Book Review: Natural Family Planning Blessed Our Marriage, by Fletcher Doyle

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This book is a compilation of stories from 19 NFP-using couples, interspersed amongst information about the detrimental effects of conventional (especially hormonal) methods of birth control, both on women’s bodies and on society as a whole.

Although I am marking this book off as “A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with” for the #VTReadingChallenge, I did like this book and agree with much of its reasoning. The book highlights several positive aspects of Natural Family Planning, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • It is good for marriages, because it requires trust, respect, and communication.
  • It facilitates knowledge and appreciation of the intricacies of a woman’s body (and allows her to identify and correct health problems if necessary).
  • It preserves and enhances fertility, unlike hormonal birth control, which can permanently alter a woman’s reproductive system, even long after she stops using it (not to mention the increased risk of cancer, stroke, blood clots, and other health problems caused by hormonal birth control methods).

In my opinion, the weakest part of the book is actually the vague and sparse Catholic theology behind Natural Family Planning that is presented. I’m not Catholic, so I don’t feel compelled to follow the teachings of the Catholic church, but still, I feel like the explanation in this book is lacking, and I wouldn’t have minded a little more depth.

Book Review: The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

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As someone who “grew up” in church and accepted Christ as my Savior at a young age, it is especially interesting and powerful for me to hear the stories of how and why people from non-religious backgrounds decide to completely overhaul their lives in order to follow Christ. In her late 30’s, Rosaria Butterfield (then Champagne) made just such a costly choice. She renounced her life as (in her words) “a radical lesbian feminist professor” to become a Christian, and in so doing, she lost nearly everything that had ever mattered to her.

I was moved by Rosaria’s humility and courage, both in her initial decision for Christ and in the way she shares her story. Her love for and commitment to the Bible is evident. I appreciated her perspective on hospitality (hospitality is a major theme in this book), as that is an area I want to grow in.

Rosaria has also written a follow-up book entitled Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ, which I am planning to read soon.

I am marking The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert off as “a book by a Presbyterian” for the #VTReadingChallenge.

Book Review: Are Women Human?, by Dorothy Sayers

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This book is made up of two essays by Sayers, as well as a lengthy introduction by Mary McDermott Shideler (who apparently was an author and magazine contributor, according to my intense 30 seconds of research via Google). The basic point of these essays is, women should not be subjected to expectations and evaluations of how they should act “as women,” but should rather be seen as individual human beings with unique human characteristics: preferences, personality, opinions, strengths and weaknesses, etc.

Sayers makes her case for treating women as people without resorting to “slamming” or putting down men. In her words, “Indeed, it is my experience that both men and women are fundamentally human, and that there is very little mystery about either sex, except the exasperating mysteriousness of human beings in general.”

Prior to reading this book, what I knew of Sayers was that she was an Oxford scholar and a friend of C.S. Lewis, so I figured she was very intelligent and maybe a bit highbrow. I was pleased to find that (although yes, she is brilliant) her writing is more accessible and subtly humorous than I expected it to be. I am planning to search out more of her works.

I am marking Are Women Human? off as “a book with 100 pages or less” for the #VTReadingChallenge.

Book Review: Once Upon a Town, by Bob Greene

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Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen is a charming, true story of a little town in Nebraska that, during World War II, took it upon itself to meet every trainload of soldiers that stopped at the railroad depot (dubbed the “canteen” for the duration of the war). The stops were brief, usually only ten minutes or so, but in that time, the soldiers enjoyed coffee, homecooked food, and freshly baked cookies and cakes; danced and flirted with female teenage volunteers; and received small gifts as tokens of appreciation for their service to their country.

Much of Once Upon a Town is compiled from Bob Greene’s interviews with not only Nebraska residents who had volunteered at the canteen in their youth, but also with former soldiers all over the United States, who fondly recalled passing through North Platte. Many of the military veterans were overcome with emotion as they described the love, warmth, and encouragement they felt in North Platte. For some, the brief stop was life-changing (quite a few marriages ultimately resulted from those ten-minute stops!).

You will have to read the book to fully appreciate the magnitude of the canteen project and the generosity of the people of North Platte and surrounding communities. It is very touching to realize that all this happened in the days of food rationing. Many families gave up their own shares of sugar and other rationed goods to provide food for soldiers whom they had never met and would probably never see again.

Once Upon a Town is a feel-good book that is bittersweet only in that it makes me nostalgic for the pre-digital age.

I am marking Once Upon a Town off as “a book about a country or city” for the #VTReadingChallenge. I guess it’s technically about a town, but it’s close enough for me.

 

Book Review: Elevating Child Care, by Janet Lansbury

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This is a short handbook about the RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) philosophy of parenting/caring for children. Some of the facets of RIE come naturally to me and I’ve been doing them all along, but other aspects are new to me, and I can see how they might be helpful tools, especially in the toddler years.

I think any parent could glean quite a few useful ideas from Elevating Child Care, even if you don’t 100% buy into the philosophy. I personally feel uncomfortable with certain statements in the book, such as, “Every thought, desire, feeling – every expression of our mind, body and heart – is perfectly acceptable, appropriate and lovable” (page 21) and, “There are no wrong desires or feelings, just wrong ways of acting on them” (page 120).

But overall, I really like this approach and will definitely be using (and have already started using!) many of the techniques with my baby, who is now almost eight months old.

I am marking Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting off as “A book about parenting” for the #VTReadingChallenge.

Book Review: Teaching from Rest, by Sarah Mackenzie

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This little book is a practical, encouraging, and motivating guide for homeschooling parents. I appreciated Sarah Mackenzie’s tips and ideas for getting school done with older kids when you have infants or toddlers in the home. I also liked how she interspersed inspiring quotes, Bible verses, poems, and prayers throughout the book.

A lot of what Sarah writes in this book is simple, but it’s not necessarily common sense until you hear someone else say it! I had a few moments where I found myself thinking–oh! that makes so much sense! I should have thought of that (but I didn’t). For example, she talks about the importance of considering not only your children’s learning styles and preferences, but also your own, when selecting resources and activities.

This is definitely a re-readable book! I don’t buy many books for myself (I’m an avid library user!), but I am planning to buy a copy of this book, because it is so valuable. I can see myself reading it at least once a year.

I am marking this book off as “A book that has a fruit of the Spirit in the title” (the subtitle contains the word “peace,” so that’s good enough for me!) for the #VTReadingChallenge.

 

 

Book Review: Northanger Abbey (Graphic Novel)

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This is the first graphic novel I have ever read, and I would never have picked it up if it weren’t for the #VTReadingChallenge, in which “a graphic novel” is one of the categories. I stood, hesitatingly, in front of the shelves of adult graphic novels at my library. Everything looked strange, and frankly, unappealing (I’m not at all into fantasy or science fiction, which seem to make up the bulk of graphic novels), until suddenly, I latched onto a shred of familiarity and selected this adaptation of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. I read the original when I was a teenager and had only the vaguest recollection of the plot and characters.

My verdict: the graphic novel was okay. I don’t have anything to compare it to. The plot could have used some filling out, which I suppose is to be expected when you’re jumping rapidly from scene to scene, as necessitated by the graphic novel form. The text was really small. I had to move a lamp to light the pages better so I could see the tiny print. The character’s faces were really angular, so female faces often looked masculine, especially because the shadowing under their chins was weird, giving them the appearance of having beards. I liked the style of art used for the five large pictures at the back of the book (one of which was used for the book’s cover as seen above) way better than the style used for the graphic novel itself. It took me a while to figure out what the five pretty pictures were for. My conclusion, although I may be wrong, is that the book was originally published in five installments, with the five pictures serving as the covers. I wish that the whole book could have been illustrated in that style, instead of in its more cartoony form.

If you have a choice between reading the original Northanger Abbey novel and this graphic novel, you should definitely go for the original. You lose so much of the beauty and charm and understated wit of the original when it is reduced to graphic novel form. If someone is already familiar with the world of Jane Austen, then the graphic novel could be an entertaining enhancement. But if the graphic novel was someone’s only exposure to Jane Austen, then librarians and English teachers and literature lovers all over the world would weep.