Book Review: Stop Calling Me Beautiful by Phylicia Masonheimer

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Stop Calling Me Beautiful by Phylicia Masonheimer.

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This review is hard for me to write, mainly because I really enjoyed Stop Calling Me Beautiful and I also struggle with writing reviews for non-fiction books, especially Christian living books. Mainly due to the fact that I know I probably won’t do them justice, but I’m going to do my best.

Stop Calling Me Beautiful is a call for women to ditch the “pink fluff” that tends to come with Christian teaching for women – you are beautiful, you are fearfully and wonderfully made, the overemphasis on the Proverbs 31 woman – the teaching that focuses on the self rather than God. An incomplete gospel. And the need for the complete gospel, and the need for us to know God more. It moves on to talk about reading God’s Word and our need to be in the Word when we can, not only when we can have the perfect quiet time with candles, the best pens and coffee. What is important is that we worship God – which isn’t just something that is done at church. It then delves into topics such as legalism (which was honestly one of the best things I have read on the topic and how to overcome it), anxiety, grief, feeling overwhelmed, our need for community, sexual brokenness, and fear of man.

Like I mentioned before, I really enjoyed stop Calling Me Beautiful. Even though I have read other books that cover these topics, I felt like this did a better job explaining how we as Christians can work through those things and draw near to God. I used it in addition to my Bible reading and prater time. I also listened to Phylicia Masonheimer podcast episodes where she discuss more on each f the topics shared in the book, which I highly recommend doing. An I highly recommend the book!

Before I finish off this review, I would like to share some of my favorite quotes from Stop Calling Me Beautiful:

“The complete gospel – our sinfulness, God’s grace, Christ’s imputed beauty – empowers us with a strength the incomplete gospel cannot supply. Without the whole truth about who we are and what god does for us, we will never know the fullness of the life god intends for us.” (pp. 22-23).

“We must cultivate a holy curiosity…a mind that strongly desires to know and learn about God.” (pg. 29).

“If we base our pursuit of God only on our feeling, we’ll never be consistent. Desire is a necessary part of deepening our relationship with the Lord, but it is not possible in our won strength. We need transformed desires and hearts reflective of His.” (pp.32-33)

“There’s nothing wrong with celebrating God’s Word through art. But there is something wrong when time with God acquires so many trapping that we miss the actual point of it.” (pg. 58).

“Reverance for God is recognizing that He is beyond us, yet also with us, striving for us, because He loves.” (pg. 173).

“Repentance does not entail rehearsing our purpose of glorifying God. We glorify God best when we turn from our sinful ways, embrace the worthiness He has given us in Christ, and live out that worthiness by the Holy Spirit’s power.” (pg. 184).

“To truly make a difference in the world, we have to know the Creator and Redeemer of the world on an intimate level.” (pg. 192).

I thoroughly enjoyed Stop Calling Me Beautiful, and I learned a lot from Phylicia Masonheimer. I highly recommend checking out her website, and her podcast, Verity. 5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

First Line Fridays #61 – The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson

Hello everyone,

Welcome to another installment of First Line Fridays hosted by Hoarding Books.

The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson

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“The snow had been falling for hours, drifting past the windows, settling on the sill, forming little landscapes that mimicked the mountains in the distance.”

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: The Answer Is… by Alex Trebek

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The Answer Is…by Alex Trebek. In honor of what would have been his 81st birthday.

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This isn’t going to be a long review because this is a book that I think all Jeopardy! and Alex Trebek fans should read.

The Answer Is… is a unique book in that it is told in short chapter/vignettes starting with Mr. Trebek’s early life all the way up to 2020. He reminisces about his childhood, his early days as a game show host, and his career as the host of Jeopardy! He also reminisces about some of the most memorable contestants, including Ken Jennings.

I enjoyed getting to know Mr. Trebek more throughout this book and Jeopardy! is not the same without him. 5/5 Stars.

Book Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.

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All right, my review for The Mysterious Benedict Society might not be favorable because I kind of forced myself to read it before the TV show came out on Disney+. When it was first announced I had made a note to pick it up before, and I also have friends who love it so I wanted to check it out. But I felt like I slogged through it, but I think that’s only because I pushed myself to read it, even though I wasn’t in the mood to read it (I tend to be a mood reader sometimes). With that being said, while it wasn’t my new favorite, it was still a good book.

But….what is the book about? The Mysterious Benedict Society follows 11 year old Reynie Muldoon, who is a gifted boy who excels academically. He is also an orphan. One day his tutor shows him an ad in the paper about a test for special and gifted children, at her insistence he goes to take the test. After passing the tests, her and three other children meet the mastermind behind the tests, Mr. Benedict, and his team. He has chosen them to help find out the mastermind behind The Emergency – everyone feels like peril and doom are around the corner, but no one quite knows why, or how to solve The Emergency. Mr. Benedict has discovered that whoever is behind it is using children to send his subliminal and subtle messages. He has also been able to track the messages back to an island off the coast, Nomansan Island, home L.I.V.E school, and he believes the headmaster is behind it all, so he wants to send the children undercover to the school to discover what is going on and what is the Sender’s plan. After arriving at Nomansan Island, the children start investigating, while also trying to act inconspicuous. Will they be able to complete their mission successfully before being caught?

One of my biggest critiques of the novel is that it is overly long, like it could have easily have been at least 100 pages shorter. I know that there is a lot the author was trying to describe to the reader, but it id feel like overkill at times.

However, I loved the various puzzles that were scattered throughout the books, as well as some of the clever word play too, for example, Nomansan Island.

Another aspect of the novel that I didn’t like was The Emergency, it’s not that it wasn’t an interesting concept, it just hit a little too close to home., and I didn’t like that. When I read something like this, I want the evil plot that’s being solved to have hints of realism but not so realistic. I think because of the things The Emergency consists of is stiff that we as a society are dealing with, and reasoning behind it isn’t like it is in the novel, although the argument could be made that it is, i.e. social media. And again, that’s just me and my preference, and I have no idea if this explanation makes sense.

Overall, I did like the plot, sure it kind of moved slowly, but it gripped me enough to keep reading. I also enjoyed getting to know the characters, except Constance Contraire. I didn’t like her at all, even though she is one of the protagonists, but that might be the point, actually I think that is what the author was going for.

There were a few plot twists in the book that were kind of cliched, i won’t go into them, but one of them was revealed at the end of the trailer for the show. However, I loved how something as innocuous sounding as the Waiting Room is really a sinister torture of sorts. it reminded me a lot of Miss. Truchbull’s CHokey in Matilda by Roald Dahl.

The Mysterious Benedict Society was a good book, and I think if I had read it at a different time I probably would have enjoyed it more. I honestly don’t know if I will continue on with the series, but maybe in the future. I do recommend this for fans of A Series of Unfortuante Events, Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library and anything by Roald Dahl. 3.5/5 Stars

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas.

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I have been meaning to reread Throne of Glass for a couple of years, but for whatever reason, I just never got around to it. I’d even toyed with the idea of just finishing up the last three books in the series, even though it had been a while since I’d read Queen of Shadows (Book 4) and I knew I’d probably be very confused. For me, I knew I needed to reread the first four books in the series and then continuing on t finish it. I do have a review from back when I read it the first time, click here if you want to read what I originally wrote. This review is going to be apart review, part me mentioning things I noticed time around, and will probably contain spoilers, so be warned!

Throne of Glass opens up with 18 year old Celaena Sardothein who is a slave in the brutal salt mines of Endovier, after having been arrested the year before. Before the salt mines, she used to be a dangerous assassin. One day, the Crown Prince – Dorian – and the Captain of the Guard – Chaol Westfall, make her an offer that gives a glimmer of hope. Take part in a competition to become the King’s assassin, if she wins, she can free after 4 years of being under the king’s employ, if she loses, she’ll be returned to the salt mines where she probably won’t survive another year in those horrid conditions. She takes them up on their offer and goes with them to Rifthold to take part in the tests. However, soon after her arrival, one of the Champions is found dead, with all his vital organs gone, and no one knows what kind of monster would do such a thing. However Celaena, starts having vivid dreams of the ancient queen, Elena, who tells her she needs to win the Championship, as well as discover who or what is causing the strange and dark occurrences in the castle. Will she be successful?

I’ll be honest, I think I enjoyed Throne of Glass much more this time around because I was able to catch a lot of the foreshadowing for things that are revealed in later books. I didn’t pick it up the first time, but rereading it after reading the first four books in the series, I’m picking up hints that the author drops about Celaena’s true identity, which is interesting because I had thought it just came out of nowhere, but it doesn’t.

I find the world so interesting, but yet it is also rife with suffering and despair because of the ruthless king who seeks to conquer not just Erilea, but the whole world. It was also interesting to learn more about the magic system – which is supposed to be gone – in the novel, and how it is used by several characters. It seems to be based on Celtic mythology – I could be wrong though.

I enjoyed getting reacquainted with the characters, particularly Celaena, and her friend Nehemia. Celaena reminds of me of Loki a little bit, especially in her earlier conversations with Chaol… but that could also be because I had watched the first episode of Loki when I started Throne of Glass.

I didn’t mind Chaol and Dorian either, but their petty jealousies with each other over spending time with Celaena is ridiculous. But that is also because I’m just not a huge fan of love triangles in general. Even though the High Preistess is only in one scene, she still reminded me of Mother Talzen, the leader of the Night Sisters in Star Wars: Clone Wars.

I liked the plot, it was an interesting start to what is a good fantasy series, and really this book is the calm before the storm in a lot of ways, like from what I remember it goes from 0-100 pretty quickly in the next book.

Overall, I enjoyed my re-read of Throne of Glass and I am looking forward to picking up Corwn of Midnight very soon. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Grown-up Pose by Sonya Lalli

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Grown-up Pose by Sonya Lalli.

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Grown-up Pose is another book that was mentioned on a Modern Mrs. Darcy booklist, and I’m glad because I don’t know I would have come across it otherwise.

Grown-up Pose follows 30-year-old Anu Desai, who feels like she never had a chance to grow up, having been forced by her South Asian parents to get married young, and start having kids. However, after being in a rut for several years and dissatisfied with her life, she separates from her husband in order to find who she is and what she wants, as opposed to whatever others tell her she should want. Soon she finds herself overwhelmed with not knowing where her life is going, she starts running her own yoga studio, while trying to raise her daughter.

I liked Grown-Up Pose, although there were some aspects I didn’t like. For instance, I didn’t like that Anu separated from her husband before talking to him. I also didn’t like that they both started seeing other people before they were divorced. I also didn’t like Anu’s friend Jenny, because she was constantly pushing Anu to do Tinder and go out on dates, even when Anu said no, and she bullies her.

I did like seeing how Anu tries to navigate discovering who she is, with her traditional upbringing and how she comes to blend it together. I also loved her parents and how in love they are, and how her father is learning to be more domestic while supporting his wife when she goes back to school. I also really liked the ending and how things turn out.

A couple of other things that bothered me were that this book had quite a few obvious typos and could have done with a couple more rounds of edits to change those errors. Another thing is that it seems to frown on people getting married young, and while maybe not everyone should, getting married at 22/23 is not a death sentence. But then again, Anu’s parents were somewhat overbearing back then.

Overall, I liked Grown-up Pose. Yes, I did have some issues with it, but it was a good read. I also enjoyed getting to know more about South Asian culture. I liked Anu’s journey throughout the novel, and I really liked the ending and how her marriage is resurrected (Spoiler alert). 3.5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur.

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Ever since I picked up The Perfect Nanny, I have been wanting to pick up more mystery thrillers. I can’t remember where I first heard of The Forest of Stolen Girls, probably on YouTube, but I am so glad I did because I really enjoyed it! And I can’t wait to get a chance to read June Hur’s other book – the Silence of Bones.

The Forest of Stolen Girls is a historical mystery set in 15th century South Korea, when it was a vassal state of the Ming dynasty. On the island of Jenju there is a forest where 13 girls have gone missing, never to be seen again. Detective Min, who’s daughters were found unconscious in the same forest several years before close to a gruesome crime scene, tries to investigate it, but he too ends up disappearing without a trace. A year later, his oldest daughter, Hwani, sets out to find her father, who she believes to be alive, as well as what is truly happening to the girls who are disappearing in the forest.

I was gripped from the very first page and I loved it. I read it in a day and it was almost unputdownable. I loved being transported to 15th century South Korea, and learning more about an area of history that is unknown to me. I knew that, like most places around the world at that time, it was hard being a woman. However, I had no idea about the “tribute” system in which the Ming emperor would forcibly take young women from their families and make them concubines. As a result most young women were kept hidden away by their families so that they would not be taken away. And of course, there is corruption involved in this system and bribes can be made to keep one’s daughter safe, as long as a replacement is given.

The corruption involved in this system, which is essentially a form of human trafficking, is ultimately what fuels the disappearance of the girls.

I found myself hooked as Hwani uncovers and peels back different layers of her father’s disappearance and the 13 girls Again, it is absolutely fascinating to learn more about a piece of history and culture that I didn’t know about.

The description of the scenery are also fantastic, I felt transported to the island and I felt like I was seeing it and experiencing everything for myself.

I also really liked the mystery and how it was solved. I also appreciate that it was linked to something that happened in history – the tribute girls.

Overall, I really enjoyed it, and I can’t wait to read more of June Hur’s work in the future! 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

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I’ll be honest, this has been a tricky review for me to write for multiple reasons: 1) it wasn’t my favorite; 2) there is both not a lot to say, but also a lot to unpack, some which I won’t get to in this review; and 3) this is my husband’s favorite book.

On the Road is probably the quintessential travel novel that is based on Kerouac’s travels with Neal Cassidy. it is told in first person from the perspective of Sal Paradise, in which he chronicles his travels across America, most of which are with the eccentric Dean Moriarty, who keeps coming in and out of his life like a bad habit. During Sal’s journeys we also meet a bunch of unique characters.

Alright, now for my thoughts. I both loved and loathed this book. I loved the descriptions of the various landscapes, many that I have experienced myself! However, I found none of the characters likable or relatable. When they’re not “on the road”, all they seem to do is drink carouse and get high, which to each their own, but that has never been my lifestyle so to me it just seemed shallow and a waste. But I guess in some ways it represents a failing in the pursuit of the “American dream”, or to find a purpose other than that. It can also be said each of these characters, specifically Sal and Dean, are on a journey to discover who they are and what they want from life. To refer to Thoreau’s Walden, they are probably trying to suck the marrow out of life, however, whether they live life deliberately could be a cause for debate. Maybe they are, or maybe they’re not. It’s hard to tell, especially when their hobbies and lifestyle are so different and seemingly empty and hollow.

I will say it is interesting to see how Dean and Sal serve as foils to each other throughout the novel, with Sal being the more responsible and reliable one, who is often brought down by Dean, who is eccentric, and probably quite literally crazy. And I say quite literally because there is no denying that his mental health deteriorates and making him even more impulsive as the novel goes on. Whether or not it is a result of a lifestyle of drugs and alcohol, or he already predisposed to mental illness – which I can’t really say. But I think some of the best parts of the novel are when Sal is traveling on his own.

On the Road is an interesting book because, as I’ve said before, I both loved and hated it. It also isn’t a book that I think everyone should read (despite it being an American classic), however, I do recommend it to those who feel like they are still trying to find their place in the world. I also found it interesting because it was written during the Beat era, which is an era/culture that is still pretty unknown to be, and it’s hard to find good information about it. It’s almost as if it is a period of time that people want to forget, or they feel is no longer significant. And I say that because it seems to be ignored, if I’m wrong let me know.

Overall, I’m very mixed in my feelings to On the Road. I can see why people love it, and I can see why people it, and I can also see why it is considered an American classic of sorts. 3/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.