A Reluctant Queen The Love Story of Esther

When I first heard about this book, A Reluctant Queen, I was not very interested in reading it. Yes, you could say I was ‘reluctant’. Why? Because I have heard the story of Esther many times; I can read the ‘real thing’ in the Bible any time, and another version just sounded boring.

So, why did I pick it up and read it? One, I read a couple of favorable reviews from readers I respect on goodreads.com; and, two, I had read some historical fiction by Joan Wolf years ago and really enjoyed them. So, I decided to give A Reluctant Queen a try.

Since I’m taking the trouble to write a review here, you can probably guess by now that I enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. It is historical fiction, so don’t take the few liberties Wolf takes with the story disturb you. She does a very good job of giving reasons for Esther being sent by her Jewish uncle to enter the Persian king’s beauty contest.  She may or not be right, but it’s a question I always have when I read the story, so it adds a new dimension to the story. She brings the characters to life, giving them personalities and filling in some of the historical background, making the story believable and interesting.

To learn more about Joan Wolf and an upcoming book (The Scarlet Cord), check out her website: www.joanwolf.com

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The Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden

It’s been over a month since I posted anything. Not that I haven’t been reading, but it’s mostly been for my grad work in library science. Reading about research is not generally blog worthy. However, I may change my mind, and begin to blog about some of my learning. Shouldn’t be keeping all that to myself!

I did recently finish a book by a new author for me. The Lady of Bolton Hill is an historical novel set during the late 1800’s. Clara Endicott is raised by her preacher father and lacks for nothing. Through a mutual love for music, she becomes close friends with Daniel Tremain. Because Daniel is a poor factory worker, Clara’s father send her to England and does what he can to end their friendship.

Years later, Clara returns to American where Daniel has become a wealthy inventor and a leader in industry. When Clara & Daniel meet again, the sparks are still there, but there are still obstacles to their romance. One is Clara still doesn’t have her father (or her brother’s) approval, but even greater is the bitterness & unforgiveness that drives Daniel to seek revenge for the man he considers responsible for his father’s death.

I downloaded this book when it was free on Kindle; a good way to try out some new authors. This was an enjoyable read & a nice break from writing papers & studying research. I look forward to reading Camden’s latest book which you can read about on her website: www.elizabethcamden.com

Leota’s Garden by Francine Rivers

Leota’s Garden is not the latest by Francine Rivers, but it is new to me. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

Leota is an 84 yr old woman, living alone, and estranged from her children. Her daughter, Nora, is very bitter towards her mother and has kept her children from getting to know her. However, Leota’s granddaughter, Annie, finds she needs to break away from her mother’s control over her life and seeks out the grandmother she has never really known.

Through getting to know her grandmother, Annie finds out the secrets of her grandmother’s past and the reasons for her mother’s misconceptions. In trying to live out her faith, Annie works to reconcile her family, helping them all to learn about love and forgiveness.

I liked this book because I could relate to the characters. I have seen how hurts and unforgiveness can be caused by not always

knowing the truth of other people’s lives. I appreciated the characters and the struggles they go through, and how Annie puts her faith into action. She has to step away from her mother’s control and stand up for herself, but she never stops loving her mother or trying to help her to understand how she feels.

eBooks at Union County Public Library, NC

Union County now has ebooks available for their patrons. If you are already familiar with using ebooks, you will find this a welcome new service. If you are new to reading in this way, it is very simple to start and you will find that you can read on several different devices.

For those who are new to ebooks and downloading, there will be an introductory class on Saturday at the Monroe branch. However, as of this writing, there was only one opening left.

Ebooks have been available at different public libraries for quite some time, but it was not until this past September, that Kindle books became available. Since that time, there have been many controversies between publishers and libraries. Expense and privacy issues have been the main concerns. Different publishers have put certain restrictions on their books and some have gone so far as to ‘take their books’ back. Penguin, for a time, withdrew all of their Kindle titles from libraries. Harper Collins put a restriction that their ebooks could only be checked out a total of 26 times. With their restriction of only being able to check out books for 2 weeks at a time, this would mean their titles would expire in about a year’s time. 

Still, with all the controversies and issues to be worked out, this will be a convenience that many can enjoy. In my library science classes at ECU, the question of ‘will ebooks ever totally replace paper ones?’ is constantly discussed. I don’t see ebooks totally replacing paper books for some time, if ever, but they are here to stay, so it is good for them to be available at our public libraries.

For more information about using ebooks and what devices you can use to read on, check out the library website: www.union.lib.nc.us

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Imagine a circus that just appears  in your town one day, is only open at night, and everything is in black and white. Imagine a circus that has so many tents that you will want to come every night to try and see them all. Imagine a circus that smells of caramel and cinnamon, has a bonfire that never goes out, an ice garden, and characters with names like Poppet, Widget, Celia, and Marco. Imagine the circus is gone one morning and you don’t know if it will ever be back.

I’ve never really been one for circuses, but this one is different. Why it is so different makes the story the compelling fantasy that it is. Who is really running the circus? Is it all illusion and mirrors or is there real magic involved? Is it all good or is there some kind of hidden evil involved?

Two children are trained and prepared for a trial or test. What kind of trial? How does one win? What does that have to do with the circus?

I loved this book. It has magic, love, and complicated characters. One that I wanted to finish to see how it would end, yet hated for it to be over. This is Erin Morgenstern’s first book and I hope she is working on another!

The Meaning of Marriage–Timothy Keller

The recently published The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller is a book I would highly recommend for any married couple, no matter what stage of life they may be in. My 15-yr old daughter saw me reading this book & wondered if it might not be a little late for me to be reading such a book. I’ve been married almost 25 years, have a great marriage, but realize there is always room for growth and improvement.

Keller wrote this book from a series of sermons he preached at his church in Brooklyn, NY; a church made up mostly of ‘singles’. So if you’re single, don’t write this off as a book that would not pertain to you or be of interest. There is even a whole chapter just for you.

Keller sees our culture’s view of marriage as slightly off. He says people are looking too hard for that ‘perfect’ mate & not willing to realize that God is working in us. Of course, it’s important as believers to seek  a mate who is also a believer, but once we’re married, we need to see our spouse as someone that God is working on. Part of marriage is helping our mate, and letting them help us, become the person He created us to be. In his chapter, “The Mission of Marriage”, Keller states: “What, then is marriage for? It is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us.”

About Ephesians 5:31-32 and that mysterious statement, ‘the two shall become one flesh’:  “Jesus’s sacrificial service to us has brought us into a deep union with Him and He with us. And that, Paul says, is the key to not only understanding marriage but to living it.”

From the chapter “The Power of Marriage,” Keller reminds us that it is not our spouses who give us the power to live the Christian life, nor are they able to meet all our needs. Depending on our spouses for what only the Holy Spirit can give us will prove disastrous. “After trying all kinds of other things, Christians have learned that the worship of God with the whole heart in the assurance of His love through the work of Jesus Christ is the thing their souls were meant to ‘run on’. That is what gets all the heart’s cylinders to fire. If this not understood, then we will not have the resources to be good spouses. If we look to our spouses to fill up our tanks in a way that only God can do, we are demanding an impossibility.”

If you, like myself and Timothy Keller, believe that “there’s no relationship between human beings that is greater or more important than marriage” and if you want to learn more about what God really meant for us when He created this relationship, you will want to read and reread this book.

A Wrinkle in Time–50th Anniversary

A Wrinkle in Time celebrates its 50th year in print this year. A Wrinkle in Time was published in 1962 and won the Newberry Medal in 1963.

A Wrinkle in Time was my first introduction to science fiction. I was probably in the 3rd grade when our class listened to WiT being read. It made such an impression on me that when I ran across it in high school, I had to read it again; then I gave it to my sister to read. I’m sure I didn’t understand too much about the math & science involved, but the characters of Meg Murray and her brother, Charles Wallace, are characters that have stayed with me. Reading it again made me realize that the book is full of interesting characters & reminded me of what I loved about the book. From the grand entrance of Mrs. Whatsit to Mrs. Murray–a mother who knows how to encourage & love her children–the characters all have personalities anyone can relate to and just appreciate.

A Wrinkle in Time begins with the famous, or infamous, first line: “It was a dark & stormy night.” Really. This line is originally from the novel Paul Clifford by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, first published in 1830. It has been considered the worst first line in literature & is frequently parodied, most famously by Snoopy of the comic strip, “Peanuts” by Charles Schulz. There is even a contest to write a bad opening paragraph for the worst novels ever written, held every year by the English Department of San Jose State University. The contest is called the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

Meg is a frustrated young girl who feels out of place at school believing she isn’t as smart and ‘normal’ as others. Her brother, Charles Wallace, is a precocious 5-yr old; though others find him odd, believing he doesn’t even know how to talk. Their worst problem, however, is that their scientist father has been missing for quite some time, and the rest of the town believes he has abandoned his family.

Meg, Charles Wallace, and their new friend, Calvin meet three very different ladies: Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. These ladies take the children on a journey to find Mr. Murray. This journey will take them to another world where they will have to fight an evil by learning more about themselves and their strengths.

Anna Quindlen writes an appreciation of the book for this latest issue. “On its surface this is a book about three children who fight an evil force threatening their planet. But it is really about a more primal battle all human beings face, to respect, defend, and love themselves. When Meg pulls the ultimate weapon from her emotional arsenal to fight, for her little brother & for good, it is a great moment, not just for her, but for every reader who has ever felt overlooked, confused, alone.”

From Progeny Press: “Although A Wrinkle in Time can be classified as science fiction, it also contains elements of fantasy, philosophy, Biblical truth, and a glimpse of the cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil waged in a distant galaxy.”

L’Engle often incorporated her faith in her books. In her book, Walking on Water, she said, “I often seek theological insights in reading science fiction, because this is a genre eminently suited to exploration of the nature of the Creator and the creation . . . to think about worlds in another galaxy is a theological enterprise.”