Friday, August 18, 2017

2 Grammar Tools Every Writer Needs

via Pixabay

I don't know about you, but for me, catching stray typos isn't easy.

Sometimes I look back through private messages and just cringe.

I can't help with spell check for private messages, but over the last couple of years, I've found a couple of great tools for grammar checking that can at least take out some of the guesswork. If you write stories, emails or even Facebook posts and tweets, one if not both of these resources can make a huge difference in providing a second eye for your work!

(Note: This post doesn't have affiliate links. I just love the products!)

1. Grammarly
I stumbled on Grammarly when I started teaching writing lessons, I think. Sometimes I was stumped by a piece of homework and wanted a second opinion. Grammarly.com lets you upload documents (lengthy ones, but the free version limits the length) and it will give you a basic grammar check. If you buy Grammarly Premium, they'll check even more details for you, but, while I'd like the premium someday, I found that the free version does a very, very good job. Grammarly will suggest a fix, you can click on the fix they suggest, and it will automatically insert the correct spelling/punctuation for that particular word. Some of its fixes aren't always correct, so you don't have to apply all their suggestions, but they do a great job in general.

Grammarly can also be installed as a plug-in on your internet browser. What does that mean? Every time you type something, whether it's an email, or a Facebook post, or a Facebook comment, or a tweet, you'll see a little circle at the bottom of your post/email with the number of fixes Grammarly has suggested. The incorrect words in your posts and emails will be underlined in red, and you can hover your mouse over the word to see the suggested fix. Grammarly is even checking this blog post as I type!

Not only does Grammarly have a website and an internet plug-in, but it can also be installed into your Microsoft Word program (I've never used a Mac, so I don't know about Mac users--sorry!) Once installed, you can type up your document, click the Grammarly tab at the top left of your screen, and it will show the fixes for you. In Word, Grammarly doesn't show up the mistakes in your document as you go along. You actually have to click on the Grammarly button for them to reveal the suggested changes. My computer is in good health, so this option works well for me. As it slows down with age, the Grammarly plug-in will definitely slow down opening up Word (it opens a little slower with the added plug-in) so I may have to remove it temporarily as my computer ages.

I've used Grammarly all three ways and definitely recommend it. You can find the official website by clicking here. Also, Grammarly sends you weekly emails with a fun summary of statistics about your writing, which I always enjoy seeing in my inbox.

2. ProWriteAid 
I first heard of Pro Writing Aid through Steve Mathisen, a great editor who you can find by clicking here. Once I looked it up, I really liked what I saw, so much so that I bought a $40 year's subscription, and will probably buy the lifetime $140 option when this year is up. Pro Writing Aid gives you a much more robust check than Grammarly, though they both have good uses. Pro Writing Aid could very quickly look overwhelming, so Grammarly is a good choice to ease into things.

Pro Writing Aid offers a multitude of different options that help you improve the style of your work as well as the grammar. It will show you if all your sentence lengths are the same, or if you have good variety. It will show you if your quotation marks are straight or curly (There are two kinds. I had no idea.) It will show you how many repeats you have of certain words. It goes over grammar, style, cliche phrases, and so much more. Pro Writing Aid also gives you a nifty summary with fun info like how many paragraphs and sentences you have, your most unusual words, and your most repeated words.

Pro Writing Aid allows you to copy and paste your Word document into their website and check it there. But the word count they allowed you to check for free was limited, and I preferred paying the $40 to be able to check larger portions of my work. Pro Writing Aid also allows you to install their program into Microsoft Word, so you can keep Grammarly, Pro Writing Aid, and your story all in one spot.

While I haven't used Pro Writing Aid for very long yet, it seems like a valuable tool, and I'm looking forward to using it a lot more in days to come. I highly recommend trying it out by clicking here.

Grammar is important, but it's hard, too. I'm so grateful for tools like Grammarly and Pro Writing Aid which help make it easier. They give stories that extra polish to take it to the next level.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry

Some Sundays we go to a morning service and then hang out at the beach until the evening service. It's a little, tucked away spot where you can sit and listen to the waves and watch the boats go by.

Or you can read a book and tear your eyes away from the pages now and then to glance at the scene before you.

(I'm terrible like that.) 

This Sunday I took Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry with me. It's a slim little book that I'll using as a teaching resource this year, and believe it or not, I had never read it before.

*jaws drop* and you call yourself a bibliophile, schuyler. 

It's a beautiful book. And here's what I thought of it.

The Book (cover photo above and description below via Goodreads)
Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think of life before the war. It's now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching through town. When the Jews of Denmark are "relocated," Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be one of the family. Soon Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission to save Ellen's life.
My Thoughts 
Number the Stars has so many good things going for it that I was enchanted. First of all, the plot is really tightly woven, so much so that even the little, seemingly-random details Annemarie recalls about her family growing up all turn out to be vital and important. It must have been written and re-written to include only the vital details like that. As a writer myself, I am in awe.

Lowry does a beautiful job of contrasting Annemarie's sweet, warm home life with the danger of the Jews and the soldiers in the streets. I enjoyed the relationships Annemarie had throughout the story. Her memories of her big sister, Lise, her little sister Kirsty's toddler moments that Mama deals with so skillfully, and the way Annemarie's mother and father and Uncle Henrik gradually include her in their plans. Annemarie is honest about the emotions she experiences as a child, without thinking she's superior to her parents. I was expecting her to take matters into her own hands and add extra danger to the climax, but that wasn't the way it worked at all. Annemarie's ability to listen and work together with adults was the key factor that helped them call on her when it mattered most.

I was reading this with an eye to stylistic details I'll be pointing out later, so I paid special attention to the adjectives. They were placed lovingly and skillfully, and I enjoyed all the little details about cream in porridge and fish skin shoes and the gnarled apple tree that Lowry included.

And last, but far from least, the overarching theme of bravery--of doing the right thing--was skillfully woven throughout. It starts as Annemarie remembers how all of Denmark stands bodyguard for their king, and she tells her papa she will be the king's bodyguard too. It continues on as Annemarie wrestles with whether or not she could be brave, even to laying down her life for her friend. And it comes to a triumphant, stirring climax that, as the introduction to the book says, would encourage any young reader to be brave, just like Annemarie was.

I would gladly give this book to my children. It will introduce them to bravery and sacrifice and the cruelty of the Nazis in an age-appropriate, valuable, non-scarring way. I am so glad to have made the acquaintance of Annemarie and this beautiful classic, and I definitely want to return to it myself.

Right now I'm reading Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry (for the first time) and loving that one as well. Look out for another book review soon! 

Friday, August 11, 2017

How to Deal With Shame in Receiving Feedback


While I'm in the midst of editing War of Loyalties, I'm thinking a lot about feedback. Not only has my most recent round of feedback been from my editor, but over the years, I've also gotten feedback from a lot of generous people who looked at various drafts of the book. All of that has been a necessary ride, and I've been treated with kindness by each person that has looked over my work. I'm so grateful for them all. But many times other people's kindness and competency sometimes had to filter through my own hangups, and I thought it might be worth while to talk about how to deal with insecurity and shame in receiving feedback.

We're in this together. *group hug* *minky blankets for all* 

The vulnerability of creativity has always been a challenge for me. I am constantly torn between my desire to share my work almost immediately with whoever wants to read it, and the strange feeling I get when a piece of my work is critiqued. I'm not even talking about a bad kind of critique. Just the good kind, when you send it and ask people to tell you what worked and what didn't.

When I click send on a piece of work, whether it's to friends or beta readers, I generally click it in a moment of desperation, just throwing it out there before I can think about it. Once it's out of my hands, I can forget about it until they write back--and even if I know it still has mistakes in it, I'm still eager to see what they will think of it.

But when feedback returns to the inbox, especially when I know it's feedback that points out mistakes, I have a reaction that is hard to put into words. It's not hyperventilating. But a couple of times, it has been scrolling through critiques while reading as fast as I possibly can, like diving into a cold swimming pool to get over the shock of how the water feels. I skim through them and close out--hide the papers--shut it all away until my system can balance out and return to them with some degree of objectivity. Then I come back a few days later and read the comments more slowly, actually weighing the improvements that need to be made.

I have a few parts of my work that strike me with so much embarrassment I don't try to remember them too often. When I come back to those edits, I feel physically repelled--like when you put two magnets together and you can feel the force driving them apart. The magnet of shame and the magnet of the critique drive me apart so strongly that it can take a long time to fix that portion of work.

So how does one silence the inner screaming in those times?

1. There is no shame in asking someone to fix your work. 
Somehow, deep inside, there must be a lie niggling away at authors telling them they should have been able to do this whole thing themselves if they just tried harder. That's simply not true. A good piece of work can't be produced alone. It must be thrown out into the artistic community, discussed, and put through the filter of other people's perspectives to cover the blind spots we carry. It will always be better and more expensive, with bigger heart, when you have the additional ingredient of other people's perspectives and feelings and questions to take it beyond what you could do on your own.

The trick is to find good artistic community. When you know that the group of people who are tearing your work apart are, at their core, on your team, you can survive it. Throughout all the years of working on War of Loyalties, I have been blessed with critique partners and an editor who have been kind even while sometimes having to give very tough critiques. Hard knocks lead to growth, if only I can let it.

Sometimes shame comes from the fear that we should have known better, and people will think we're lacking in some way. It's so hard for me to remember: just because you feel ashamed of your mistakes doesn't mean for a moment that your artistic community feels ashamed of you. You're learning. That's acceptable. You made mistakes. That's acceptable as well. No one will fault you for that. You can't even start walking or get through school without the try and fail and try again process. Mistakes and critiquesares the perfectly natural and normal progression of trying to publish a book or create a piece of art.

2. You'll like the next result much, much better. 
Facing your mistakes is the bitter taste that later turns to sweet. As you acknowledge and fix them, you start feeling a sense of relief. "That problem my story always had--it's getting better now." "I never knew what to do with that, and now I can make it clearer." "I really like this new scene--it shows instead of telling." "I can face people with my work more confidently now that this is fixed." It is hard to face mistakes, and there are moments of needling self-doubt, but all in all, I love the better final product that comes from the feedback others have given me.

It's a sweet relief, because, deep down, we all know our work has flaws. The best antidote to that is not hoping that other people won't notice them, but getting help to fix them. The relief of fixing something is much more lasting than the relief of hoodwinking people about your weak spots. So lean into critique. It's on your side.

3. Remind yourself this draft is better than the last one. And the next draft will be better still. 
I always like to sigh with relief when I get a round of feedback and think "At least they didn't see the draft before this one." All of us have those drafts stashed away. ;) Some of the scenes in the first, handwritten draft of War of Loyalties would make me break out in a sweat if anyone saw them. (No one is ever going to see the scene where one character transports luggage to the train station.) They can be quietly lost in oblivion. What you've shown people is better than the first draft, times one thousand. *sigh of relief* What you write next, will be even better still. You'll get to live that feeling of excitement and having done a good job all over again, and that feeling never grows old.

4. Turn on some music to distract the brain while you fix it. 
So here's what you do. If you're sitting in a chair, writing a blog post and procrastinating, instead of facing your work and fixing it (like I was last night) then turn on Spotify, pick a really loud and fast piece of music, (or any music, really) and let that music distract your mind while you sit down and get to business.Or text a friend and tell them your dilemma so they can keep you company while you write. Sometimes the faster you face and fix a mistake, the less painful it is. Don't stop. Don't get bogged down in it. Don't wallow in the shame. Take someone's hand, get back up, and throw your whole heart into improving it just like you threw it into creating in the first place.

The Hidden Pride in Shame 
Here's the artistic sweet spot: if you can dive down into the deep pool of emotion and throw that into your work with all the authenticity you can muster--if you can put your beating heart on the page--and yet have enough humility to give it to someone whose honesty you respect and ask them to show you how to make it better--then you can make it.

I don't have all the humility I need to have. It is possible, and I realized this just now, to have a very prideful spirit even while accepting critique. I can tell myself  (and often do) that I am strong enough to take my blows and get up again. But ultimately, that's really the same kind of pride as my reticence to be critiqued. It's still making it all come back to my own strength and wisdom and ego.

So I must learn, somehow in all of this, that shame is pride. There is humility in quietly accepting that my work has errors and I need help in fixing them. And I must learn that the wrong kind of strength can be pride as well. It is humility to admit that my self-mustered tenacity is sin, and I need a different kind of strength entirely.

So gratefully lean into critique, and forge ahead into allowing that critique to make your work a better thing. Pray for a humble spirit to accept the advice that you receive. Rely on God-given strength. Take a deep breath before you open that feedback.

And then get to work and make your book better than you ever thought it could be.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Name Unknown, by Roseanna White

I'm going to keep this short and sweet, darlings. I got up at 4:45am this morning, and I'm ready to hit the feathers.

But oh, my was this a good book. A satisfying book. Can you believe all the good books that have come out this year? I can't. I feel like so much creativity and warmth and depth and originality has been springing out of publishing houses. Some of the books I really enjoyed weren't even published this year, I just discovered them this year. But others were, and Roseanna White's A Name Unknown, hot off the press, is a WW1 novel you won't want to miss.

Check out Goodreads for all the descriptions and whatnot here.

My Thoughts 
The premise grabbed me right away with its creativity--World War One (a favorite, because I write WW1 literature, and the time period isn't super common) a novel about London thieves, and a novel about spying, offered so much to enjoy. And guys, it's a really, really fun story. Definitely worth adding to your TBR this year.

First: the characters and setting are effortlessly creative. I love the Cornish setting (hadn't really paid attention to that before or read books with that focus) and the micro-level settings of the library and Peter's study offer so much fun. As a WW1 author myself, I loved reading about some of the historical details (did you know paper clips were around pre-WW1?) as well as the time where people were straddling electricity and non-electricity, carriages and motorcars.

I loved Rosemary's background. It has a very Dickensian streak to it, with the London pub, the close sense of family, and the thievery that they resort to to stay alive. And Peter...Peter was my favorite. He's so kind, with the way he writes heartfelt letters to people, and so funny with his messy library and the way he shushes you when he has some novel inspiration he doesn't want to lose. I'm afraid this will sound like gushing, but it's not meant to be. It's just an honest love for a good fictional friend.  I liked how Roseanna capture the perspective of a writer, because as a writer, I can resonate well with that. :)

I also really appreciated the romance. Peter and Rosemary have a very natural, good progression from employer/employee to mentor/mentee, to Peter praying for her in a crisis, to friends. They exchanged thoughts and opinions and worldviews, and I really resonate with worldview exchange plus gentle kindness in moments of vulnerable distress, (those two things basically sum up why I love Peter Holstein's character). The character arcs are alive, feel very natural and real, and the relationships of the characters to one another and to God are so well-written, it made me really enjoy the book.

The paperback edition is nice to hold and read. If you want a fun WW1 historical novel with intrigue and a dash of really well-done romance, A Name Unknown is the perfect choice. You can find it on Amazon.  I can't wait for book 2 in this series!


I received this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Friday, August 4, 2017

In Which My Lady Bibliophile Introduces Movie Reviews

via Pixabay
A while ago I put a poll on Twitter asking if anyone would be interested in movie reviews on My Lady Bibliophile. I've thought wistfully now and then that it would be nice to put a movie review up, because I love movies, and they offer so much story and characters to delight in. The Twitter poll generate a  positive response, so I thought, hey! Why not!

So this post is more of a groundwork set-up to tell you a little bit about how I watch movies and filter them. I watch a lot of movies in the British drama line, as well as a few modern ones. I've enjoyed everything from the Kendrick Brothers to Masterpiece Theatre to Star Wars to Andy Griffith to The North Avenue Irregulars. (Wide variety of genres there).

When we find a movie we like, we like to own it and watch it multiple times. (I am a hoarder and keep my personal stash in a separate place from the family collection.) And as I've grown older, and learned more about writing, I learn to appreciate good movie adaptations even more. A clever script. A really well-done variety of characters. A twist on the original novel (if it's a book adaptation) that enhances the story and remains in the original spirit of the book. There is so much to love and be inspired by.

(i'm still not hugely excited about movie commentaries, though.) 

So I've never really written a formal movie review, and I don't want them to be too formal in tone. But in future, I'd love to share with you some movie discussion posts that go through what I think/especially appreciated, thought was poorly done, or got really excited about. We'll try to keep it light (lots of fangirling) but still productive (something to chew on). I'll also try to throw in a mini-content guide for sensitive and mature content.

Speaking of mature content, Schuyler, tell us how you deal with that. 

That's a good question, actually. It takes longer to explain than it does to actually put into practice. There are several approaches to dealing with sin in movies. First of all, sin should never be condoned or celebrated. But if I'm watching a book-to-movie adaptation, I sometimes run into characters who commit sin and sometimes just plain tragedy that happens. What do you do when Fanny Price goes home to her drunken father and he takes the Lord's name in vain several times? Or when there's a flashback scene of Molly's violent back story in Great Expectations? Or when Andrew Davies decides we need a scene of Willoughby's philanderings at the beginning of the 2007 Sense and Sensibility? How about the battle scenes in Lord of the Rings? Should I throw out a movie because it has a bad statue in a couple of scenes? What about the objectifying comment a gentleman makes at the dinner table in Little Dorrit? These are good questions, and they should be addressed. The approach I have found that allows me to watch valuable, lovely stories while not relaxing standards with inappropriate content is to learn how to edit those sections.

Here are three hot topics and how I deal with them when watching movies:

Language: As you know, I'm pretty sensitive to language around here. If I watch characters use language without filtering it, it starts slipping into my mental vocabulary, and that's the kind of edifying thought life Christians are encouraged to have. Some people might not be affected that way, but I am. So whenever possible, I watch the movie, write down a list of keywords that will remind me where to mute, and then do my best to mute the instance whenever I watch the movie again. That system has worked pretty well in addressing the problem for me, because I like to think of muting the words as a way of signaling to my mind "this isn't ok". It's the same as using white-out in books. Since I'm going to watch it multiple times, and I don't like language, I might as well learn how to take it out. That's really worked, opened up a way to watch edifying movies I couldn't see otherwise, and made a lot of book-to-movie adaptations a lot more comfortable to watch. Some movies go above my preferred amount of language (like Middlemarch), and those movies I wait on until I can watch them with a filter like VidAngel that would filter out the language for me.

(Let's be honest though, watching 7.5 hours of Little Dorrit every 18 months doesn't give much practice time.) 

Sex: Obviously I don't watch sex scenes. That should be a given. If I'm watching a book-to-movie adaptation that has a brief scene of a married couple in bed together, (The Young Victoria, for instance) I fast-forward. If there's a bad piece of statuary, and I'm watching it on my laptop, I cover it with my hand or find another place on the screen to look. If someone makes a crude comment, I mute it out. Again, it's another way of enjoying a good and profitable film while still training your eyes that modesty is important and to be maintained. It's not couch potato time.

Violence: While this isn't a hard and fast rule for me, if there is a murder on screen (Great Expectations, Little Dorrit), I generally fast-forward, but if it's a battle scene (Lord of the Rings), I generally feel comfortable watching it. Battles move faster, and in a lot of movies, are fairly bloodless. Murder scenes are full of malice and calculated violence, and often disturbing to watch on screen.

In saying these things, I'm not at all referring to filtering movies that are chock full of evil here (that wouldn't be profitable for anyone). I'm talking mainly about movies where you can spit out the scattered seeds and still enjoy the fruit of it. So far, in pursuing entertainment choices that match with my pursuit of Christlikeness, and my love for classic literature, this is a system that has worked well for me over the years. I really hope it can be helpful for some of you, too!

Future Movie Reviews 
I'm really excited for the future of discussing movies with you all. There are myriads of good movies out there to talk about, laugh over, discuss, watch again and again, and celebrate. There are tons of issues we can unpack about fantasy movies, movie theatres, how to pick out and watch a good movie, and things like kissing and costumes. And, since so many movies are based on books, I feel like it will stay true to the spirit of this blog (book-related) while opening up a new avenue of things to think about.

Now for picking out the first one to be reviewed. ;)

Do you have a movie you want to see reviewed here? Questions about this movie watching process? I'd love to discuss with you!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Book Cake Tag


I'm back! I'm alive! (One cold later, with a conference trip combined.) 

Last week was a week of decadence, spiritually speaking and edibly speaking. On Thursday we stopped at The Cheesecake Factory with friends for the first time ever, and great was the rejoicing thereof. The cheesecake was rich--the whipped cream was piled high in the most elegant swirls--and the restaurant itself was ritzy. After eating that, we meandered further on to a coffee shop for a confab with more friends, and I tried a London Fog from Starbucks. 

You know when you want to try something and you anticipate it and savor it in your head, and then you go in for that first sip? 

It was everything I imagined it to be. It was this song put to drink form, and so, so perfect for story inspiration. 

We listened to some amazing teaching on speaking truth in our heart, went for French fry runs after ten at night, and stopped at a pizza place that looked a little suspicious (perfect for story atmosphere) on the way home. It's one of those weeks that you savor in memory.

And then when we got back from the conference, I saw one of my favorite modern singers in concert--and that experience was everything I hoped it would be. Having an active imagination means that joys and sorrows are heightened, and sometimes, when you look forward to something, the flies gather over the ointment, leaving you rather disappointed on the whole. But that really didn't happen last week, and I'm so grateful for that--I can hold the memories golden, looking back and saying "Remember when? Yeah, that was good." 

Enough meanderings. I'm going to ease in today with the book cake tag, compliments of Jennifer Frietag over at The Penslayer, Cait at Paper Fury, and Elisabeth Grace Foley over at The Second Sentence! This looks super fun. :D 

CHOCOLATE CAKE
(a dark book you loved)
 I don't think I'm really the one to answer this question. I like probably more elements of dark in my book, so it might take more dark for me to realize it's dark? I don't know. But Patrick Carr's The Shock of Night fits into dark really well. It has a grittier cast with some pretty intense mind-reading abilities. 

VANILLA CAKE
(a light read)
Old Friends and New Fancies is the perfect, fluffy, Austen-inspired read. I had so much fun reading that in the sleepy time of a Saturday morning when you've stayed up late and you don't want to move anywhere too fast. 

RED VELVET
(mixed emotions)
The Brethren, by H. Rider Haggard, came up in conversation recently and that really gives me mixed emotions. Because Haggard made a really gutsy decision that fit with the story, but I really, really hate the decision he made. It was well done, but hateable. :P 

CHEESECAKE
(recommend to anyone)
L.M. Montgomery. Dickens has a different flavor, and I almost put Rosemary Sutcliff, but L.M. Montgomery’s books embody beautiful writing, universal themes, a good size novel without being too long, and stories that ripen to an even better flavor over time. Anne of Green Gables and Jane of Lantern Hill are always good ones to start with. (This was a total cheat answer, I know.) 

COFFEE CAKE
(started but never finished)
To echo Elisabeth Grace Foley’s protest, who never finishes coffee cake? It always gets eaten at our house, especially with streusel topping. But, I suppose, a book I never finished was Les Miserables. I started quite a bit, but I didn’t like his worldview (though to be fair I love some of the musical songs), so I passed it by. I honestly like the story through shorter means just as much, and can enjoy my favorite parts that way. 

TIRAMISU
(left you wanting more)
Tracy Groot's The Maggie Bright. It left me wanting anything she's ever written as an author, it was that good. While the book was a stand-alone, I loved her writing style, her historical atmosphere, and the whole story, and can't wait to keep following her career. If you've seen Dunkirk recently, you'll love this book! 

CUPCAKES
(4+ book series)
The Cadfael mysteries, by Ellis Peters. While they have some language I don't like, they are like cupcakes--short and deliciously consumable. You can read them quickly, and they're like a really good cupcake--they don't leave you disappointed in the flavor and texture.

FRUITCAKE
(not what you expected)
I actually don't mind fruitcake! And I have no idea for this? I guess Peter Pan didn't hit me in the way I was expecting the first time I read it, which made me really sad, because I was expecting magical feels-inducing things that would take me by surprise, and somehow I just didn't feel those things for the first read-through. Maybe I can try it again someday.  

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE
(fav american novel)

I don’t know what constitutes an American novel, so I’ll fudge a point and say a novel by an American author? I mean, I think that qualifies? Anything by Gene Stratton Porter. I really liked Her Father's Daughter--it's set in California and has some really good themes of education, homemaking, friendships with guys, and facing subtle abuse. 


So there you have it. I love this idea, and want to create something similar of my own to match characters with flavors! Have you done the Book Cake tag? 

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Book Review Programs I'm Part Of

via Pixabay
If you've been around My Lady Bibliophile for any length of time, you know that I sometimes review books that I receive from publishers. I found some of these programs through blog posts on the interweb, and because that was so helpful for me, it might be helpful for some of you as well.

Book review books are really special. They're completely free and can be in ebook or print copies, though many programs are really generous and give you a choice of which format you prefer most. Keeps all the bibliophiles happy. ;)

Many of them let you choose books at your own pace. For instance, if you get a monthly newsletter of options to choose from, you don't have to choose a book from every list--if nothing piques my interest, I'm free to pass by until next time. I generally have to read the book in somewhere between 30 or 60 days, and post an honest review to my blog and an online retailer site (like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.). I also generally post it to Goodreads because I like Goodreads and I like posting there.

Here are the programs I'm in currently:

Waterbrook Multnomah--Blogging for Books 
I've gotten books like Walking on Water and Chuck Black's Cloak of the Light from this group. This blogging program has several publishing groups (Christian, Catholic, and maybe secular, I'm not sure?) linked together, so lots of times I just go straight to the "Faith" tab and work from there, since that's what I'm most likely to be interested in. They also have books by Jody Hedlund and other well-loved authors to choose from. Waterbrook has selections posted on an online website that you can select from.

Bethany House Blogger Review Program
Who wouldn't love choosing from Bethany House? Patrick Carr, my favorite modern fantasy author, comes from there, as well as books by Michael Phillips, Kate Breslin, and my newest choice, Roseanna White's A Name Unknown. They also have nonfiction selections to choose from. Bethany House titles can be chosen from monthly email newsletters.

Moody Newsroom 
Moody has great titles as well--I've really enjoyed 20 Things We'd Tell Our Twentysomething Selves, by Peter and Kelli Worrall, and Adorned, by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Moody has a website and a newsletter, and so many solid, biblical titles.

BookLook Bloggers
I love BookLook Bloggers as well. BookLook bloggers is the program for Thomas Nelson, Zondervan, and Westbow Press, the self-publishing arm of Thomas Nelson. I've gotten so many great titles from them like No More Faking Fine and Uninvited, and I'm always excited to peek around their choices.

Tyndale Blog Network
While I've only requested a couple of books from Tyndale so far, I am really excited about the original, beautiful qualty of Christian fiction I've seen from their shelves lately (June Bug by Chris Fabry and Where Treasure Hides, by Johnnie Alexander, both of which we found at used book sales). So far I've enjoyed Tracy Groot's The Maggie Bright from Tyndale's blogger program, and I'm definitely going to be keeping an eye out for more of their books.

It's really easy to sign up for these programs--all you have to do is fill out an application and send it in for approval. I'm a US blogger, so I'm sure international readership may make a difference with availability, especially of print copies. But it's worth looking into!

Pro tip: It's so easy to forget which day I received a book on, and that leaves me scrambling around for emails of shipping notices and taking a wild guess. One thing I did with my latest book, which I'm hoping to do with others, is to jot down the date I received the book in the front cover, and then I'll know without a doubt. Saves stress. ;)

Have I missed any? Are there other programs I should sign up for? Are there any you'd like to try out from this list? Have a great weekend, and happy reading! :D

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

200 Years of Jane Austen Legacy



200 years ago, on July 18, 1817, the most beloved romance author possibly of all time passed away.

She left behind her six completed novels, two of which were still unpublished. In the two hundred years since then, a plethora of book editions, movies, and Jane Austen paraphernalia has been created. While Austen never married herself, she peopled her literary world with characters that have never left our consciousness. She is forever fixed as an enduring classic.

I first became acquainted with her when I was a young thing. Every Sunday night we would pop popcorn, and us little kids would sit on bean bags a family friend made while we ate supper and had a movie night. My parents brought out the Pride and Prejudice set back when we watched VHS tapes. I met my second Jane Austen movie, Sense and Sensibility, when my dad and brother took a day trip to Chicago. Since the youngest sister was still taking naps at the time, my mom got out that movie and I met Eleanor and Marianne. It was the beginning of a Jane Austen appreciation that hasn't ended since. Our family has seen almost all of the more recent Jane Austen movies (except the extremely iffy 1990s Mansfield Park, and the two Northanger Abbyes). They've left an undeniable fingerprint on our lives, and quotes from each adaptation are embroidered permanently into our vocabulary.

Watching the movies (I should read the books more, but I don't) has given us so many impromptu lunchtime discussions about life and personalities.We've debated over which of her villains was the worst, laughed countless times at Mr. Collin's proposal, and tried to imitate his wave to Charlotte in the Collin Firth P&P. I've taken the character quizzes (always gotten Eleanor Dashwood) growled in wrath over the horrible jabs of Lucy Ferrars, and even recently, thought about the ins and outs of Elizabeth Bennett's relationship with Wickham (that's a blog post for another time).

We've listened to the soundtracks, taken a Jane Austen movie & costumes class, and curled up with the movies countless times for rewatching when we're tired and want something to relax with. If I had to choose her favorite novels, I think I would automatically go for Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey--but if I had to choose the novel that tugs my heartstrings, it would definitely be Sense and Sensibility. The credits music to the 2007 Sense and Sensibility will forever be dear to my heart.

She is a lady I would have loved to be friends with. I can't write like her to save my life, and I honestly don't know a lot about her personal life. But our whole family has been enriched by her fictional legacy, and I'm so glad that God gifted the world of British literature with her stories.

What's your favorite Jane Austen story/movie/moment in the films? 

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Rambling, Friday Writing Chat

via Pixabay
Will you indulge me while I chat with you today? Most times I do a formal post, but sometimes I like to relax and let my hair down, and talk about books as if we were sitting across from the table from each other. So let's pretend we have London Fog in a couple of mugs (because I really, really want to try one) and talk about writing.

War of Loyalties Editing
Lately, I'm curled up in the chair, or on my bed, or in a lawn chair in our backyard, editing. After a few initial tears of terror and despair, the Lord has been good, and I have been happily, steadily working on productive changes to make War of Loyalties tighter and better. I like to think that if nothing else, I've at least kept Spotify in business. This editing process has been different to the others, because I haven't been able to listen to music with lyrics while I work. Celtic Thunder withdrawals have been nonexistent, however, and I'm really excited about some beautiful soundtracks I'm discovering and rediscovering.

Whenever something is going well, my melancholic side always wonders why, and what I am doing wrong. Somehow, the idea of struggle, tears, and hard labor feels more comfortable than the idea of being at peace and filled with joy. I have no idea if those emotions will return during this whitewater rafting process of publishing, but the Lord was reminding me that joy and peace are a gift from him, and I don't have to lash myself into distress. Peace does not equal pride if I am leaning on the Lord and seeking him for guidance. Pride still wants to rear its ugly head, but I want to pray against it, to pray for wisdom, and to pray that this project would be edited so it can bless those who read it.

New Story Ideas
During this editing season, I also have been learning about a bunch of random things that are slowly, cohesively turning themselves into a story idea. (Code named C Story, currently.) I've always been split between writing historical fiction and modern fiction (I really love both). So C Story, whenever it is written, will be modern day fiction. It was inspired by some of the latest American political happenings (full of dramatic fodder, those) as well as--I'm not sure what? There is a moment of tinder and spark that creatives never tire of, when a story is born and the inspiration for it just takes off running in your mind. So a potent combination of American politics, a study on modern-day servants, and lots of Dude Perfect and Peter Hollens on YouTube ended up sparking a novel idea. (You can laugh.)

However, the most tragic moment was when I got a piece of further inspiration for it that I lost. I still don't know what it was. But I was praying that the Lord would help me remember that piece of inspiration, and just the other night, I felt like he gave me something just as good or better to replace that lost puzzle piece. Something more visionary, that I honestly am super excited about. I'm still figuring out the specs of it, but I want this story to be an antidote to a couple of books/movies that have come out in recent years about mental illness+suicide. I hope it will have modern day Dickensian vibes, lots of drama+intrigue, and an in-depth look at a character warring with mental illness. (Plus be about 80-100K in length, much shorter than War of Loyalties and its sequel. Also, I hope this book doesn't have a sequel. I want it to stand alone.)

I am so, so excited about this story's potential. It's the honeymoon phase of an idea where everything is starry and bright and a vista of possibilities stretches out before me. There will be time enough later for the reality of the writing trenches. Right now, I'm just enjoying having something precious to imagine every once in a while, and dream about for the future. Because it's the dreams that keep everything fresh, you know?

This book excites me. It's one I want to start right away, but I'm giving it time to grow first (plus, working on publishing a book, so now is not the time to get distracted.) I bought a pack of lined paper at the dollar store yesterday just to treat myself, and when I'm ready, I'm going to pull out the pink zip binder that saw me through War of Loyalties and probably hand write the first draft of this one. I might even dabble in it on vacations, just for fun. Realistically it'd be closer to 2019 before I could finish the first draft, and the Lord might direct or re-direct by then.

But for now, while I edit War of Loyalties in the lawn chair in our backyard, I let the idea of future things light up around me like the little fireflies that keep me company. Because the writing life is not only about present faithfulness, but also about future vision.

Do you love the moment when a story is born? What story ideas are you working on right now? Is this summer easy or hard in your writing life? Tell me all! 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Never Unfriended, by Lisa Jo Baker

 

I'm cooking up a post on character observations about Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. I've been super impressed with some things I've discovered lately, in company with a book I've been reading about being an adult. But while I do that, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about a fantastic book that's been kept waiting in the review queue for far, far too long.

Never Unfriended, by Lisa Jo Baker.

The story behind the story is just as cool as the book itself. I clicked on an Ann Voskamp post one day and saw Never Unfriended featured there. There were some questions about friendship swirling around in my mind, and I thought this book might have some answers. By the time I scrolled to the end of the post, the pre-order goodies were so pretty, I was sold. So I pre-ordered this book without a giftcard, which is like a red-letter event. And it was totally, totally worth it.


The Book [official description from www.neverunfriended.com]

In a world where women can unfriend each other with the swipe of a finger, how do we find friendships that we can trust to last?

As the community manager at the website incourage.me since 2010, Lisa-Jo Baker has had the chance to engage hundreds of conversations with women about friendship. She’s learned that no one can make us quite as unsure about ourselves as another woman. And nothing can wound as deeply as unkind words from a friend. While we are all hungry for friendship, it’s the fear of feeling awkward and being rejected, left out, or hurt (again) that often keep us from connecting.

But what if we knew we could never be unfriended? Would we risk friendship then?

Starting with that guarantee from the most faithful friend who ever lived—Jesus—this book is a step-by-step guide to friendships you can trust. It answers the questions that lurk under the surface of every friendship—What are we afraid of? What can’t we change? What can we change? And where do we start?—with personal stories and practical tips to help you make the friends, and be the friend, that lasts.

My Thoughts
Lisa has a warm, conversational style that not only gives you a lot of good advice about friendship but also makes you feel like you're sitting in a lawn chair next to her, watching kids play and visiting together.

(I know, I don't have kids. So I'd just be the college-age kid coming over to visit.)

It's a welcoming, mothering book that makes you feel safe and held and cared for. Lisa talks about a lot of tricky topics and gives some really helpful advice. Friendship PTSD. What to do when your friends process in a different way than you do. How to deal with jealousy in a safe way that doesn't end up wounding your friend more. How time heals a lot of things, and a lot of times you just need to hang in there and not give up. How to have a guilt-free friendship that gives each other space when life is busy. How to give the benefit of the doubt. How to be a friend to yourself.

These topics were by turns maturing, healing, and helpful to read about, and the whole way Lisa wrote it made me feel very, very loved. My mom and I have both read this book and enjoyed it. Lisa's notes section alerted me to another book that I think will be helpful and maturing to consider. And I love the beautiful wooden photo frame with printed quotes that came with it. It was entirely worth the pre-order--something that could be called a lucky chance but was not a chance at all. It was an unexpected, happy gift from a good Father, and Never Unfriended is well worth the read. If any of those topics above sound like ones you'd like to explore further, then this book is worth checking out.

(By the way, this isn't a review copy. I just really enjoyed it! You can find a free sample of the first two chapters by giving your email address here, or you can find the entire book on Amazon.)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Outcast, by Rosemary Sutcliff

cover via Goodreads
You run out of words for Rosemary Sutcliff after a while.

She is the king's feast of the reading world. Her prose is stunning every single time--and I really wish her books were in every literature program and book list around the world. Not only does she combine moving plots and sympathetic characters, she also has a suburb knack of capturing the smallest details without bogging down in them.

I've already discussed The Shield Ring and The High Deeds of Finn MacCool in other places. Today, we're here to talk about her historical fiction, Outcast.

The Book
When a boy is found washed up on the shore after a shipwreck, a British native takes him into their tribe. But the child is Roman, and some people aren't so sure about this new addition to their community. Grudgingly, they give him a spot amongst them as he trains for manhood. But when hardship strikes the tribe, Beric is blamed as a curse. Cast out from family, friends, and home, Beric attempts to return to his own British people.

There, too, he finds he is an outcast. Kidnapped into a word of slavery and injustice, Beric's chances of finding his place in the world of men are slim to none. Was he born to be shut out from his fellows? And will he ever find a place to call home?

My Thoughts 

Beric's childhood is a really vivid part.  From the time he comes to them as an infant, lashed to his parents in the storm to the time when he is cast out and forces his dog to stay behind. I loved his passion before the fire when the clan men are going to bar him from joining the training with the other boys. Sutcliff starts the story with a gentle, constant rhythm that pulls you in and keeps you turning pages.

Justinius is #charactergoals. He made me cry (reading whilst we were riding in the car) and I love him with all the love. He's manly and gentle and kind and stalwart in the face of duty. For him alone, this book is worth reading, but coupled with all the grandness that is Rosemary Sutcliff, he's the crowning gem in a box of gourmet chocolates.

There was a brief point where I didn't think the emotion was drawn out properly, when Beric had to make a final choice and fight a major battle. I thought the choice was made too quickly, and the battle should have been captured in a shorter span of time, but perhaps that was due to a slightly disjointed reading at the end.

But the end, in all its bittersweet glory, felt just right. If you've read Sutcliff, and like her, you'll definitely want to read Outcast. It's a story of wandering, injustice, and a tenacious hold on life that is not to be missed.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

4th of July Book Sale



Every year on Independence Day, people cook out, watch fireworks, and go to parades. 

I go to the 4th of July book sale. 

no kidding, schuyler. i would never have guessed. 

Last year, I missed our traditional book sale due to an absolutely spectacular vacation--but this year it was back to tradition, and while I normally go with my mom and sister, this year I happened to go solo. 

finding parking, tho. turn signals are important, friends. otherwise you go on windy roads trying to turn around. 

While I forgot the ideal water bottle and sunscreen, I did have a totebag to hold the books. And money. Always money. It's fun when you know that part of your paycheck is going for books. Let it be known I was $1 under budget, which I thought showed Grand Self-Control. 

Seventeen new little paper friends. Here's what I found: 

Around the World In 80 Days, Jules Verne
We only owned this on audiobook, which is terrible because it's such an awesome story. Mistake rectified. 

Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend 
I'm reading a library copy, but it's good enough to have my own. More articles on this book forthcoming. 

The Jungle Books, Rudyard Kipling
I've read book one on Kindle. Now on to book 2. 

Dogwood, by Chris Fabry
We're reading Fabry's June Bug aloud right now, and it's fantastic. An absolutely creative story premise that  I can't wait to find out the end of. I'm looking forward to more of his fiction. 

The Silmarillion, by J.R.R Tolkien
I own a really nice hardback, but I thought a paperback I could use without kid gloves and travel with would come in handy. 

The Dean's Watch, Elizabeth Goudge. 
I've heard grand things of her, and can't wait to dive in. 

Holmes for the Holidays--various
I checked these out from our local library years ago, and heartily enjoyed them. Absolute fun to have them in my own collection. 

The Bourne Supremacy, by Robert Ludlum
Bourne sounds super cool--I've heard of the movies and didn't know they were books. Caveat--I picked this book up because it was $1 and have no clue about its merits or the appropriateness of its content. So stay tuned for a more informed review. 

At Home in Mitford, A Light in the Window, These High Green Hills, and Out to Canaan--Jan Karon
Four novels in the Mitford series. Best modern fiction ever.

Pigs Have Wings and Brinkley Manor, by P.G. Wodehouse 
Unfortunately, I already know the story of Brinkley Manor, which was kind of disappointing because I like fresh Jeeves stories. But tis all right. 

Flame of Resistance, The Brother's Keeper, Stones of My Accusers, by Tracy Groot 
After Maggie Bright, I'm picking up every Tracy Groot I can get my hands on. And Flame of Resistance comes recommended, so yay! 

This is what I'm most excited about....

The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Steadman
Not only is the cover beautiful, but I've heard good things about this novel, and I can't wait to discover it. 

Signing off, folkies. It's been a good day. What did you do for the 4th of July? 

Friday, June 23, 2017

The End of the Kickstarter Chapter in War of Loyalties



I sent this note to backers last night, and wanted to include it on the blog today for all of you. This is The End of this chapter in the War of Loyalties journey. We wrote it together.

I am sitting here looking for words.

One month ago, I calculated one more time and realized I needed to budget more on my Kickstarter than I had originally planned.

One month ago, I took a deep breath and hit launch.

And last night, on the last day of the campaign, at 9:20pm, I got an email notification that said



You made it! 


We made it.

There is absolutely no way we could have planned what this journey looked like so far. It's been one of grace, of so much generosity, of overflowing love from so many kind-hearted friends.

You prayed. You shared. You gave $5,000 dollars to make this indie dream a reality.

So much goes into the making of a dollar--good days and hard days, and wish-you-could-stay-in-bed-days. The fact that you chose to channel your dollars towards this project was a huge gift. And I want most of all to be a wise steward in the days ahead.

We're rejoicing today. We'll have more words, more plans, more things to share, and so much more to rejoice over.

But for today, I just want to say--

That God breaks down barriers.

That he provides in ways that look impossible.

That is joyful night is the super-sweetest thing.

That I wish I could give you all a hug.

This is my celebration, and your celebration, and our celebration.

Thank-you is such a tiny, inadequate word. But you made my heart sing tonight--and I thank God for each one of you.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Meet Jaeryn, Terry, and Charlotte...

Welcome, welcome, folks, to the War of Loyalties character interview! We’ve PASSED 4K on Kickstarter, and we went over the 75% mark yesterday!! Yippee!! We have less than 1K to go, which is a HUGE milestone! I am so grateful for the Lord's provision, for his tender mercy and peace throughout this process. I truly feel like he is leading and providing. I'm so thankful for willing hands and hearts who have prayed, spread the word, and given--without you, none of this would be possible, and I am so grateful for all the support.

Charlotte, Jaeryn, and Terry received the highest votes yesterday for a character interview. I thought this might be a bit awkward at first, but then I realize the three of them actually do have a scene together in the story, and since Jaeryn and Terry are good friends, and Charlotte can hold her own with anyone, I think they’ll get along quite well.

This interview will be conversation style, so I’ll delay no longer. Sit back and enjoy!

1.       What’s your profession? Do you like it? How long have you had it?
Terry: Ladies first, Mrs. Doc.
Charlotte: I’m a nurse—that is, until I married, and now I volunteer at the Folkestone Maternity Homes. I like the work. I’ve never wanted to do anything different—though I did like being a nurse in America better than coming to Folkestone where the future is so uncertain.
Jaeryn: Doctor for two years. Agent for seven years. I wouldn’t trade either profession for a sultan’s fortune. This is what I want to excel at.
Terry: I’m kind of a professional world wanderer, if that’s a thing.
Jaeryn: If it makes you money, it’s a thing.

2.       What’s your role in this story?
Jaeryn: Holding the world together.
Charlotte: My world spins just the same without you in it, sir.
Jaeryn: Some people prefer to think that, but I think they’d be hard-pressed if I wasn’t around.
Charlotte: Anyway. I’m moral support, and assistant at the clinic where Ben and Jaeryn work together.
Terry: So in other words, Jaeryn holds the world together, and you help him hold his clinic together.
Charlotte *beaming smile*: Exactly.
Jaeryn: I’m a doctor for part of Folkestone, an agent for the British Secret Service, and responsible for managing all the agents in Folkestone. So far, none of them have taken too kindly to managing, but we’ll make it.
Terry: Well, I don’t mind you managing me, doc.
Charlotte: What’s your role in this story, Terry?
Terry: Well—you know—being a friend mostly, and holding people’s heads together, and getting into trouble sometimes.
Charlotte: But, I mean, more specifically.
Jaeryn *hastily*: I think we should go on to the next question.

3.       Are you married? Happily, or unhappily? If you’re single, do you want to be?
Charlotte: I am happily married, and I like that so much. I could have stayed behind in America, but I’d rather be together with my husband than alone at home where it’s safer.
Jaeryn: I am happily single. It gives me more mental space to focus on my work.
Terry: I am unhappily single. But that’s going to change one of these days. I mean, how can anyone be happily single?
Jaeryn: You were happily single for a long time until the right girl showed up.

4.       What are you most afraid of?
Jaeryn: I am most afraid of—I am most afraid of losing people under my supervision in the work. It happens more often than I like, from people changing sides, and agents being killed in the line of duty. I try to keep the good ones safe and together.
Terry: I don’t know if that’s what you’re most afraid of, doc.
Jaeryn: Yes. Yes, it is. Charlotte?
Charlotte: I don’t think it’s the sort of thing a married woman confides in two men who aren’t her husband. Especially since I haven’t even told my husband about it.
Jaeryn: Fair enough. We won’t pry. Terry, the question for you is, what should you be afraid of that you aren’t?
Terry: The only thing you have to fear is fear itself, doc. And I don’t fear that, so I guess there’s not much to worry about.
Jaeryn: I’m not sure about the line of reasoning there.

5.       What’s your ideal vacation, after this story is over?
Charlotte: Home. To see my parents, and give them a hug, and tell them the truth about what we’ve been up to. Only, I don’t think I’ll be able to tell them the whole truth since it’s involved with secret intelligence, which is sad.
Jaeryn: *secret smile*
Terry: I’d go home, too, to see my mum. She hasn’t seen me in a while. I care about her a lot, I just keep tumbling into things that take a while to get out of, you know? And handwritten letters take such a long to write.
Jaeryn: You should get your girl to write them for you.

Terry: Now that’s a grand idea.


Thank you SO much for helping us get to this point, everyone! I am so grateful for you all! We're having a Facebook Live video at 10:30am EST on Friday, no matter what happens with the Kickstarter, to celebrate and debrief about what happens next. Feel free to bring any questions you might have so I can answer them! Also, the video should be archived so you can view it afterward, (as long as all the technology works out). It will all be happening at my author page: https://www.facebook.com/authorschuylermcconkey/?ref=settings and I look forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The War of Loyalties Interview Poll

We just hit $3,500 on the War of Loyalties Kickstarter (70%, my math skillz need help today). And in celebration, we're unrolling the character poll for the War of Loyalties character interview!

So here's what you do: choose 3 characters from the poll below (it lets you choose three characters at once) and click the "vote" button. The poll is open until midnight tonight! (Please vote only once.)

To get to know the characters you'll be voting for, check out the War of Loyalties character post here.

(Having trouble? Copy and past this link into your browser: http://ladybibliophile.blogspot.com/2017/05/meet-characters-in-war-of-loyalties.html)

Feel free to comment below with any questions you want to ask the characters! (You can also email me, Tweet, or Facebook your questions!)





Summer TBR + War of Loyalties Guest Post

via Pixabay
War of Loyalties Update + Guest Post

Looking for more news about War of Loyalties? Check out a post at Defending the Legacy covering some of the historical details and sources I used in the book--including enlistment law and the bomb drop in Folkestone.

Historical Details in War of Loyalties: Life on the Home Front in WW1 


The final days are ticking away on the War of Loyalties Kickstarter! On Thursday, June 22nd, at 11:59 pm, the last chance to donate--and our last chance to raise $5,000--will be gone. Kickstarter is all or nothing--meaning if we don't hit $5K, we're back to $0. Backers have poured so much incredible support into this project, and I am praying and trusting that the Lord will provide the rest. God will not let us lack the resources we need to accomplish the work he calls us to do in HIS way and timing.

You can check out the project on Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/968825317/bring-war-of-loyalties-to-print-historical-fiction?ref=user_menu

As soon as we hit 75%, (Just $90 to that milestone!) I'll put up a poll so you can vote for the characters you want to hear from. Then I'll start writing up a character interview with them! You can ask the top-voted characters any question you want, too! Just shoot me a comment (below), Tweet, or Facebook message, or email me at ladybibliophileblog[AT]gmail[DOT]com with questions you want the characters to answer! :) This is going to be fun!

Will you pray with me over the next few days for wisdom, confidence, and faithful stewardship of the opportunities the Lord has given me? I would appreciate that so much!



Summer TBR Stack 

Heading into the summer season, I've got some neat books lined up to tackle--I'm really excited about all of these.

Rescuing the Gospel: the Story and Significance of the Reformation, by Erwin Lutzer
This book covers some of the history of the Reformation. I didn't get around to my other Reformation read this spring, so I definitely want to cover Erwin Lutzer's book this summer, especially because I'll be doing some discussion lessons about the Reformation in the fall. This is an incredible time to cement why we believe what we believe and remember the people who helped us reclaim the authority of the Scriptures.

(Want more information about the Reformation? Check out my brother's incredible studies here.)

Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
I started this book, got so frustrated with myself because it was basically a mirror of my life, (totally not the book's fault) and then put it down again. But, after calming down and being so encouraged by K.M. Weiland's thoughts on it, I'm picking it back up again and heartily enjoying myself. It's an excellent read.

Gone Away Lake, Elizabeth Enright
This is another childhood classic I want to revisit. It was our family tradition to read this book every couple of years. While it has some independent kids for the first half of the book, the issues get straightened out eventually, and it brings back so many memories.

The Magician's Nephew, C.S. Lewis
I'll be teaching writing lessons that pull inspiration from The Magician's Nephew (thanks to this fantastic IEW curriculum) and I'm so excited to be revisiting The Magician's Nephew and reading it for myself this year. It's been too long.

Story Trumps Structure, by Steven James
This was on the Spring List, but it didn't get done. I can count it towards a summer reading program I'm in, so I'm going to tackle it again.

A Cup of Dust, Susie Finkbeiner
I've already skimmed through this book, and it looks absolutely incredible. Susie Finkbeiner is an author from the great state of Michigan, and reading a book by a Michigan author also counts towards the reading program I'm in.

High as the Heavens, Kate Breslin  and A Name Unknown, Roseanna White
Both of these are review books for the summer, which I'm super excited about, because they both have WW1 settings!

What are you hoping to read this summer?

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Lost Art of Biblical Meditation

As soon as I saw the title, I knew I wanted to review this book. Biblical meditation is a subject that isn't really talked about, and it leaves most people scratching their heads.

The topic of taking thoughts captive--and having healthy minds is a vital one in a world rife with anxiety. I first heard of sound thinking in the study True Woman 201, where Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Mary Kassian talked about having a sophron (or self-controlled) mind (which Nancy Wolgemuth also addressed in her fantastic book Adorned).

Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation is another piece of the puzzle in pursueing sound thinking. Why we should meditate is something a lot of us may have never thought of, and this book is here to address that topic.

Book Description [official] 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight. — Psalm 19:14

Do you long to deepen your intimacy with the Lord? To find a sense of soul-steadying peace? To develop emotional strength? Then you will need to pause long enough to be still and know He is God. Trusted Pastor Robert Morgan leads us through a journey into biblical meditation, which, he says, is thinking Scripture—not just reading Scripture or studying Scripture or even thinking about Scripture—but thinking Scripture, contemplating, visualizing, and personifying the precious truths God has given us.

The practice is as easy and portable as your brain, as available as your imagination, as near as your Bible, and the benefits are immediate. As you ponder, picture, and personalize God’s Word, you begin looking at life through His lens, viewing the world from His perspective. And as your thoughts become happier and holier and brighter, so do you.

My Thoughts 
One part of this book I really liked was in chapter 1. Robert Morgan says that our minds without Christ are dark places, and when we become saved, Christ redeems them, bringing light in. But, as he goes on to say, even Christians still struggle with shadows, and that's where meditation comes in. In another good analogy, Morgan likened meditating on God's Word to fresh water circulating through our mind. Thinking about God's Word, how to walk it out in life, and staying our hearts in anxious times on his character and promises, all help us to keep thinking in a way that is spiritually healthy. Instead of being overrun by anxiety, we are anchored to truth, something that, as I think a lot and can be melancholic, is a really good reminder. 

At the end of the book, there are 10 days of meditation guides about certain passages of Scripture. I think this is an invaluable section, as it gives you something tangible to get started with before you branch out on your own. 

I appreciated Morgan's last chapter about memorization as well. Memorization, I think, can really help with meditation, because while you're lying in bed, or driving to work, you've got that Scripture right there in your mind, and you can pull it out and think about it. If you're ever in a situation without a Bible in hand, you still have with you--memorization sometimes was the only Bible persecuted or imprisoned Christians can have, and it's always good to store it up in our hearts so we are never at a loss for fellowship with God. 

This book is written from a conservative biblical perspective, which really helps in tackling issues like meditation, which can often stray into the weird. If you've never thought about biblical meditation, this book gives a great introduction to the topic, though there are some aspects that I would love to continue to research on more in-depth. I also appreciated it, because reading a book about the Lord encouraged me to think about him more--stories are fun, but sometimes I need a recalibration. I had read the first part of the book and then let it sit for a few weeks before I finished it, but finishing the last three chapters over the weekend, as well as working on this review, helped me lift my mind to things above. 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher as part of the BookLooks blogger program. All opinions expressed are my own. 
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