God by Warren Wiersbe. (1975)(Finished 3/25/20)
  11. Be Free (Galatians): Exchange Legalism for True Spirituality by Warren Wiersbe (2010, Finished 4/2/20)
  12. Green Leaf in Drought by Isobel Kuhn (1957) (Finished 4/5/20)
  13. Be Rich (Ephesians): Gaining the Things Money Can’t Buy by Warren Wiersbe (2010, Finished 4/10/20)
  14. The Women of Easter: Encounter the Savior with Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene by Liz Curtis Higgs (2017) (Finished 4/11/20)
  15. A Portrait of Marguerite by Kate Lloyd (2011) (Finished 4/15/20)
  16. Dying to Read by Lorena McCourtney (2012)(Finished 5/3/20)
  17. Castle on the Rise by Kristy Cambron (2019)(Finished 5/45/20)
  18. A Season to Dance by Patricia Beal. (2017)(Finished 5/12/20)
  19. The Wonder Years: 40 Women Over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty, and Strength compiled by Leslie Leyland Fields (2018)(Finished 6/1/20)
  20. Breaking Anxiety’s Grip: How to Reclaim the Peace God Promises. by Dr. Michelle Bengston. (2019, Finished 6/6/20)
  21. The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick (2008)(Finished 6/16/20)
  22. Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott
  23. Monday’s Child by Linda Chaikin(1999)(Finished 6/29/20)
  24. Rain Song by Alice Wisler (2008)(Finished 7/5/20)
  25. Be Concerned by Warren Wiersbe (2010, Finished 7/8/20)
  26. Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin (2016, Finished 7/20/20)
  27. If We Make It Home by Christina Suzann Nelson (2017, Finished 7/11/20)
  28. Hurricane Season by Laura K. Denton. (2018, Finished 7/20/20)
  29. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (1910, Finished 7/27/20)
  30. The Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson (2016, Finished 8/2/20)
  31. Candleford Green by Flora Thompson (1943, Finished 8/4/20)
  32. Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship by Warren W. Wiersbe (2010, Finished 8/6/20)
  33. 7 Steps to Get Off Sugar and Carbohydrates by Susan Neal (2017, Finished 8/9/20)
  34. None Like Him by Jen Wilkin (2016, finished 8/15/20)
  35. Interrupted: A Life Beyond Words by Rachel Coker (2012, finished 8/17/20)
  36. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (2019, Finished 8/22/20)
  37. Be Victorious (Revelation): In Christ You Are an Overcomer by Warren Wiersbe (2008, Finished 9/7/20)
  38. The Color of Hope by Kim Cash Tate (2013, Finished 9/7/20)
  39. Sandhill Dreams by Cara Putnam (2017, Finished 9/9/20)
  40. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2011, Finished 9/12/20)
  41. Five Miles South of Peculiar by Angela Hunt (2012, Finished 9/15/20)
  42. The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke (2019, Finished 9/21/20)
  43. Be Basic (Genesis 1-11): Believing the Simple Truth of God’s Word by Warren Wiersbe (2010, Finished 9/22/20)
  44. An Hour Unspent by Roseanna M. White (2018, Finished 10/23/20)
  45. In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character by Jen Wilkin (2018, Finished 11/7/20)
  46. Under a Cloudless Sky by Chris Fabry (2018, Finished 11/9/20)
  47. Loving My Actual Christmas: An Experiment in Relishing the Season by Alexandra Kuykendall (2017, Finished 12/11/20)
  48. Bedtime Meditations by Charles Swindoll (12/31/20) (not reviewed yet)

A lot of good reading! I’m looking forward to reading more of what’s on my shelves and in my Kindle app this year.