Tag Archives: Book Review

Book Reviews; The Duggar Collection

I am going to review all 3 major titles in what I call “The Duggar Collection.”  They include; The Duggars: 20 and Counting!, A Love That Multiplies, and Growing Up Duggar. The first two in the list were both written by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, the last was written by Jill, Jinger, Jessa, and Jana Duggar.  If you’ve ever read my review of Do Hard Things, this review will be similar.

First, some background.  I do watch the television series about this family on TLC; 19 Kids and Counting so I was already familiar with the Duggars and there were no earth-shattering revelations for long-time watchers of the show contained in the books.  If you like the show, you’ll like the books, if you like to mock the show (or the family) you’ll mock the books.  While the Duggars’ particular brand of Christianity isn’t my brand, I still respect their morals, commitment to family, financial position, etc… so I did enjoy all three books.

Second, if you want to cut the list down, I can help do that for you.  If you want a book about the parenting principles and the life stories of Jim Bob and Michelle, read A Love that Multiplies.  It covers very similar ground as the first book, but it is more recent and contains the story of Josie.  If you want a book about relationships and courting from the perspective of 4 young ladies, along with stories of the Duggar clan, then read Growing Up Duggar.

The good; the Duggars are a breath of fresh air in this modern world when it comes to parenting.  They care about their kids (yes, all of them), and have committed their time and energy to making sure their family is taken care of and brought up within a caring and loving environment.  The books give the reader a window into their philosophies, which they obviously ground in scripture the way they interpret it. They include their perspectives on debt, modesty, parenting, homeschooling, morals, business, courting, etc…  If you are interested in these topics presented with Christianity mixed in to all of them, then you’d probably enjoy the books even if you disagree.

I think that large families, as long as they are self-supporting, are awesome.  I’m amazed that some people hate the Duggars simply because there are so many of them.  They don’t take government support, they all seem bright and healthy, intelligent, interesting, etc… Whether a couple has no children, or 19, it is their choice and they can be a strong and happy family.

The girls’ book particularly was interesting to me, because I’m always curious of what the “next generation” thinks about all this.  They tackle the area of relationships, and do so in a generally thorough (yet sometimes detail-lacking) manner.  Their discussion on courting, parental relationships, and sibling relationships was informative, and again, refreshing.

The not-so-good; although the Duggars deny that they are a part of “The Quiverfull Movement” in Christianity, it is hard not to see the connection.  Why such a large family?  Because they believe that it is God and God alone Who determines the number of kids that a couple are blessed with, and this means no contraception allowed.  So, what’s wrong with that?  This particular movement tends to draw Legalists in by the boatload, and to judge others who don’t follow the same philosophy.  Happily, I can say that I don’t pick up a lot of judgmentalism from the Duggars, who overtly say that they teach that their way is not the way for everyone when it comes to having kids.  They simply stand by their own convictions and cite scriptures that they feel back up their POV.

Another not-so-good aspect to the family is that they “follow” or “read” materials and philosophies of some individuals in Christendom that are questionable in their theology, and perhaps even in their private lives.  Bill Gothard is one such example.  Anytime there is a strong teaching of different gender roles, one must be extraordinarily careful and be on the look out for sexual misconduct.  I’m one that believes in different roles for the genders in certain areas, and I’m also one of the biggest skeptics when it comes to a philosophy that uses words like “sweet;” think sweet, be sweet, keep sweet, as applied to females. Ugh. FLDS anyone?  Sex abuse anyone?  Bill Gothard has had sexual misconduct allegations following him around for awhile now, and we have to be sure we look on someone as being innocent until proven guilty.  However when talking of certain philosophies there is a great chance in some of them for women and girls to be abused.

Thankfully, I see no sign of that from the Duggar clan.  I don’t believe in condemning someone because of the people they read, but I include this type of information in my review because I want to make it clear that it is is a red flag for my readers if they decide to delve into the Duggars’ books.  Know that many of the ways they interpret certain scriptures are not the way that I, or even a majority, of Christians interpret them, and many of their resources listed are impacted heavily by those like Gothard and those in the Quiverfull movement.

In short, I liked all 3 books, though there was repeating information in each.  I have learned a lot about large families and also how certain scripture are interpreted by those from this perspective.  I truly appreciate the information they presented on raising kids, morality, and their faith. While everything seems to be going well right now for this family and the kids, there is always a chance that things could change, such as if we see one or more of the kids joining more mainstream Christian churches and “rebelling,” then we could see a different side to all of this. In fact, statistically, we’d expect to see some Duggar descendent choose their own path, as God guides the individual.

The danger in some of the teachings they push are just that, which is the danger of demanding everyone be a foot, or all be an arm in the Body of Christ; “Cookie-cutter Chrisitians” in other words.  We also must be sure that we are not relying on good works or conformity to save us, but rather on Christ for it by grace we are saved through faith.  It is a good thing to rely on God to guide us and convict us, and at the same time to make sure we are truly understanding scripture as it is meant to be understood.  So, just make sure you are firmly grounded in scripture and in faith when reading books on other beliefs within Christianity (such as the Duggars have); test all things and hold to that which is good and true.

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The Moon By Night…

This is the second in a series about Madeleine L’Engle’s Austin family books.  If you are new to what I’m doing with her books, please check out this link to know what the point of this “review” is about; Madeleine L’Engle.  This book was also new to me, so it was my first time through it.  It is also a good, but easy read.

What suppers did the Austins enjoy? Steak with salad, potato salad and marshmallows, scrambled eggs with hashbrowns and coffee of course, spaghetti, pork chops with turnip greens and salad, stew and salad, hash, tuna and veggie salad, fried chicken with potato salad and lettuce salad, and hamburgers.

What did they listen to in this particular story?  The Emperor Concerto, and the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, as well as Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, also sung a lot, including All Through the Night, Now the Day is Over, I Will Lift Mine Eyes unto the Hills, Tallis’ Canon, and the Eddystone LIght.

What were the kids reading or the adults reading to them? A Connecticut Yankee, Anna Karenina, Patterns of Culture by Ruth Benedict, and The Conquest of Space. The poem “Patterns” by Amy Lowell was also mentioned.  The Diary of Anne Frank played a bit role, but the play was the focus, not the book.

Their furry companions were in the story a bit less, but still there;  Colette their french poodle, Mr. Rochester their Great Dane, and Prunewhip.

What was the fam up to in this story?  Traveling and camping across country, and lots of people watching.  We also learned that Wallace “Daddy” Austin has a blackbelt in Judo, and were also introduced to Zachary Grey for the first time.  As they traveled they played several games, including one I’d never heard of; the Botticelli word game.  They also did a twist on the alphabet game; going through the alphabet naming a song or poem that begins with the letter; for example A = Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” begins with “Afoot…” and B = “The Blessed Damozel.”  (The only other one mentioned was I = “I Will Lift UP Mine Eyes…”)

Good prayers and quotes included? (BTW, when I can, I try to find the reference and the correct form of the quote,)

“Mark Twain’s” attributed quote, “When I was seventeen I was amazed at how little my father knew about life.  At the age of twenty two, I was amazed how much he had learned in five years.

One that became a theme, “Comparisons are odious” attributed to Donne, Fortescue, AND Marlowe amongst others. lol

One of my favorites from the book:

The Rain is Raining all Around

The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella;
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust steals the just’s umbrella.

- Lord Bowen

The themes of growing up and also God was strong in this book; the different characters weigh in either directly or indirectly on their own beliefs or thoughts on God.  I think my favorite character in this one was Uncle Douglas…

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Meet the Austins…

Dear reader, check out this link to know what the point of this “review” is about; Madeleine L’Engle.  This is one of her books I just read for the first time…I’d met the Austin family previously in books that come later in the Austin family series.  I really enjoyed this story, and it did serve as a good introduction to the Austins, which in turn, sets up the rest of the books in the series.  It is a very quick read, and “easy” reading.

What suppers did the Austins enjoy? Standing rib roast with roast potatoes and carrots, spaghetti with carrots and garlic bread, Spanish rice, Shepherd’s pie, strawberry mousse, pork roast with applesauce and carrots, pot roast with deep-dish apple pie, bread pudding with raisins, tapioca, jell-o, raisin bread, steaks with baked potatoes and salad, baked beans with hot dogs chopped up in them, and the ever present beverages of coffee and hot cocoa.

What did they listen to while preparing all of this?  Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto, Rosenkavalier, Schonberg’s Verklarte Nacht, Handel’s the Cuckoo and the Nightingale, Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, Handel’s Royal Fireworks, and John liked to listen to “The Gambler.”  The crew liked to sing; Cockles and Mussels, The Eddystone Light, You take the High Road, Oh, Susannah, Ash Grove, and Tallis’ Cannon.

What were the kids reading or the adults reading to them? The Jungle Book, Charlotte’s Web, The Secret Garden, The Sword in the Stone, and Doctor Dolittle.  Also, a book on Albert Einstein’s spiritual views was quoted and talked about, but no title was ever given.

Their furry companions that curled up at their feet?  Colette their french poodle, Mr. Rochester their Great Dane, and at least three cats; Prunewhip, Hamlet, and Creamy.

What was the fam up to in this story?  Skywatching as usual, including star gazing.

Good prayers and quotes included?

St. Francis’ Prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.

A quote from Hildevert of Lavardin;

God is over all things, under all things; outside all;
within, but not enclosed; without but not excluded;
above, but not raised up; below, but not depressed;
wholly above, presiding; wholly without, embracing;
wholly within, filling.

A poem from Thomas Browne;

If thou could`st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say, `This is not dead`,
And fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou art all replete with very thou
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes, He says, `This is enow
Unto itself – `twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for me.`

Fun book to read, the themes of childhood, change and death were interesting.  This book, more than L’Engle’s others that I’ve read, seemed geared toward “younger” readers, but adults who like her style and characters will enjoy this book as well.  On to read the second in this series…

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The Mitford Series…

The Mitford Series of books by Jan Karon has been out for a while, but I know that some people still haven’t read any of them, so I thought I’d put in a good word.  This set of books centers around a fictional town called “Mitford,” Father Tim (the local Episcopalian priest) , and the town’s various characters.

This is a good little Christian fiction series that draws you into the life of the town.  Karon does an excellent job creating a fictional place that you actually “look forward” to visiting.  She sets up the storylines in such a way that you care about the characters; their lives, their struggles, their pets, what they are having for supper…

The first of the series, At Home in Mitford, sets the stage and the original players, with characters added throughout the stories.  I find that her style of writing is rather pleasant to read; it doesn’t bash the reader over the head with The Bible; no heavy preaching, no pressure, just good storytelling.  This is not to say that there is no theology present, or that the gospel isn’t present, because it is.  It is done in such a way that it is “organic” to the story, and it fits with the characters, it is not forced either on them, or on the reader.

I’m trying to recall if there is any theology presented that I disagree with, and I can’t really think of any…there is good interplay between the various Christian denominations in the town which is heartwarming, and amusing at the same time.

Here is a list of the books in this particular series in order: 1) At Home in Mitford, 2) A Light in the Window, 3) These High, Green Hills, 4) Out to Canaan, 5) A New Song, 6) A Common Life, 7) In This Mountain, 8 ) Sheperds Abiding, and 9) A Light from Heaven.  I would consider A Common Life and Shepherds Abiding as kind of “mini-novels;” they go along with the series but are not as long as her regular novels.  Shepherds Abiding, which I have not read yet, is also a collection of some shorter stories that still take place in Mitford with the same characters.

Karon also has companion books out that are connected to Mitford; like a quote book, a cook book, etc…  Other reasons why I like this series; they are relaxing reading, non-stressful, they are what I consider to be “quick” reads…and you can usually find most of the series at used book stores if you ask for them, or most libraries carry them, or can get them.

Karon has started another series; The Father Tim Series, to continue on with some of the characters that you’ll get to know in the Mitford series.  I do indeed recommend these books…I have also heard that even guys who read them like them, but they are, to me, geared toward the female reader.  I would also welcome any comments by any of my readers who have checked them out and would like to add their reviews here.

Edit to update: The Father Tim Series order so far: 1) Home to Holly Springs 2) In the Company of Others

Second Edit to update: Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good is Jan’s next book in the series and is taking us back to Mitford! It’s set to be published on Sept. 2, 2014.

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Book Review; Do Hard Things…

Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations is a non-fiction book by Alex and Brett Harris (yes, they are twins).  First, this is a book written from a decidedly Christian viewpoint, although, if someone is willing to read it through regardless of religious beliefs, anyone can get the main message of the book and glean something from it; especially teenagers.

The twins start out the book showing us all what teenagers in the past have accomplished at very young ages.  To me, this set the tone of the book up perfectly and draws the reader in.  Instantly one can see that it is indeed possible for teens to do hard things, and that not so very long ago, they managed it regularly.

Coming from teens itself, the book has a much greater impact than if someone in their 20′s or 30′s had penned it.  I have worked with young men in their teenage years as a counselor doing a group therapy rotation on a military base.  The group was comprised of fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen year-old’s who either dropped out, or were kicked out of high school.  It was an anger management group.  It was also a perfect example of what low expectations can lead to.

Most of the guys had bought the idea that they were worthless.  Everyone around them, outside of camp, believed that these guys would fail.  One of the insights that my counseling partner and I tried to get them to see was that they did not have to live down to the world’s expectations of them.  I wish I had had Do Hard Things available at the time to give each one of them a copy.

One of my favourite points brought up in the book was the absolute lack of meaning the phrases, “I did my best,” or “just do your best,” now have.  They are completely meaningless and are a pat answer, and command.  If eveyone that claims to have did their best really had done their best, the world would look a lot different.

Now, the only thing that made me slightly anxious while reading the book was an underlying feel of “could-be legalism.”  I have to give it to the twins, they walked a fine but distinct line between suggestion, simply sharing information, and legalism.  To me, it felt as though they consciously knew that there could be a tone of legalism, and deliberately kept reframing their points as to avoid it, which is a good thing.

For example, they have a discussion about a modesty survey that they helped to set up.  The survey asked males for their opinions on various articles of clothing that women would wear and that women themselves actually asked about (for example ankle length skirts; modest or not; are spaghetti strap tops by themselves; are they a stumbling block to guys, etc…).  Of course if one is not really careful, it could turn legalistic…and I react to legalism pretty much like Paul does in Galatians.  They are quick to point out that they are not offering a list of rules…but, is a list of rules implied?  Is it subtlety communicated (I don’t believe intentionally) that if you, as a female, were to wear certain articles of clothing that you may just be  contributing to another person’s sin, and hence responsible not only for your own slip, but theirs as well…

Anywho, the twins themselves avoid making their ideas in the book a legalistic issue which I thought was great, and a smart move.  I do believe that this book would be helpful, and is a must read for teens, tweens, parents, pastors, counselors, psychologists, teachers, etc…  It is definitely a reminder to society at large that teens are quite capable of handling a lot of responsibility, esp. when that responsibility is chosen or embraced by the teen themselves (and especially when it is blessed by God).

You can find the twins main page here: The Rebelution.  It has book information, a link to their blog, tour info, etc…  My husband, The Country Shrink, a Clinical Psychologist, also wrote up a review, which you can read here: Doing hard things.

This book is definitely worth the money and time to read.

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