Birchbark Books

So, so much to write since I’ve returned from Minnesota (the farthest North I’ve ever traveled)! You may or may not know that I recently subscribed to TIME Magazine and it completely fuels my love for random facts. A few weeks ago, I came across an interview with Louise Erdrich, a half-Chippewa, half-American author. Erdrich has written upwards of 20 novels and her work has definitely earned her a good reputation. Her most recent book, The Round House is near the top of my to-read list, and describes a tragedy and how it is approached from the reservation. Also included in this interview was some information on a little place called Birchbark Books…

Erdrich started Birchbark Books, a small, local bookstore in Minneapolis, MN. The avid lit-lover than I am, I was sure to write down her new novel and her bookstore, in case I should ever be able to make it up that way. Thanks to my position with the National Postsecondary Agricultural Students Organization, some travel to that area was required. After navigating Minneapolis traffic during rush hour (following five other vehicles rather than a GPS), I felt capable of making my way to this little place. My new friend Trisha and I had an hour to kill, so I figured, “Why not?!” What we happened upon was a beautiful, unique, intimate nook in a strangely nostalgic, urban neighborhood. I hope these pictures give you at least a partial feel for this souvenir that warmed my heart. 🙂
And of course I got something to remember it by, despite being a struggling college student.



The Choice

As I’ve mentioned before, reading Nicholas Sparks is a bit of an adjustment following Tolstoy and even Martin. What I do love about his books is that they’re easy to read – meaning the audience barely notices they are flying through the pages. You expect a love story and you experience the characters falling in love. Once you’re sure it’s happily ever after, tragedy strikes. You try to brace yourself for it, but it still hits you. Hard. But just like the characters, you dive in anyway because you know it’s going to be extraordinary.
In The Choice, the audience is introduced to Travis Parker as he heads to the hospital where his wife has worked for 10 years. There is obviously a less than ideal attitude between Parker and his wife. Entering the hospital, he begins to reminisce about the weekend he first met Gabby. Parker, then, is taking full advantage of life – inviting his married friends and their kids to his water-front home every other weekend. Not to mention, he has a great relationship with his sister, Stephanie, which I like to imagine I might have with my own brother someday.200709-the-choice Ms. Holland is his new next-door neighbor who appears to have a chip on her shoulder. Despite a rough introductions, an attraction is clear between Travis and Gabby. In less than a week they have so simply fallen madly in love with each other…
Once Travis comes back to reality from his vivid recollections, his troubles are still waiting for him at the hospital. The decision he has to make just might break his heart – and yours.
I will tell you that I may or may not have shed a single tear myself. By the end, I didn’t care that I wasn’t reading Martin or Tolstoy. I was too wrapped up hoping my love story ends up as great as this one.
Check out the Nicholas Sparks reading challenge I’m doing this year – and join me!

A Clash of Kings

A friend of mine has also recently read through the second and third book of The Song of Ice and Fire series. He, among others, have been discussing the characters – which is their favorite, which they hate the most. As this friend was talking about his favorite character, he mentioned that if he was still living his old way of life and if he and Tyrion Lannister knew each other, they might go drinking together. Immediately I thought of Arya. By far and away, easily the character I relate to the most. A tough girl who wants anything but to sing and sew and give curtsies. In A Clash of Kings we get to see her take care of herself, be independent and even get others out of trouble.
martin_clash_kings_mmkt-360x560 That’s just it, Martin gives the audience someone to relate to – even in a fictitious world so long ago. We’re enthralled because we see ourselves. We have someone to root for. Martin reaches through the pages to grab you. He creates a vessel for the readers in his story. How would you be in a world full of crowns and dragons?

In the last book, I couldn’t stand Sansa Stark. At the very beginning of the sequel, I still found her annoying, but I began to sympathize with her. As my friend continued his thoughts on Tyrion, he added, “I want someone to stay good until the end.” It’s a hopeful sentiment, especially for a mythological tale. Then I realized: none of the characters will manage to stay ‘good’ for the whole series – it’s what makes Martin’s characters real. Arya has not been innocent by any means, but she is still my favorite fighting for what I perceive is the ‘good’ side of things. Is there ever a time when you’re always the good guy?
But to sum up the sequel in this series, Martin introduces some new characters to take us through the narration. Theon Greyjoy and Davos the Smuggler. The readers follow Robb through his first battles and Bran and the ‘frogeaters’ surviving in Winterfell. I even developed a weak spot for Sandor Cleagane, “The Hound”. Even though he won’t admit it yet, Tyrion falls in love with Shae and Stannis Baratheon may become as much of a danger as Lord Tywinn Lannister. All I can say is that I’m more excited for A Storm of Swords than I was for this book. If Margaery Tyrell’s spunky grandmother has a profound presence I may have a contender for a new favorite character.

Because I love you…

…and because I’m cheap.

images (1)Go to the link below and sign up for an Amazon student account! They will give you free shipping (without the $25 order minimum). It’s quite the bargain. I use it, and I love it. No, they are not paying me to do this. But, I do however earn $5 for each referral…so go sign up!

And I should add that this is not spam. Go be a referral, make yourself happy, and ‘pay’ for some more books to be featured on this blog. 😉

Okay, I’ll stop badgering you now. …A Clash of Kings is almost done, by the way!


Ellen Hopkins is quite the accomplished woman by my record. An award-winning author, journalist, avid gardener. A survivor of an abusive relationship. The founder of Ventana Sierra, Inc., which works to achieve the career goals of disadvantaged youths through a variety of avenues. I know Mrs. Hopkins because of her young adult novels. Ellen Hopkins evoked the most troubling stories of teenagers through her very unique writing style. Once you pick up one of her books, you can’t put it down.

I’m eagerly looking forward to her next young adult novel, Smoke. Smoke is the sequel to my favorite of her books: Burned. Burned is the story of Pattyn, a girl who questions her family, faith and every form of love. In the midst of her abusive father, Pattyn moves to Nevada. By the end of the story I’m pretty sure I had screamed, clenched the book in my fists and had tears running down my face. You can imagine why I’m looking forward to the rest of Pattyn’s story.
It wasn’t until I had looked further into this plot that I discovered two more of Hopkins’ books. I’ve read all of her young adult novels. Perfect and Tilt are two that are now on my list, and will hopefully read before Smoke releases. Because Hopkins’ original audience started in 2004, she has also begun to explore more mature works of fiction. You can bet I’ll be checking those out too.

To visit Ellen Hopkins’ website, click:


“It is not easy to be so honest about where we’re from. It would be simpler for my mother to portray her success as a straightforward triumph over victimhood,… Bill Gates could accept the title of genius, and leave it at that. …It is impossible for a hockey player, or Bill Joy, or Robert Oppenheimer, or any other outlier for that matter, to look down from their lofty perch and say with truthfulness, ‘I did this, all by myself.’ …Their success is not exceptional or mysterious….The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.”

Dedicated to his extraordinary grandmother Daisy, Malcolm Gladwell delivers the most intriguing explanation of why the people we see as successful are a result of many other unexpected factors. I was enthralled. Every page.
Each chapter sheds new light on our small-minded view of the world. Why the people of Roseto, PA were healthier than the rest of the nation. How the Beatles became experts in the music industry. The reason IQ makes little difference when faced with other distinctions. ‘The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes’ introduces cultural differences, and is continued with a theory that Asians might appear to be better at math than the rest of us.

I had my own revelation reading about Harlan, KY. Being a Missouri girl, regardless of what you say, I’ll claim I’m from the South any day of the week. Gladwell proves me right by highlighting the Irish/Scottish history of the badlands, and why I have my temper (which may or may not come from my father and his Irish roots). I’m telling you – and many will agree – to go find this book. It will make you look at the world at least a bit differently than you do today.

“It’s hard to resist Malcolm Gladwell….Reading one of his books is like sitting at the kitchen table while he runs about his house, pulling research studies out of file cabinets, thick biographies off bookshelves, and spreadsheets from his laptop. ‘Check this out!’ he exclaims, and ‘Can you believe this one?!’ Then he gets serious. ‘You know how important this is, don’t you?’ he asks….Ultimately, Outliers is a book about the twentieth century. It offers a fascinating look at how certain people become successful.” – Rebecca Steinitz, Boston Globe

The Journey Continues…

I have complete confidence that the movie you’re about to preview will be far more outstanding than the last movie that was previewed on this blog. Granted the trailer was pretty good, Anna Karenina did horrible justice to the book it portrayed. I was fully expecting for much to be cut out, as it was a book that had the thickness of a sub sandwich. But the way it was put together and executed was so disappointing.
I doubt my hopes for this film can be squandered. Mostly because I was mesmerized by The Hunger Games in theatres. After reading the entire trilogy, to say the least, I’m giddy for Catching Fire.
Get stoked.


imagesCAVJZEFCEven though there are about 50 other things I should be doing right now – two, no three large projects, cleaning or packing and so on – I’m taking a little break to do some work that isn’t being demanded of me. I’ll be putting up a summary of the new book I’m reading: Outliers, and don’t forget about the next chapter of Twelve Extraordinary Women.

I feel like I’ve been diving into classics quite a bit lately. Frankly, it’s fantastic. Even though Stoker’s novel holds high acclaim for obvious reasons, I started Dracula to take a closer look at exceptional prose as well. Whether you’ve read the book or not you can probably deduce that the story is about the most infamous vampire of all time. What you may not know is that ram Stotker’s memorable book was many of similar stories published in his time. Goulish fables designed to portray an incredibly repulsive antagonist. Stoker was able to evoke a character and attitude amongst his cast to create a legend that would influence society for generations.

The plot begins with Mr. Jonathan Harker. Harker takes the place of a respected friend when he travels to work for an intelligent, obscure man. Readers soon find out strange things about the mysterious gentleman and begin to fret about Mr. Harker’s survival. All the while this interesting fellow, Dracula, has Jonathan working to help obtain a residence for Dracule in London. Mr. Harker’s fiance, Mina, and her friends Lucy, Arthur, Drs Steward and Van Helsing with many others become involved. After tragedy strikes, the band of loyal companions find themselves hunting down the greatest enemy they’ll ever know. I was questioning their success for a better part of the story. After all, who’s the character we all know best today?

Eve, Part II

I’ll try to keep from running too wild, as I know the questions from this chapter will make for a lengthy post. If you’re not up to speed, I began delving into the book Twelve Extraordinary Women by John MacArthur. Questions from the chapter of Eve are listed under Eve, Part I. I sincerely hope you join in the discussion, leave comments or do some provoking – regardless of your beliefs. It’s what gets it going – makes it interesting! I will say, however, that I may skimp on my answers since I’m writing this at work.

1. MacArthur begins noting that Eve is distinguished because, “No other woman has come unfallen into a curse-free world, no other woman could possibly surpass Eve’s grace, charm, virtue, ingenuity, intelligence, wit and pure innocence.” What a home-wrecker. Am I right ladies? Way to do a number for your self-esteem. But in all seriousness I think this is exactly why God created her. Don’t get too down on yourself. If it wasn’t for Eve’s sin, the rest of us would no doubt be equal to her virtues. The beauty of that original woman is shown through us because of God’s grace. No effort on our part can ever compare to what grace does for us, “which comes from the sovereign will of God.” In other words, celebrate being the most wonderfully-created thing in the entire universe. At least that’s what I’m gonna tell myself.

2. The role of Adam in the creation of Eve stresses again the goodness of God’s grace. It is always received, and never a part of our own efforts. He was put into a slumber as to not interfere. Voddie Bauchman explains the creation and fundamentality of men and women in such a way that I was able to look past the ‘roles’ of men and women and be hypnotized by a love story. Many people need to read this book and hear Bauchman’s sermon to understand what marriage is, because SO many people have the wrong perception. Where it gets hard for me is Eve’s purpose. Although Adam and Eve are completely equal, MacArthur notes in the book that Eve was created to be a helper. Adam was first; Eve filled a void. I’m not power-hungry, I don’t want to be in control all the time and I’m perfectly happy sharing every part of the decision making process. But for the life of me, I cannot find my maternal and nurturing side. I could write for hours on this topic, so I’ll spare you. Shoot, email me if you want me to go further. What I do find spectacular: Eve is completely and utterly unselfish. She is the epitome of “Living to Serve”, through God, her husband, and all of mankind.

3. If you read the scripture in Matthew, you know that Jesus says, “Be joined together as one flesh.” Adam and Eve are literally one flesh. That is the basis of all marriage. Eve came from the rib, not to rule or be ruled, but close to the heart to be beloved. True, lasting marriages understand that marriage is a partnership between themselves – as one entity – and God.

4. Eve is Adam’s peer both spiritually and intellectually. They differ in strength and physical attributes, as well as socially, emotionally and psychologically. These differences play into their individual roles. Going back to what I can’t wrap my mind around: that Eve is subordinate but equal. MacArthur makes the allusion to the Holy Trinity. The Son is equal to the Father, but takes on a subordinate role. I’m still confronting my issues, but being compared to Jesus makes it a bit better.

5. I referred to the ‘subordinate, but equal’ statement in my previous answer. And hopefully that comparison to the Trinity makes a good explanation. As I was writing notes for the questions I stopped when I tried thinking of ways to apply it to my life. My notes actually read, “Who the heck knows.” Depending on the day that’s probably how I would still answer that question. However, I’ll focus less on the role distinctions and say that I plan on using Eve’s influence of total selflessness in my every day routine. Needless to say, I’m still working on that too.

6. When I’m tempted by sin it usually spreads. I’ll influence my brothers and best friends. All around a bad deal, and I’m ashamed for being a bad role model. In a similar way, Eve shared her temptation with Adam. I’m tempted when I question the Word of God. Finding contradictions (not necessarily within the text). Having intellectual discussions that I love so much, that instigates and causes you to think for yourself. The whole of which can be related back to confusion. Like Eve with the apple. She was deceived through partial truths, lies and naivety.
Adam’s sin was deliberate in a way that Eve’s was not (she was deceived).
1 Timothy 2:14
Romans 5:8
James 1:13-14

7. The most effective way to defend against temptation that I have found, and think I ever will find, is reading His Word daily. Reading my Bible on a daily basis is something that I struggle with – much like my exercising or eating healthy – but it by far is the most beneficial remedy for anything I can think of. Don’t believe me? Go try for yourself.

8. The most important relationships for Eve (aside from the one with God) were her with her husband and children. In my notes I asked, “What are these relationships for a man?” If they were the focus of Eve’s curse, what significance do the hold with men, and why should (or shouldn’t) they differ? In Genesis 3:15, as Eve is cursed in childbearing, that scripture is often referred to as Protevangelium or “the first gospel”. Look up aligning scripture in Romans 16:20, Hebrews 2:14 and John 3:8. It is said that Eve’s species will be saved in childbearing. “He has come from the womb.” “Next will come from the belly of the earth…woe to you who bear children.” An incredible amount of parallelism throughout scripture.

9. This is the only question on which I didn’t write notes. I find distinct principles throughout my previous answers: the importance and true meaning of marriage, living with complete selflessness and consistently defending myself against temptation through daily scripture. I still have to confront my issues with subordination, but I have no doubt that everything will fall into place.

Let me know what you think. Are there certain questions that you answered? Topics you flipped over in your mind? A new perspective that you have from delving into Eve’s story? In the next chapter MacArthur delves into the life of Sarah, Abraham’s wife. Hoping Against Hope. Check out Hebrews if you want to get a head start or go ahead and read the chapter!

Here is the link for Voddie Bauchman’s sermon: Love and Marriage

Black Sea Affair

This title, as well as others of Brown’s work, is great quick read – mainly because it was slightly below my reading level. The Navy Justice Series would make great books for any middle- to high-school age student. Of course if adults want something to burn through in a few days, I would recommend Don Brown’s novels. Black Sea Affair tracks political and military action as American and Russian leaders escalate situations to the brink of a modern-day Cold War.

black-sea-affair-250First, weapons-grade plutonium disappears from the hands of Russian government. The American administration stumbles upon information that leads them to believe the plutonium has fallen into the hands of terrorists, who are transporting it to a freighter on the Black Sea. The Russian defense minister and president are badly mistaken about the whereabouts of their plutonium. NATO becomes involved, pilots are killed, and a crew of American submariners is sent on a top secret mission. Submarine Commander Pete Miranda is hunting down the freighter they suspect has the plutonium, without knowledge that it also has a dozen orphans and their chaperone on board.

Nothing extra spectacular about this book, but it was good to read something from Zondervan. There was also a lot less action from Navy prosecutor Zach Brewer than I expected. It was somewhat of a letdown, but it never took away from the story. I’d say it is quite an accomplishment for a former Navy JAG Officer who has worked in the Pentagon. I’ll be on the lookout for more of Don Brown’s work in the future.