(Review) Please Enjoy Your Happiness by Paul Brinkley-Rogers

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Publisher and Publication Date: Touchstone. June 6, 2017.
Genre: Memoir.
Pages: 368.
Source: Complimentary paperback copy from Touchstone. I was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon

Paul Brinkley-Rogers is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and war correspondent. He covered the wars in Vietnam and Cambodia as a journalist. He has worked for Newsweek and The Miami Herald.

Summary:
Please Enjoy Your Happiness
is a memoir of a young man who was in a remarkable relationship with an older Japanese woman. The time period was 1959. The place was the port city of Yokosuka, Japan. He was in the U S Navy. She worked as a hostess in a bar. She noticed him sitting alone and reading. She loved poetry and this was the first step in their relationship. They had a kindred love of art and literature.

Paul Brinkley-Rogers is the young man. Kaji Yukiko was the Japanese woman. For Paul, this was a period in time where he had a life changing and memorable relationship. The relationship was brief. The story is a personal examination of that time. And, Paul states that this relationship has continued (for him) despite a separation of 58 years. Letters are included. In addition, the society and culture of Japan in 1959 is examined.

My Thoughts:
I have so many thoughts about this book. I believe it is because of my age and life experiences. I am 53. I have found that as a person becomes older the past is examined closely. There is something about becoming older that makes a person reflect and process the life we’ve lived. Some people (including me) ponder things. We have a sensitive perspective. And then again, there are some people who do not examine the past. They live in the moment. Reflecting on the past is more than thinking about regrets. Other things are studied. For example, am I a mature person compared to who I was ten years ago? For Paul Brinkley-Rogers, this period in his life was tantamount; it was a pivotal point, that changed the course of life.

Several points to consider in this story:
1. Their relationship was brief. It did not continue and show the wear and tear of arguments, disagreements, and the everyday struggles of a couple.
2. They had an intimacy that many long-term couples never have. I want to mention that intimacy does not mean sex. Intimacy means two people who have a deep trust for one another. They have shared the real people behind the flesh.
3. Paul reflects back and understands so much more than he did at age 19-20. Don’t we all understand things a bit better when we are older?
4. Paul is thankful he has this good memory, because he also has painful memories. But, Kaji is his happy place. She is his delightful joy. I bet there are people who have had many relationships who cannot say they had a deep relationship like Paul and Kaji?

I believe some readers will not “get” this story. In order to understand Paul’s memoir, a little life needs to have been lived. Notice I said life and not age. Some people have had heavy life experiences when they are still young.

I loved this story for several reasons:
1. Paul Brinkley-Rogers unpacks his suitcase so to speak, about a great love during his youth. It is interesting to read about the progressing relationship, as well as his mature reflections on this period.
2. I have clarity about Japan’s culture and society post World War II.
3. I have clarity about Japanese women post World War II.
4. I loved reading about two people who by chance meet, and the relationship changes their lives.
5. An additional tweak to the story is Paul was born in England. His perspective on America brought a different viewpoint. Especially in reference to racism.
6. The letters that are included from Kaji are important. I was able to hear her voice.

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(Review) The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty by Eudora Welty

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Publisher and Publication Date: Harcourt Brace. 1982.
Genre: Fiction. Short Stories.
Pages: 648.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon

I’d had this weighty book in my to be read pile for a few years. I’d started and then became distracted by other books. I became determined to finish this book in 2017 and the goal was met.

Several years ago I took a writing class. The teacher exclaimed that not all writers can write short stories. It takes a certain style and talent to pull off a story in a few pages. I did not fully understand this comment until I read, The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty. While reading this collection of short stories, I studied Welty’s style. She packs a punch in the first sentence or paragraph. She does not wait for a later moment to begin the crescendo for storytelling. I noticed an even pace to all the stories. They are not rushed. They are not too slow. They have a steady rhythm. I wondered if she listened to a metronome while she was writing (just kidding.) The characters bloom at the start of the story. The characters are important to the overall story. The characters are not props or fill-ins to add something that is truly unneeded. Lastly, the stories have meaning. They have a message to pass to the reader.

A total of 41 stories are included. The stories have dates written between 1941 and 1966.

The stories show a view of society and culture of the south. This is the period of time just before the civil rights era. The last two chapters were written with Medgar Evers, and a violence during a demonstration in mind.

The stories include a strained mother and daughter relationship, people at a train station, Mrs. Larkin and her garden, and a couple who meet in New Orleans.

My favorite story is No Place For You, My Love.  The setting is a Sunday afternoon in summer. The place is New Orleans, Louisiana. A couple see each other at a luncheon party. He invites her to take a drive south, away from New Orleans. A drive just to see how far the road takes them. They spend the day together. The day is hot and sticky. I wondered if the insects are accompanying them like an invading army or maybe they are being chaperoned? I have read this story twice. I read it a second time to see if I missed anything and I had. Welty uses the two characters voices, including their thoughts, and she pans out away from them and tells the story herself. He sees something in the woman. He has been observing her dress, hat, hair, mannerisms. Their drive down south was a sightseeing experience. From a large perspective of what they see to a smaller detailed view. Emphasis is made to the sun, heat, wind, insects, speed of the car, preconceived thoughts, the road itself, and the lone bar at the end of the road. My favorite lines from the entire book are in this story.

A thing is incredible, if ever, only after it is told-returned to the world it came out of. For their different reasons, he thought, neither of them would tell this (unless something was dragged out of them): that, strangers, they had ridden down into a strange land together and were getting safely back-by a slight margin, perhaps, but margin enough. Page 480.

I loved this story. Two people, strangers who by chance spend the day together. They were lonely people. They connected. In later years, probably neither one of them told a soul about this memorable day. It is not that I look at this story as romantic and worthy of a heavy sigh. I believe it is a memorable story, because it is filled with the reality of humanity. Despite living in a populated world, some people are still lonely, and they reach out hoping someone will fill that empty spot.

(Review) She Reads Truth: Holding Tight to Permanent in a World That’s Passing Away by Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams

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Publisher and Publication Date: B&H Publishing Group. 2016.
Genre: Christian Living.
Pages: 224.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Excellent.

Twitter: Amanda Bible Williams @biblewilliams

Twitter: Raechel Myers @raechelmyers

Amazon

Community: Webster’s New World Dictionary. “All the people living in a particular district, city etc. A group of people forming a smaller social unit within a larger one, and sharing common interests, work, identity, location, etc.”

It is explained in the opening pages, “She Reads Truth was a community long before it was a book.” She Reads Truth is a website with the focus of encouraging women to read Scripture.  The She Reads Truth community has grown and branched out to Bible studies, an app, a Bible, and books. She Reads Truth is women encouraging other women to read and study God’s Word. The current study is hymns: Go Tell It On The Mountain. They just finished a study of Romans.

Summary:
She Reads Truth: Holding Tight to Permanent in a World That’s Passing Away 
is memoirs of the two founding women of She Reads Truth; and answers the foundational questions of why God’s Truth matters and how God’s Truth transforms us. God’s Truth-God’s Word does not change. The world changes. Our lives change. We change. But God’s Word does not change.

“Introduction: Passing Away”—Amanda
“ONE: What’s in Your Cup?”—Raechel
“TWO: The Stack”—Amanda
“THREE: Remember Whose You Are”—Amanda
“FOUR: A Blue-Ribbon Girl”—Raechel
“FIVE: Exquisite Mercy”—Raechel
“SIX: Fresh Out of Hope”—Raechel
“SEVEN: Take a Seat”—Amanda
“EIGHT: Truth in the Dark”—Amanda
“NINE: Decaying Treasures”—Raechel
“TEN: She Is Me”—Amanda

We cannot know the eternal weight of this temporary life we’ve been given unless we understand that it is, indeed, temporary…But God and His Word will never pass away (Matt. 24:35). He is the one permanent thing we find when we frantically grasp in the dark of our doubt and fear. He is the perfection we long for in the midst of our suffering and brokenness. He is the one sure thing we seek in our uncertainty. God is our only immovable mountain, and we can find Him in His Word. Pages 6-7.

My Thoughts:
The above quotation is beautiful. And I say loudly and with great expression, Amen!

Myers and Williams have shared their life stories but with deep insight and reflection. They know God has been at work, through their pain, sadness, uncertainty, and insecurity God has remained constant. God has not faltered or changed. Several ideas are examined in the book:
1. Praising God during the hard times.
2. Only God’s promise to us is important. Any promises we make to God does not compel Him.
3. Legalism.
4. To accept what God has placed in our cups, whether it is sour or honeyed .
5. True contentment despite what is going on in our lives.
6. We are not in control.
7. “Faith is a gift.”
8. The things that are permanent.
9. Jesus is our answer-not something or someone else.

If anything, our own ever-changing journey of joy and sorrow has made plain the unchanging steadfastness of our God. It’s as if a time lapse of our lives is the only way to truly see all that is always changing, and the One who was permanent all along. That is our hope. Not that things will work out for our benefit. Not that our lives will look the way we wanted them to. And not that we would be spared from suffering. Our hope is in the One who has never failed to fulfill His promises to us. We hope in the One who has only ever been faithful in our own lives, and since the beginning of time. Our hope is in God alone. Page 102-103.

She Reads Truth has been one of my favorite reads this year. This book spoke to my heart. Myers and Williams shared parts of their lives that are relatable. When women open up and then relate to one another a trust and comradeship develops. The feeling of isolation disappears. That is community!

She Reads Truth is a perfect book for a women’s book club.

(Review) She Reads Truth, Christian Standard Bible

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Publisher and Publication Date: Holman. April 15, 2017.
Genre: Bible.
Pages: 2226.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Excellent.

General Editor: Raechel Myers
General Editor: Amanda Bible Williams
Publisher: Trevin Wax, PHD
Managing Editor: Melissa Fuller

Holman Bibles

For a review of the Christian Standard Bible: Why I Love The New Christian Standard Bible Study Bible, post written by Jared Witt.

Christian Book

Amazon

At the following link, more information is included about the She Reads Truth Bible. This includes several videos, sample pages, a Bible app, and design choices for the cover.

Purchasing a Bible is a strong personal choice. There are many factors that are involved in what type of Bible to buy. Some examples are translation, words of Christ in red letter, reference verses, notes, maps, type-font size, and the over-all look of the Bible. Several questions can be asked: Will I want to use the Bible for everyday reading? Will I use the Bible in a Bible study? Will I use the Bible for Bible journaling or taking notes on the pages?

Bible journaling is popular. Social media has helped boost the interest. Instagram, Facebook groups, Pinterest, and YouTube all have Bible journaling information. And, DaySpring, LifeWay, and Hobby Lobby offer supplies.

The She Reads Truth Bible is not a journaling Bible. I have read several reviews from customers who were disappointed the Bible pages do not allow for Bible journaling. I use a mechanical pencil and have written in several places in my She Reads Truth Bible. This works great. The mechanical pencil does not smear. The lead in a regular pencil will smear. I have colored lead for a mechanical pencil. I use this as well and it works great. I do not use high-lighters in this Bible. I have stopped using high-lighters in all my Bibles. It’s a personal preference, because I don’t like the way it looks. When I want a verse to stand-out and be remembered. I use a ruler and a mechanical pencil, and I underline the word or sentence. Another tool I’ve been using is sticky notes. Michaels, for a dollar, has small decorative post-it type notes. These easily fit on the side margins of the She Reads Truth Bible.

The pages of the She Reads Truth Bible, Christian Standard Bible are similar to the ESV Study Bible pages. In both texture and thickness.

Additional features:
Christian Standard Bible translation. This is a new edition of the translation. This is a big update from the Holman Christian Standard Bible edition.
Single column.
66 illustrated (beautiful) key verses that are located on the first page of each Bible book.
20 full-color maps.
11 full-color charts.
35 full-color timelines.
Text size is 8 point.
2 ribbon markers, 1 yellow and 1 white.
A Bible reading plan for each book of the Bible. These are located at the start of each book. In addition, there is a one year Bible reading plan located at the back of the Bible.
Topical index.
189 devotionals.
A Key verse list.
A brief explanation of the Old Testament and New Testament.
The Apostle’s Creed.
A brief introductory of each Bible book.
In the opening pages of the Bible, a Gospel presentation is given.
And, an introduction to the Bible explaining the text used for the translation.

“The textual base for the New Testament is the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th edition, and the United Bible Societes’ Greek New Testament, 5th corrected edition. The text for the Old Testament is the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 5th Edition.” The She Reads Truth Bible, Christian Standard Bible is an “optimal equivalence” translation. “The primary goal of translation is to convey the sense of the original with as much clarity as the original text and the translation language permit.”

In order to compare this textual base with another Bible translation. The ESV Study Bible “is based on the Masoretic-Biblia Hebraica 2nd ed 1983, and Greek text in the 1993 editions of the of Greek New Testament 4th corrected, published by the United Bible Societies, and Novum Testamentum Graece 27th ed. edited by Nestle and Aland”. Dead Sea Scrolls, Septuagint, Samartian Pentateuch, Syriac Peshitta, and Latin Vulgate are additional sources. The ESV Study Bible is an “essentially literal” translation.

For some Bible readers the above information on textual base for the translation is a non-interest. For me, it is important and interesting.

What I love about this Bible:
1. A minimalist look. This may seem a strange thing to say. I will try and explain: The pages are clean, open, and the focus is on Scripture. My eyes are not distracted by fluff. Fluff meaning additional information that I don’t need.
2. Room to take notes. Most pages have at least a 1 1/2 inch place on the margins to write. In the Psalms, as much as 4 inches are available.
3. I love the beautiful, fluid, artistically written key Bible verse located at the beginning of each Bible book.
4. The maps. Most maps in Bibles are full color and heavy with points of interest. This is great. However, in the She Reads Truth Bible the maps are simplistic. They are black ink drawings with a “just the facts” look.

It usually takes me a while to get used to a new Bible or a new translation. I have made myself at home quickly in this Bible. I use it for everyday Bible reading, Bible study, and note taking. It is my go to Bible! Other Bibles I use are the ESV Study Bible and the NKJV Women’s Study Bible.

 

 

 

 

 

(Review) Threads of Suspicion: An Evie Blackwell Cold Case (Book 2) by Dee Henderson

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Publisher and Publication Date: May 2, 2017. Bethany House Publishers.
Pages: 429.
Genre: Christian fiction, mystery, detective.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Good.

Dee Henderson’s website

The first Evie Blackwell Cold Case book is Traces of Guilt

Summary:
Evie Blackwell is a cold case investigator with the Illinois State Police. She recently began working in the Missing Persons Task Force. She has a new partner, David Marshal. David’s girlfriend is Maggie, a popular singer in a band known as Triple M. David is a Christian and hopes to marry Maggie. Maggie is not a Christian, and because of this David is holding off on marriage. Evie has a boyfriend named Rob. They too are contemplating marriage. David and Evie are working on a case involving the disappearance of Jenna Greenhill. When David and Evie interview people who knew Jenna, they get strong reactions of intense like or dislike.

I don’t read Christian fiction often. Most Christian fiction books I find are unrealistic. In order to maintain a clean content, the stories are void of the realness of life. The topics in the books are real, but things are stripped or omitted that give the reader a believability to the story. The characters seem pasty and inhuman. Some Christian publishers and authors are able to pull off a believable story, and some authors miss the mark.

My Thoughts:
An interesting element in Threads of Suspicion is a Christian engaged to an unbeliever. David Marshall wants to marry Maggie. Maggie is not a Christian, and David makes the decision to post-pone marriage for a while. They are still in a relationship, but he will not marry a person who is not a Christian. David shows patience and tender love for Maggie. His feelings for her did not change, but he was not going to progress to marriage unless she became a Christian. To an outsider, a person who is not a Christian, this attitude and action of David seems cruel. The topic of religion in marriage is huge. Eventually there is going to be a showdown between a married couple about religion. I feel this topic is an interesting add to the overall story. The characters, David and Maggie, are loving and gracious to one another. This shows Christian teachings of love and grace. Another Christian teaching: “Don’t become partners with those who do not believe. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14, CSB. On one hand, I am glad David and Maggie acted loving to one another. However, I wanted to see turmoil. I needed to see intense friction.

I enjoyed reading the interesting and insightful conversations between Evie and David. David is a smart guy. He is both intelligent and wise. Several things he said in the story stood out to me. For example, “Life is mostly captured in the decisions we make, the choices, the pivots.”

The details of gathering and studying information to solve the case is shown to be a slow and steady progression. Patience is required to be a detective. A good eye for detail is important. These things were brought through in the story and created a solid piece for this detective mystery story.

Overall, Threads of Suspicion is an enjoyable read.