In the Bookcase


Mount TBR Checkpoint, 2018 Vol. 1

At the end of March, I'd finished 29 books for the Mount TBR challenge. (Since I'm trying for 100 this year, I'm 4 books ahead of schedule. #awesome)

Here's some highlights so far from all that reading...


This is just such a pretty cover, with a Victorian flair. I love Lady Almina's side-portrait, and the intriguing and detailed castle-scape. Beautifully done, in my opinion. Even that blue color behind the title is the perfect shade.


Anne Shirley. Yes, this was my second time reading 'Anne' -- and I rarely do that. But I read this novel oh-so-long ago in the almost-forgotten days of my childhood (#wink), and I knew I'd forgotten so much of the story since then. I picked up on so many nuances of Anne's character and imagination, that I certainly didn't notice as my younger self. She's certainly spirited!


Seasonal TBR Challenge: Spring Edition

The Goal: Read these 12 books off my shelves by June 21.

My Seasonal TBR Challenge (Spring) List:
  1. The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle
  2. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  3. When Calls the Heart by Janette Oke
  4. Hunting for Hidden Gold by Franklin Dixon
  5. Burden of Honor by Lee Roddy
  6. Mission Atomic by Sarwat Chadda
  7. Vinegar Boy by Alberta Hawse
  8. The Suicide Club by Robert Louis Stevenson
  9. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  10. Dash by Kirby Larson

*The list on this page will be updated with review links as I finish reading each title.

Want to see what was on my Winter TBR list? I read 12 of 12.


Book Review: I Can Only Imagine

I Can Only Imagine: A Memoir (5 star review)

I Can Only Imagine:
A Memoir

written by Bart Millard

224 pages // published in 2018 // Inspirational Christian memoir


The captivating story behind the bestselling single in the history of Christian music—and the man who wrote it.

MercyMe’s crossover hit, “I Can Only Imagine,” has touched millions of people around the world. But few know about the pain, redemption, and healing that inspired it. Now Bart Millard, award-winning recording artist and lead singer of MercyMe, shares how his dad’s transformation from abusive father to man of God sparked a divine moment in music history.

Go behind the scenes of Bart’s life—and the movie based on it—to discover how God repaired a broken family, prepared Bart for ministry through music, and wrote the words on his heart that would change his life forever. I Can Only Imagine is a front-row seat to witnessing God’s presence throughout Bart’s life. Whether falling in love with his childhood sweetheart or mourning his father’s death, founding MercyMe or flailing in the midst of its success, Bart continues to place his trust in God’s plans—plans that continue to surprise and surpass what Bart could have ever imagined.

My Review

5 Star Rating

Bart Millard shares his incredible story, telling about how he penned one of the most touching modern songs – and penned it in ten minutes, in fact. But, of course, as singer Amy Grant tells him, “Bart, you didn't write that song in ten minutes. It took a lifetime.” – very true words. And this books fully tells that story of his...

“Music gave me hope when I felt hopeless. Love when I felt unloved. A reason to embrace life when I was dying inside.”

If you've already enjoyed watching the new film “I Can Only Imagine”, or are looking forward to watching it – maybe it's time to read the book. Written by MercyMe's lead singer and writer of the chart-topping song “I Can Only Imagine”. The book explores more of Bart's life in further detail, than the movie allows. And written quite well, if I may say so (and it's so quotable too! Some of my favorite quotes are included in this review). If you're a fan at all, I'd recommend enjoying both the book AND movie – but in the order of your choice.

Let's discuss the story a bit. Bart tells of his childhood in depth, of his father who turned abusive after an accident (Bart specifically says “It was like a Jekyll-and-Hyde story), and how as a young boy growing up in that household, Bart had to turn to his imagination for means of escape. Music became his passion in life.

“But through all that noise in my life, whenever I heard a perfect union of melody and lyric in a song, something traveled from my ears to my heart and made me feel alive.”

Now, if it hadn't been for his Mammaw Millard, there'd be no MercyMe, and there'd be no “I Can Only Imagine”. This woman is the heroine of several important chapters in Bart's life, and a mighty lady she is.

In the latter half of 2001, the song “I Can Only Imagine” hit the radio – everyone was listening to it (Christian and non-Christian alike) – and it topped the charts and broke records.

“No one can write better scripts than God.”

I loved the book – Bart shares so much of his life on these pages – some of it is laugh-out-loud funny, and some of it completely serious stuff. He tells all about how the band MercyMe formed, and about how sometimes... things just lined up so well, it could have only been done by the hand of God. He shares some deeply personal things about his family, and opens up tale after amusing tale to us, his fans. I gained strength and inspiration just from hearing about his successes, failures, and other experiences.

I definitely recommend this to anyone interested. It should be passed through the churches to give everyone the opportunity to read it for yourself.

“While I am here on earth, I am both a work in progress and already made whole because of the cross. I am a child of the risen King who will wrestle with the flesh. I'll win some and lose some, but it can never change how Christ sees me because the cross was enough!”

Available on Amazon in paperback, ebook format, audio download format, and audio CD format
starting at $9.99.

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Book Review: Cherry Ames, Senior Nurse

Cherry Ames, Senior Nurse (5 star review)

Cherry Ames, Senior Nurse

written by Helen Wells

217 pages // published in 1944 // YA World War II-era fiction


In Senior Nurse, Cherry realizes that "a senior really must be a little more sober and responsible" - perhaps she should have warned the head nurse right away about the rabbit that had been smuggled into the pediatric ward. But the children had enjoyed it so! As "lofty" seniors, Cherry and her friends each "adopt" a probationer (first-year student) to mentor. Why did her probie have to be dull and sullen Mildred Burnham? Dr. Joe Fortune has discovered a new way to synthesize penicillin - which could make a life or death difference on the battle front. But how did word of it become common knowledge around Spencer? Cherry discovers that Mildred has more to her than she thought as together they face the dangerous thieves who have stolen Dr. Joe's formula.

My Review

5 Star Rating

I'm loving this series so far. If you like Nancy Drew books, the Cherry Ames books are comparable in the writing style and dialogue.

In this volume, we find Cherry as a senior student nurse who will soon be graduating. She has an important life decision to make, whether she will stay as a nurse on the home front, or become an army nurse. It's an important step in her life -- so if you're wanting to read the series, don't miss book #2.

There's even some intrigue happening right in the hospital -- which has to do with Dr. Joe's secret laboratory projects. Overall, there's a really good plot in the book, and made for an enjoyable read.

Available on Amazon in hardcover, paperback, and ebook format,
starting at $6.99.

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Book Review: The First Easter

The First Easter (5 star review)

The First Easter

written by Peter Marshall, edited by Catherine Marshall

137 pages // published in 1985 // Christian non-fiction


Peter Marshall's sermons proved him to be not only a devout man of God but also a stimulating, sparkling storyteller. In this beloved book, Catherine Marshall skillfully weaves a magnificent dramatic narrative of Easter from Peter's many thought-provoking messages.

My Review

5 Star Rating

If you're going to read an Easter book this year – let it be THIS ONE.

In a way that only a true storyteller can, Peter Marshall brings to life the story of the first Easter. It reads as if you were there, experiencing the last days of Christ's life on earth with Him. There is so much detail included too – detail that can only come from study, as not every little bit comes from the Bible itself. For some of the details, one would just have to research the Biblical times and customs, in order to understand little bits of information modern readers might skip over, not realizing the significance of it. Truly, this book brought out some interesting elements about Easter that I either didn't know, or didn't remember hearing before.

It's a dramatic telling of the greatest story of redemption known to man. It's lyrical prose invites the reader to enjoy a familiar story from a fresh viewpoint, complete with minute facts and biblical knowledge.

Actually, “The First Easter” is a collection of sermons by Peter Marshall, interlaced into one cohesive book. It's done so well (by his wife Catherine) that it is seamless, where one sermon passage ends and another begins. It all feels like one full-length book he wrote.

Furthermore (and maybe my favorite bit) is that the integrity of Peter's unique writing style of how he penned his sermons is preserved. His paragraphs cascade down the page, visually similar to poetry. I have learned that he wrote in this way to provide emphasis on certain words or key phrases. Well, as a logophile myself, this is magnificently done, and it makes Peter's work a joy to read.

I can easily see myself re-reading this title again, perhaps during some future Lent season. It's a beautiful experience, a spotless interpretation.

“We are to remember His death.
Never did He ask that we should commemorate His birth...
Not once did He request that any of the wonderful deeds He performed should be immortalized...
Only this – His last and greatest work –
the work of redemption.”

Available on Amazon in paperback format.

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Book Review: Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables (5 star review)

Anne of Green Gables

written by L.M. Montgomery

309 pages // published in 1909 // YA historical fiction


When Marilla Cuthbert's brother, Matthew, returns home to Green Gables with a chatty redheaded orphan girl, Marilla exclaims, "But we asked for a boy. We have no use for a girl." It's not long, though, before the Cuthberts can't imagine how they could ever do without young Anne of Green Gables--but not for the original reasons they sought an orphan. Somewhere between the time Anne "confesses" to losing Marilla's amethyst pin (which she never took) in hopes of being allowed to go to a picnic, and when Anne accidentally dyes her hated carrot-red hair green, Marilla says to Matthew, "One thing's for certain, no house that Anne's in will ever be dull." And no book that she's in will be, either.

My Review

5 Star Rating

Well, I finally came around to reading “Anne” again. I was 13 when I found my first kindred spirit (in Anne Shirley, that is). Of course, before that, I didn't even know what a kindred spirit even was. Honestly, my young self had no clue what I was getting myself into, all those years ago. But I did understand the fact that I had found something charming and unique to read. To be honest, I had never read anything like it before – with that beautiful descriptive writing, and a heroine who I found so interesting, like no one I'd ever heard of before...

Well, a “lifetime” later, I've read it again. I found out that I had remembered some of the main plot developments in the novel, but there was a lot more that I had “lost” in my memories of how things really happened. So it was wonderful to meet up with one of my favorite female literary characters again – and to measure up how I see her now, reading it as an adulthood, and in effect, to see how I've changed since my first time.

The re-reading experience was totally different. This time around, I saw the story as an adult. I connected with the grown-ups in the story much more – for example, when I was 13, Marilla and Matthew were background characters to Anne and Diana. But now? The story seems to be more about Anne and Marilla's relationship than what I ever realized before.

[Matthew:] “I suppose—we could hardly be expected to keep her.”
[Marilla:] “I should say not. What good would she be to us?”
“We might be some good to her,” said Matthew suddenly and unexpectedly.

Marilla. She needed Anne to show up in her life, and even though she wants to give back this orphan girl for the boy she expected, well – Marilla gets much more than what she could have anticipated. In a way, Marilla finds herself again – or in some ways, for the first time. For example: “...some of the things Anne had said... were what she herself had really thought deep down in her heart for years, but had never given expression to. It almost seemed to her that those secret, unuttered, critical thoughts had suddenly taken visible and accusing shape and form in the person of this outspoken morsel of neglected humanity.” Over time, Marilla comes to love Anne, even though she didn't mean to at first, and still she certainly doesn't say it much, as emotions come hard for this aging woman, but she loves Anne all the same.

“I’ve been here for a year and I’ve been so happy. Of course, I’ve had my troubles, but one can live down troubles. Are you sorry you kept me, Marilla?”
“No, I can’t say I’m sorry,” said Marilla, who sometimes wondered how she could have lived before Anne came to Green Gables, “no, not exactly sorry.”

Matthew. If it's emotions for his sister, it's words that come hard for this soft-hearted man. “Still Matthew said nothing and Marilla had a sense of having wasted words and breath. There is nothing more aggravating than a man who won’t talk back—unless it is a woman who won’t.” He is a humble farmer, notably comical in his escapades of silence. I couldn't get over him. To me, he's a charmer, because though little words he may speak, he listens – and listens well...

[Mrs. Lynde:] “But to think of Matthew taking notice of it! That man is waking up after being asleep for over sixty years.”

Diana. To a girl who's never had a friend, someone she can trust with her innermost secrets, Diana is exactly who Anne needed to find in this great big world. And they just happen to be neighbors, after Anne is taken in at Green Gables. As Anne dramatically proclaims to Marilla: “I cannot ever live without her. But I know very well when we grow up that Diana will get married and go away and leave me. And oh, what shall I do? I hate her husband—I just hate him furiously.”

Gilbert. I couldn't help but smile every time his name came up in the story. Anne passionately hates him, and the scrapes she gets it to avoid him are hilarious. She says she'll never forgive him for the “carrots” episode, but... when one is as emotional as Anne, you never know when your feelings will do a flip-flop.

“The rivalry between them was soon apparent; it was entirely good natured on Gilbert’s side; but it is much to be feared that the same thing cannot be said of Anne, who had certainly an unpraiseworthy tenacity for holding grudges. She was as intense in her hatreds as in her loves. She would not stoop to admit that she meant to rival Gilbert in schoolwork, because that would have been to acknowledge his existence which Anne persistently ignored...”

Anne. There are enough words to sum up this particular girl. She's an odd bird, to be sure. She also tries her best to please the Cuthberts who have fulfilled this orphan's dreams of a happy home. In her own words, “Miss Marilla Cuthbert is a very kind lady who has taken me to bring up properly. She is doing her best, but it is very discouraging work.” In her all little mistakes (no matter how many she makes), we find each relatable to our own life. In her “scope for imagination” we find the ideas and creativity that childhood freely gives, and most people never use properly.

“There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.”

Until we meet again, dear friend.

- - - - - - - - - -

Other quotes I found ever so delightful...

“Who’s bringing this child up, Matthew, you or me?”
“Well now, you,” admitted Matthew.
“Don’t interfere then.”

“I love Miss Stacy with my whole heart, Marilla. She is so ladylike and she has such a sweet voice. When she pronounces my name I feel instinctively that she’s spelling it with an E.”

“It must be a great deal better to be sensible; but still, I don’t believe I’d really want to be a sensible person, because they are so unromantic. Mrs. Lynde says there is no danger of my ever being one, but you can never tell. I feel just now that I may grow up to be sensible yet.”

“I don’t know—I don’t want to talk as much,” she said, denting her chin thoughtfully with her forefinger. “It’s nicer to think dear, pretty thoughts and keep them in one’s heart, like treasures. I don’t like to have them laughed at or wondered over. And somehow I don’t want to use big words any more. It’s almost a pity, isn’t it, now that I’m really growing big enough to say them if I did want to.”

Matthew, with a suspicious moisture in his eyes, got up and went out-of-doors. Under the stars of the blue summer night he walked agitatedly across the yard to the gate under the poplars.
“Well now, I guess she ain’t been much spoiled,” he muttered, proudly. “I guess my putting in my oar occasional never did much harm after all. She’s smart and pretty, and loving, too, which is better than all the rest. She’s been a blessing to us, and there never was a luckier mistake than what Mrs. Spencer made—if it was luck. I don’t believe it was any such thing. It was Providence, because the Almighty saw we needed her, I reckon.”

Available on Amazon in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audio format.

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This is book #2 for me in the Back to the Classics 2018 challenge.
[CATEGORY: Re-Read a Favorite Classic]

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