This Girl Likes #2

Hello!  TGIF, eh?  Yes, I am definitely ready for a long weekend.  I'm here today to share some good stuff I've found around the web this past week.  Enjoy!
  • This popped up in my Twitter feed on Monday and it was such a good reminder about getting ready in the morning spiritually, too.  It made for a good start to the week.
  • Read this when you have a feeling the week ahead of you is gonna be rough.  Ann Voskamp is an amazing writer.
  • I've stumbled across this site before, but I've never actually looked around in-depth-ly (?).  There is some good stuff in there.  It's called She Reads Truth and they have some Bible studies that look really good.  I'm gonna check them out.  That quote is from their current study on Hosea.  They are on day 4, I believe, and it is good stuff.    
  • 'Found a new band I'm interested in.  It's called Kye Kye, and while they aren't listed under "Christian" in iTunes, you can definitely tell that their album "Young Love," is about Christ.  It has some of the most beautifully poetic lyrics I've heard in a while.  Needless to say, it's been on repeat this week.
  • I am little candle-obsessed at the moment, and I found the coolest (read: geekiest) candles ever on Etsy.  
one / two / three
Book-themed candles!  Oh my word!  Where have these been all my life?  There are two shops (here and here) that seem to have the best selection in my opinion, and though I haven't tried one yet, I imagine they all are quite amazing.  I will post an update when I get one.  Frostbeard Studios (candles 1 & 3) has candles that smell like a bookstore, old books, and even a book cellar as well as book-themed ones.  Honestly, what smells better than a bookstore?  

And that wraps up this week of posts!  Check back on Monday for September's "On the Stack" post.  I got a book I am super duper excited about.  Enjoy your Labor Day!  xo, Ella


Book Review: Writing Tools

I am super excited about this review because I loved this book so much.  Am I crazy?  Quite possibly. 

Title: Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer

Author: Roy Peter Clark

Publisher/Price: Little, Brown and Company/$13.00 here

Type: Nonfiction

Genre: Writing

Number of pages: 260

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Format: For obvious reasons, there are 50 small chapters in this book about each tool.  These are further divided into four parts from "Nuts and Bolts" to "Useful Habits."  At the end of each chapter, there is a short list of exercises to practice or better understand the tool discussed in that chapter.  This is definitely the book for those who might want to improve their writing, but don't want to have to read a very long, intense book filled with five-dollar-words.  The chapters are bite-size and you can just sit down and read one a day if you want.

Overview: As the title implies, this is a book of writing tools, not rules.  The author doesn't completely do away with rules in writing, but suggests that tools are far more useful for writers.  The 50 tools he explains are divided into four parts: "Nuts and Bolts," "Special Effects," "Blueprints," "Useful Habits."  He starts with the basics and ends with habits that are useful especially if you are a writer who actually writes things to be published.  Over 200 samples are used throughout the book to demonstrate the author's point and they help you really understand the tool.  Anyone from a student like me who loves to write and wants to improve to a professional who is looking for a refresher course will find this book beneficial and enjoyable.

My thoughts: I really loved this book.  Sometimes I have a hard time finishing books about writing or grammar, not because I don't like them or decide they're boring, but just because they fail to hook me or keep me entertained and have to return to the library before I've finished them.  I was really impressed by this one, though, because I kept going back to it when I had a minute to spare and thoroughly enjoyed (almost) every chapter.  All of the tools are things that seem really easy to implement into whatever you write whenever.  This book also helped me become more aware when I read something I liked as to why I liked it.  The part of this book I didn't love was the last part called "Useful Habits."  The tools in that section were more like good ideas for people who write stuff to get published or for journalists, but there is still some good advice in there for the hobbyist writer, too.  I was super excited to find a quick list of all the tools in the back of the book that I copied and will keep handy whenever I've got something to write.  Overall, I loved this book a lot and will definitely read it again.  I would recommend it to anyone and everyone – even if you don't think you'll like it.


Book Review: A Hobbit Journey

I'll just start off by saying that it was probably the cover of this book that first drew me in.  It's so cool and hobbit-y.  Anyway, I'm doing my second review on this book even though it was first in my "On the Stack" post for August.  Frankly, I was a bit nervous about this one – it was good, just fairly deep and I knew this review might end up being a bit lengthy.  You can go here to read a mini description of A Hobbit Journey.  

Title: A Hobbit Journey: Discovering the Enchantment of J.R.R Tolkien's Middle-Earth

Author: Matthew Dickerson

Publisher/Price: Brazos Press/$13.82 here

Type: Nonfiction

Genre: Christianity & Culture/Literary Criticism

Number of pages: 260

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Format: This book has ten sections on topics from Treatment of Prisoners, to Moral Responsibility and Stewardship to Military Victory or Moral Victory.  Within these sections, there are 3-7 smaller subtopics further explaining facets of the topic.  The topics grow in depth and profundity through the book.

Overview: A Hobbit Journey explores the deep and often hidden Christian themes and morals that Tolkien wove throughout his stories of Middle Earth found in the Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, and even the Silmarillion.  This book helps readers of Tolkien from the newbie to the veteran understand and see how the principles of a book written over half a century ago about a world so unlike ours has the power to challenge and transform even its modern readers.

My thoughts: This book is not an easy read.  It may even be a dreadful read for some who aren't die-hard Tolkien fans.  Despite that fact, I really enjoyed it, at least in the way you enjoy a book that aims to make you think and teach you things you never would have learned on your own.  It's not the type of book that grips you as soon as you flip the cover and leaves you spellbound for hours, like this series, but it is certainly full of eye-opening insights into the world of Middle-Earth and I'll never think of LOTR or The Hobbit the same after reading it.

There are parts of A Hobbit Journey that get a bit long and somewhat dry, and I had to push myself to finish it, but I am glad I did.  I would say that if you have not read The Silmarillion, Tolkien's deepest and most mythological work about Middle-Earth, you won't get quite as much out of this book as if you had read that one.  I haven't read The Silmarillion, and so when the author talked really in-depth about some of the theology stuff in that book, I was a little lost.

I could tell just a few pages in that the author basically immersed himself in Tolkien so that when he sits down to write about his books, you get the sense that this guy must have had coffee with Tolkien dozens of times, or at least must have picked his brain in the full sense of the word.  This is especially apparent in the way Dickerson points things out in Tolkien's works.  Like Sarah Arthur's book on Narnia, nothing seems forced or made-up in the way he uncovers the themes of Tolkien's Christianity so heavily layered throughout his tales of Middle-Earth.

Some of the section titles include: "On Hobbits, the Treatment of Prisoners, and the Ethics of War," "Frodo and the Wisdom of the Wise," "Military Victory of Moral Victory," "Moral Responsibility and Stewardship,"The Seen and the Unseen: Salvation and Social Justice,"Ilúvatar's Theme and the Real War."  Keep in mind that he is explaining the way Christian morals influence Middle-Earth, so he describes the way the "good side" (Gandalf, the hobbits, elves, Ents, etc.) views war, for example, and the way their views line up with the Biblical view.  He explains the reason for the mercy shown to Sméagol/Gollum by Bilbo and Frodo, explores the balance between the free will of every creature in Middle-Earth and yet the divine hand that seems to work everything out for good, (just like in our world) even in the way Frodo's mission is finally accomplished at the end of The Return of the King, though not in the way anyone expected.

The most fascinating part of the book to me, was in the chapters where Dickerson explained the theology of Middle-Earth.  Unless you read The Silmarillion, or were an over-achiever when you read LOTR or The Hobbit and had to find out what every single name meant in your six-inch-thick dictionary of every word in Tolkien's works sitting beside you in your chair, you probably won't know too much about Ilúvatar, the good deity of Middle-Earth.  The author talks about him quite in-depth and I found all of that really interesting, even though it was stuck in the middle of the chapters about The Silmarillion and was slow-going.  All in all, I really enjoyed this book, and I'd recommend it, but only to a Tolkien-enthusiast because no one else would make it very far.

Yikes, I knew this would be a whopper of a review.  Thanks for reading!  Ella    


This Girl Pins – #1

I Sniff Books – I love this.  It's so pretty, and yes, I am guilty of sniffing books.  Boo, Kindle!

Little Women – Oh my goodness.  I pretty much freaked out when I saw this.  Anna Bond of Rifle Paper Co teamed up with Puffin to design the covers of four classics: Little Women, Heidi, The Little Princess, and Anne of Green Gables.  I want all of them.  

Book Quote – I can totally relate to this.  I am usually in a bad mood when I finish a novel and have to return to the real world.

Photo – This is the exact same way I lay on the couch and read.  There is nothing quite as awesome to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon.  (sorry, couldn't find link)

Little Women Quote – I love this description of one of my favorite literary heroines.  The words just seem to sing.  (sorry, no link)

Sound of Words – This is part of why I love to read.  Sometimes, the writer sings a song with her words.

Hope you enjoyed this first installment of This Girl Pins!  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella


This Girl Reads // Book Review: Walking Through the Wardrobe

As promised, I'm here today with a book review.  Unless I am seized with a sudden desire to change things up a bit at any time when reviewing books here, I will try my hardest to maintain the same outline when doing book reviews.

The first book I'm going to review is Walking Through the Wardrobe by Sarah Arthur.  I gave a mini-description of this book in my earlier "On the Stack" post for August.  You can check that out here if you want.

Title: Walking Through the Wardrobe: A Devotional Quest into The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Author: Sarah Arthur

Publisher/Price: Thirsty – $1.99 here

Type: Nonfiction

Genre: Devotional / Christian Living

Number of pages: 184

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Format: This book has nine parts with two small chapters each – so 18 chapters.  In each part, you "walk" with each character from Lucy to Aslan to C.S. Lewis himself.  At the end of each chapter, the author summarizes what she just said with a few sentences.  There are questions and related Bible verses at the end of each chapter to help the reader go "further in".

Overview: The author writes about Narnia from the perspective of the people in the story and highlighted their strengths and weaknesses.  She proposes that each character is on a journey throughout The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and thus, being on a journey is the theme of the book.  The chapters take a look at spiritual themes connected to the people and the story of LWW.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this book.  I loved taking a look at Narnia through the characters in it, from Edmund to the Narnians themselves.  You can tell the author has immersed herself in the story and in the world of C.S. Lewis.  The book is equally parts profound and witty and I found myself reading more than one chapter in the morning (oops).  Sarah Arthur has also written a book called Walking with Bilbo, and she makes lots of references to LOTR in Walking Through the Wardrobe, which had me rejoicing.  Another thing I appreciated about this book is that she didn't try to pull things out of thin air; every connection she made between the book that began the Narnia series and the beliefs of the man who wrote it made sense and felt natural and obvious – it just took someone to point them out.  Nothing felt forced about the way she applied scriptural truths to the LWW.  I'll definitely read this book again someday and I fully recommend it to anyone who loves the Chronicles of Narnia.  


This Girl Likes – #1

Hi!  Happy Friday.  Tomorrow is Saturday!  Woot, woot!  Even though I'm not back in school until next week, I still really look forward to Saturdays.

On Fridays in this corner of the internet, I plan to do some fun posts.  Every other, I will do kind of a random post about all the things I've been loving that week.  The other Fridays, I will share things I've found on Pinterest that have to do with books or reading, quotes, geeky stuff about movies, etc.

This week I'm just gonna write about stuff I like.  I think these posts are fun to read since they're so random, and so I thought I'd start off with one.  Here goes...

– I stumbled across this great blog a couple weeks ago, and it is just about the best thing ever.  If you haven't read the book Stuff Christians Like by Jon Acuff, you need to get it from the library or order it from Amazon.  Now.  It's probably the funniest book I've ever read.  Anyway, Jon has a blog and it's like his book, only far more random and complete with really funny pictures.  His Twitter feed is also hilarious, if you're a Twitter person.  To start you off, here's a really funny article.

– If you watch movies, you will probably love this.  There's a channel on YouTube that makes Honest Trailers of popular/recent movies.  They are so awesome and so funny.  The trailers basically point out all the dumb stuff about the movie and basically make fun of it.  There are lots of spoilers, so be warned.  I'm obsessed with The Avengers at the moment, and that tailer is especially good.

– Funny stuff aside, I am always looking for good podcasts to listen to when I'm mowing the yard or cleaning, and I listened to a good one from The Gospel Coalition recently.  They were interviewing a guy who wrote a book called "Give War and Peace a Chance".  Now, most likely, you've heard of the book War and Peace before – it's by Leo Tolstoy – and it was probably the basis for a practical joke.  The book is huge – a whopping 1,500 pages – and unless you're a history buff or a total nerd about books, like me, you have no desire to read it.  The interview was really good, and I really want to read War and Peace now.  Not sure what my schedule will say about that.

– Another terrific podcast I've listened to recently is from Tim Keller.  He has a whole bunch of sermons in iTunes for free – I burned through them mowing last year – and they put out a new one about every two months or so.  The most recent one is about Adam and Eve and sin and it's really good.  It's titled "Promise of Hope" and you can find it here.  I have officially reached the status of Tim Keller fangirl when I start freaking out about a new sermon on the day I have to mow.  Sheesh.

– There's a new book I wanna get... surprise, surprise!  It's called Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung.  I've read some good reviews of it, and it sounds like a really interesting book about the Bible.  Check it out on Amazon.

– Rend Collective released a new album this March and I just now bought it.  Let's just say I'm glad I did, because it's the best.  I would say it is probably my favorite one from them so far.  The music is awesome and the lyrics are really good, too.  It's been on repeat this week.  I might review it here when I get around to it.

– This article is so good, and it is such a good reminder to us girls to help the boys around us become the men God intended them to be.  Sometimes it is the hardest to encourage guys when they are your own brothers!

Alrighty, that's it for this week!  Click away!  I'm hoping to get a couple book reviews written up this weekend and maybe get them posted next week.  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella


On the Stack // August

On this blog, there's gonna be lots of book reviews.  I love reading, but sometimes it's really hard to fit it in, especially during the school year, when I'm swamped with reading for school.  :P  Hopefully, though, setting a goal for myself each month should help keep me motivated.

At the beginning of each month, I plan to show you the 2-4 books I plan to read that month and then review when I finish them... so about 2-4 reviews a month.  Thankfully, I'm a quick reader, so if I'm diligent with reading the books, that should work.  Hopefully.  Anyway, I'm calling this by the epic name of "On the Stack."  I have an ever-present stack of books leaning against my desk in my room, thus the title.  So, without further ado, here are this month's picks...

link to purchase
This is a book about hobbits and what they do in both LOTR and the Hobbit.  It is not exclusively about The Hobbit book.  It's about hobbits in all of J.R.R Tolkien's books.  I picked this up in May and I've started it, but I still need to finish it.  It's nonfiction, which is what I normally read, so it doesn't exactly grab your attention and leave you spellbound and breathless, but I love reading books about books.  Especially ones about Tolkien's stuff.  So I'm really excited to finish reading this one.  It is written from the Christian perspective, but the author stays very true to Tolkien's purpose, in that he doesn't claim that any of Tolkien's books are allegories, but instead examines the Christian worldview that is so heavily layered throughout the LOTR and the Hobbit.  From the couple chapters I've read, he is very thorough and makes me think about the books in new ways.  Here's the description of A Hobbit Journey on Amazon:
"The Lord of the Rings trilogy has delighted millions of fans worldwide in book and movie form. With the theatrical release of the two-part film The Hobbit slated for 2012 and 2013, attention will once again turn to J. R. R. Tolkien's classic works. In a culture where truth is relative and morality is viewed as old-fashioned, we welcome the chance to view the world through hobbit eyes: we have free will, our choices matter, and living a morally heroic life is possible.

In this engaging and thought-provoking book, Tolkien expert Matthew Dickerson shows how a Christian worldview and Christian themes undergird Tolkien's Middle-earth writings and how they are fundamentally important to understanding his vision. This revised and expanded edition of Following Gandalf includes new material on torture, social justice, and the importance of the body."
link to purchase
The next book is also about a book.  Whoops.  I got this one when I got The Hobbit Journey, and I have read probably about half of it.  Walking Through the Wardrobe is a devotional, so it is divided up into small, bite-size chapters.  Here's the description (via Amazon):
"Do you hunger for other worlds? Always looking for what's just around the corner? Do you long to go beyond this ordinary life, to find adventure in magical lands like Narnia? The quest is not to be taken lightly. You just may discover there is another Kingdom out there: closer than you realize, as near as your heartbeat, just through that door. Are you ready to take the first step?
Join best-selling author Sarah Arthur (Walking with Frodo) as she ventures through the wardrobe with the cast of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in the quest for the true Kingdom."
I have really enjoyed what I've read so far and I'm excited to finish it.

link to purchase
This is a book I got from the library late last month and I am obsessed.  Oh my goodness.  I love this book!  I've only read about three chapters, but it is a writer's dream.  Writing Tools is full of tools and tricks for writers to make their writing a little better.  I know this is a book that is going to get dog-eared, marked up, and full of sticky-notes.  Yes, I am a complete nerd.  Description ahead:
"One of America's most influential writing teachers offers a toolbox from which writers of all kinds can draw practical inspiration.

"Writing is a craft you can learn," says Roy Peter Clark. "You need tools, not rules." His book distills decades of experience into 50 tools that will help any writer become more fluent and effective.

WRITING TOOLS covers everything from the most basic ("Tool 5: Watch those adverbs") to the more complex ("Tool 34: Turn your notebook into a camera") and provides more than 200 examples from literature and journalism to illustrate the concepts. For students, aspiring novelists, and writers of memos, e-mails, PowerPoint presentations, and love letters, here are 50 indispensable, memorable, and usable tools."
Alrighty, that's it for this month!  I'd better get reading.  Hopefully I'll start the reviews by the middle of August.  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella