Book Chat

This month’s book reviews:
 The Boy in the Striped PajamasThe Boy in the Striped Pajamas was recommended to me by my teenage daughter. It’s a YA book, but I think everyone should read it.

It’s the story of Bruno, a 9-year-old boy living in Germany during WWII. His father is a commandant in Hitler’s army, and Bruno is not too happy when his family decides to move from Berlin to “Out-With” at the command of “The Fury.” At Out-With, Bruno is lonely and has no friends, until he wanders over to the large fenced area near his home and meets a boy named Shmuel with his own birth date who lives on the other side of the fence. Shmuel wears striped pajamas, like everyone else who lives behind the fence. The two spend hours visiting across the fence, even though Bruno doesn’t understand what’s really going on and why the people there are so thin.

One day, just before Bruno and his mom and sister move back to Berlin, he decides to sneak to the other side of the fence and do some exploring with Shmuel. I’ll leave the ending for you to read, but, as the author says,

Nothing like that could ever happen again.

Not in this day and age.

A book for anyone to read, be moved by, and think about.


Introverts in the Church

As a definite introvert, church (at least my current church) can sometimes feel like a decidedly uncomfortable place. The going trend in churches is small groups, where we’re all supposed to emote with a group of people we’ve previously not even met. I picked up Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture with interest. Some tidbits that resonated:

  • In the typical evangelical church of 2013, introverts are often viewed as antisocial, and, therefore, lacking in faith. They aren’t often asked to be leaders because they don’t show the outward expressiveness that is considered a mark of faithfulness in the church community. The implicit assumption is that the more social interaction a person engages in, the closer he/she is to God.
  • For some churches, sociability is equated with spirituality. The mark of a progressing faith is participation in a growing number of activities.
  • “Whereas in some church traditions you enter a sanctuary in a spirit of quiet reverence, in evangelical churches you walk into what feels like a nonalcoholic cocktail party. There is a chatty, mingling informality , where words flow like wine.”

It doesn’t feel good to feel misunderstood by one’s own church congregation, who may equate introversion with depression and anti-social tendencies. Author Adam McHugh claims that some people may faithfully sit in the back pew of worship services, rarely talking to anyone and still feel a genuine connection to the community, although churches often don’t appreciate this type of congregant. “Too often churches ask introverts to change, rather than stretching their own understandings of participation.”

I enjoyed this book overall, although much of it is geared more toward church leaders than “regular” Christians.  Rejoice in your God-given temperament and use it for God’s purposes. Amen! Another relevant quote I read in a different source: He is a wise man who wastes no energy on pursuits for which he is not fitted; and he is wiser still who from among the things he can do well, chooses and resolutely follows the best. (William Gladstone, British Prime Minister)

Chasing Jupiter
Chasing Jupiter, a YA read reviewed by my 11-year-old, Sophie, who read it:

This book wouldn’t be considered one of my top ten.

Scarlett is a 16-year-old girl with a family of problems.  Her younger brother Cliff has a disability, her older sister Juli recently turned into a hippie/creepy teenager, and her grandpa, “Grandpop Barley”, is addicted to peanut butter, and no one is quite sure he is still sane.

The book is set in 1969.  Cliff is fascinated with the new organization, NASA, sending men to the moon.  He watches it over and over again, then declares that he wants to fly to Jupiter.  Scarlett, Cliff,  and Frank (the local peach farmer’s son) begin to build a stand to sell Scarlett’s peach pies to raise enough money to build Cliff a rocket to Jupiter.

Scarlett begins to realize that she is falling in love with Frank, just as he is falling in love with Juli (remember the creepy teenage hippie?).  Scarlett blew up at him at least twice in the book because of that, but never seemed to want to tell him that she liked him.

At one point, Juli left (not unusual), leaving a note saying, ‘Gone with Ziggy’ (hippie boyfriend).  Everyone freaks out, and Scarlett thinks it’s all her fault.    After about a month, Juli comes back, and apparently didn’t eat the whole time, which completely confused me.  Wouldn’t she be dead if she didn’t eat for a month?

Of course, right after she comes back, Frank comes over.  Scarlett answers the door.  He asks to see Juli.  She then asks him (in an, um, VERY loud voice) what he likes about Juli so much.  You really start to feel bad for him after he says “She’s so perfect” and Scarlett COMPLETELY blows up at him.  “You wouldn’t know perfect if it bit you on the nose!  We are perfect!  Perfect together!” and then slams the door.

Soon after that, Frank leaves for college.


Then, randomly, Cliff leans against the banister and it breaks, and he falls.  There’s this whole disturbing paragraph about his position and all the blood.  After he goes to the hospital, they find out that he’s alive(?) but that he doesn’t recognize anyone anymore.

Scarlett decides to make Cliff’s rocket for him anyway.  I didn’t understand that, because since he is pretty much terrified of them (he backs away, and scratched the mom), it doesn’t seem worth it.  As Scarlett is looked for the rocket plans, which are at Frank’s house in a shed, Frank randomly appears (wasn’t he at college?).  They start building the rocket.  Once they are finished,  Cliff is brought to the shed to see it.  There’s this big dramatic unveiling, and of course Cliff couldn’t care less.  The nurse leads him away.

Then Frank and Scarlett randomly start making house plans, about how their house is going to have a green roof and a huge kitchen.  He wants her to wait for him after he goes to college, and how they’re going to get married after that.  Then, a pretty good epilogue about how after they’re married, they make kids in the hospital’s dreams come true.

Overall, I didn’t really like this book, the way everything bad and everything good that could possible happen happened.  It didn’t seem real.  In real life, Frank would probably have either left for good or even married Juli.  But no.  All books need happy endings.


Les Miserables Radio Theater

I saw Les Miserables in London, on New Year’s Eve in the early 1990s. It would be admittedly difficult for anything to follow that heady experience, but I tried with Les Miserables (Radio Theatre), done by Focus on the Family.

One thing I learned from listening to this three-hour production is that I can’t listen to audio books too well. My mind is just too busy, and most every time I turned this on, I’d find myself thinking about something else. Finally, I forced myself to stand by the CD player and just listen. It wasn’t easy! But that’s just me :)

This was well done. The voices of the various characters made it easy to differentiate them, and the soaring background music was nice as well. I did really miss all the beautiful songs of the stage production — there were none of those. Still, for someone who wants to know the basic story of Les Mis and has three hours to spare, I can recommend this.

Thanks to Tyndale for a review copy of Les Miserables Radio Theater.


A Horse Called September

A Horse Called September reminds me of a book I would have read as a child. It was published in 1978, but I would have pegged it as written in the 1950s. It has that kind of feel. Two girls, rich Anna and poor Mary, are good friends. Mary’s dad works for Anna’s. Both girls enjoy riding Anna’s horse, September. But Anna’s dad decides that Anna is destined for greater things and so he sends her to an elite school, buys her an expensive horse, and the drama continues from there.

I enjoyed this book. It read well and even though the characters were pretty cliched and the ending unrealistically happy, it reminded me of the literature of days gone by. The girls struggled with friendship and hobbies, not with boys, bullying, or drugs. Nice, wholesome story for kids 10-14.



Picture of Dorian GrayThe Picture of Dorian Gray is a classic I hadn’t read but wanted to, especially after my daughter read it and really enjoyed it last year. It’s the story of Dorian Gray, a young man admired by all for his incredible beauty. An artist paints his portrait and gives it to Dorian, who brings it to his home, the better to admire himself. He soon realizes, though, that something strange is going on. While Dorian appears to never age, the portrait does. And although Dorian himself shows no evidence of some of the hideous things he does in life (and there are plenty), the portrait becomes more and more awful: the picture, changed or unchanged, would be to him the visible emblem of conscience.

The book is wonderful, with beautiful writing full of thoughts to ponder:

  • Realize your youth while you have it. Don’t squander the gold of your days … the world belongs to you for a season.
  • We are generous because we credit our neighbor with the possession of those virtues that are likely to be a benefit to us. We praise the banker that we may overdraw our account, and find good qualities in the highwayman in the hope that he may spare our pockets.
  • When we are happy, we are always good, but when we are good, we are not always happy.

I’ve highlighted much more, but you get the idea. Read this book! Although it was written in 1890, it’s timeless and you’ll stop many times to appreciate just how much humans have stayed the same, despite all our inventions and improvements.



Just Like JesusI was pleased to review the Just Like Jesus Devotional for Booksneeze book review program. I enjoy reading a variety of devotionals — often a brief daily reading is just what’s needed to think about off and on. And, Lucado is a great author.

This book did not disappoint. Each day, Lucado focuses on one aspect of Jesus’ heart that we should emulate. Some things that stood out to me as I read:

  • Jesus had a peaceful heart. He was willing to forgive those who hurt Him even before they asked forgiveness. He thanked God for His problems.
  • Jesus was the only one worthy of having His feet washed, yet He was the one who did the washing — touching the grimy parts of the people He was stuck with and washing away their unkindness with kindness. The one who is innocent was the one who made the gesture.
  • Relationships don’t thrive because the guilty are punished but because the innocent are merciful.
  • God has said to each of us, “I delight in you.”
  • Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life. Not every thought that comes into your head needs to be allowed thinking over.

See? I told you, it was full of good stuff. Recommended.

More book reviews at 5 Minutes for Books.


7 thoughts on “Book Chat

  1. I want to thank you for being an encourager for me to again read books, at age 71. . .

  2. Wow! You read a lot! I think I could benefit from that Introverts book. Thanks for sharing your detailed thoughts.

    Audiobooks only really work well for me for traveling. Otherwise, I’m too distracted.

    I need to read Dorian Gray.

  3. Interesting book choices! I keep thinking about reading The Boy in the Striped Pajamas but haven’t gotten to it yet. That’s the second time I’ve seen the Introverts in the Church – think I’ll have to pick that one up to!

  4. Planning to read Dorian Gray later in the year.

    I didn’t know what Boy in the Striped Pajamas was about but it sounds FABULOUS! I’ll have to look it up! Thanks for the tip!

  5. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen someone recommend The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, but I keep forgetting to put it on my TBR list. I must do that now! It sounds like it could be heartbreaking, though.

    I’m reading Introverts in the Church and Listening to Dorian Gray. I started listening to audiobooks when we moved here and some of the places I had to go regularly were 20 minutes away and I was chafing at the “wasted” time in the car. It took a while, but now I love them. I listen to them while getting ready in the morning and sometimes while cooking. I don’t think I could listen to nonfiction though, unless it was a biography — with nonfiction I have post-it tabs and underlining all over and still feel like I’m not retaining it. For me Audiobooks work really well for rereads, too — then it’s not as much of a problem if my attention drifts for a moment.

  6. Looks like you had a great month for reading. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas looks interesting.

    I had to train myself to listen to audiobooks. What works for me is listening in the car or on my iPod and usually without kids present!

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing from you.