Book Chat

This month’s book reviews post includes affiliate links.

the story of brutus andersonIt seems that animal books are popular lately, and being an animal lover, I’ve picked up a few. The Story of Brutus: My Life with Brutus the Bear and the Grizzlies of North America, by Casey Anderson, is the story of Anderson, who works with National Geographic, and his “pet” grizzly bear, Brutus. Anderson has raised Brutus from babyhood, and he takes us through their adventures.  Anderson is really good with animals, and yet he details some harrowing stories:  the time Brutus almost escaped a trailer and had to ride to his destination in the front seat with Anderson driving; the time Anderson was attacked by a mountain lion and stitched up his own hand, etc.

The book was a fascinating look into how animals live, and Anderson obviously loves them and wants to help the plight many of them are in, facing extinction through no fault of their own. However, while I read I realized that my love of animals doesn’t extend nearly as far as the author’s – I have no desire to hike for hours through knee-deep snow in order to make a great grizzly sighting, etc.

I also kept having the uncomfortable feeling that Anderson was just one adventure away from demise, a la Steve Irwin. While he kept emphasizing that wild animals are just that – wild animals – and must be understood, I felt like I was listening to an old Steve Irwin show. But I certainly wish Anderson the best; he has a great heart for wild animals and I enjoyed this book.


the breakout novelistI’ve mentioned that one project this year is working on crafting some of my childhood memories into a memoir. This is quite a time-consuming project, and I’ve found that the writing is just the beginning.

Because, my friends, publishing is a very, very big world. Very confusing. Very competitive.

So, I was thrilled to get the chance to review The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers by Donald Maass, a literary agent. I found this book to be like a semester-long writing course. It goes through a few hundred pages on how to write well:  how to build a plot, how to make settings and characters come alive, etc. Then there’s information on how to write a proposal, how to find an agent, and then a publisher.

The book is hard-bound but has spiral pages inside, which makes it very easy to keep it open. It’s a wonderful resource for any writer.

Thanks to FSB for the chance to review this book.


churchedSo, since the book I’m writing deals with my years growing up in the Baptist church, I’ve been reading several memoirs this month.

Churched: One Kid’s Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess is Matthew Paul Turner’s story of growing up in an Independent Baptist Church. And I must say, Turner’s church sounds quite entertaining. Just off the top of my head, I recall scenes where a Sunday School teacher set a Barbie doll on fire for the class, simulating hell – a man dressed as the devil comes up to the pulpit and “fights” with the pastor one Sunday morning for the sermon – a man dressed as a pirate “preaches” one Sunday against the evils of popular music.

All these theatrics were hilarious to read, although I found myself wondering if they were really true. Are there really churches as extreme as that? I grew up Baptist, and didn’t experience anything remotely similar.

Anyway, Turner grows up disillusioned with all these rules, and while he still embraces Christianity, it’s of a much more lenient nature.


a girl named zippyA Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel was a pleasure from beginning to end. It details Kimmel’s childhood, in Mooreland, Indiana, during the same era I grew up. It’s beautifully written, and I enjoyed reading Kimmel’s thoughts and take on life in general. She writes the book from her perspective as a child, and we learn her feelings about the Quaker Church she attends with her mom. We also learn about odd characters who live in Mooreland with her, and … well, this is one of those books that you really need to just read to appreciate. The voice makes it totally worthwhile.


heaven revealedHave you ever wished you could know more about heaven? I think most every living Christian has. Paul Enns has written a book about that very topic,Heaven Revealed: What Is It Like? What Will We Do?… And 11 Other Things You’ve Wondered About. He was inspired by the death of his wife, Helen. I thought one of the best parts of the book was his obvious devotion to Helen.

The book goes through many basic questions (What kind of body will we have? What will life be like?) with good scriptural answers, for the most part. A few places I felt he went off the tracks a little, such as the assertion Enns makes that in heaven, we’ll see our parents as being older than us, and they’ll see us as being  younger than them. I was curious where he got this idea, and he attributed it to author Randy Alcorn. Alcorn may be a fine author, but I would be a little leery of making such a statement based on Alcorn’s beliefs rather than on the Bible.

Still, this is an informative and comforting book overall.

Thanks to C. Grant and Company for the opportunity to review it.


16 thoughts on “Book Chat

  1. Never ceases to amaze me when you find time to read that many books in a month. An avid reader I am not.

  2. Memoirs are my favorite books to read. Thank you for the detailed recommendations! Awesome. I wish you well on your own memoir.

  3. I’ve been off-and-on interested in Matthew Paul Turner’s Churched but just haven’t been able to convince myself to actually read it. He just seems so cynical–and what I have read of him also makes it seem like he’s gone a bit too far in the opposite direction of his upbringing.

    All these memoirs look fascinating–good luck writing your own!

  4. “A Girl Named Zippy” sounds like a book I would enjoy.

    BTW, I have an excellent book on writing memoirs. I need to share it with you sometime.

  5. I too was raise Baptist but am no longer a part of that denomination. Seems like some things we were taught were way off base. I now have freedom in the Lord instead of feeling like I am living in bondage! A Girl Named Zippy sounds pretty interesting… I like to read about other peoples lives. As long as they don’t seem to ramble on…Thanks for sharing!

  6. The Breakout Novelist sounds very intriguing. Best to you on writing your book! Churched sounds very interesting too…

  7. Best wishes to you on your book! Burning a Barbie seems pretty extreme. I guess those kids never forgot that! I also think A Girl Named Zippy looks interesting. THanks for sharing your list!

    Lauren from 5M4B

  8. I’m too chicken to read any animal stories…they always make me cry! I’ve been waffling on whether I want to read “Churched” or not. And I have the Paul Enns book on my Kindle, waiting to be read! Great list!

  9. If you were Southern Baptist (as we are), it’s quite different from Independent Baptist. I read Turner’s Hear No Evil (the second one), and I never encountered that thinking in the SBC, but a friend of mine went to Independent Baptist churches, and she said a lot of it was right on spot!!

    I just downloaded the audio version of churched (free) — on (I think). He is very funny.

  10. Wow. Sounds like quite a variety! Churched sounds really interesting. I can’t say I’ve ever attended any churches quite like that, though I know one pastor who has brought a sword to church to illustrate the story of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and Peter’s reaction to the arrest. It’s interesting watching people when the pastor brings out the sword!

  11. Gave up on “Churched,” but “Zippy,” whose author is about my age and grew up in my “neighborhood” [ok I grew up on the OTHER side of the University her mom goes to in the book]. I LOVED that book and found the next one “She Got up off the couch” even better!

  12. I recently read Churched and just had to remind myself that it was a memoir and the fact that it came to no particular conclusion about what church should be or how we should involve ourselves in church didn’t matter. The ending through me a bit, especially with the declaration that Turner isn’t even sure about the validity of the Word of God. Oh well. It did have humorous moments, though.

  13. This list is very helpful. I, too, am working on writing about my growing-up years in Argentina.
    I think you are way ahead of me in the process.

  14. Fascinating list. I have been very fiction heavy in my reading lately and letting the nonfiction books just pile up. Ugh!

    Best wishes with the memoirs. Sounds like a daunting, but exciting, project. 🙂

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