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Reading Roundup // Jan 2016

Join us for the Reading Roundup. What did you read this month?

I absolutely love reading. And now that I have a good routine going as a SAHM, I have been reading a whole heck of a lot more than I have been able to since high school! I mean, look at all these reviews I’ve done!

I’ve decided, because I have sooooooo many ideas for posts, to only do one post per month with reviews for all the books I’ve read that month.

So, I’ve joined up with Emilie, from Burke Does, to bring you a new monthly reading linkup, called Reading Roundup. On the last Tuesday of every month, link up with Emilie and me with either a review roundup post or just any book review post!

Make sure to check out Emilie’s post as well!

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
by Mindy Kaling
I was super excited to read this–everyone who had read it only had good things to say about it. I also really like Mindy in the Mindy Project. I expected this to be more of a themed memoir rather than just an autobiography. I really wanted to get her perspective on the title question, since I have that question a lot. But, I was disappointed with that. However, it was really interesting to get to know the real Mindy and it made me laugh because she based her Mindy Project character off herself! It’s so funny to see the similarities! I also love that she is pretty down to Earth.

 

Redwall
by Brian Jaques
I have wanted to read this ever since I saw a few episodes as a child. I finally got it for a $1 at a local library book sale for my classroom. I loved the book the whole way through! It is pure historic fantasy. It was so creative, and perfectly set up as a hero’s journey. However, the only thing I didn’t like about this book was that some of the conversations between characters seemed a little forced, especially when they were trying to figure out codes and mysteries. They went through every single step of the process and didn’t leave any room for the reader to figure things out.

 

Life is Beautiful
by Sarah M. Johnson
**I received a free copy of  this book from Book Publicity Services in exchange for a review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Holy cow! Sarah grew up in a family of hidden emotions and personal issues (her dad was a recovering meth addict and she had her own issues with failing out of college, depression, and alcoholism). Her family decided to go on a service mission to Guatemala, but their small plane crashed, and 11 out of 14 passengers (including her dad and brother) passed away. Sarah came out physically unscathed–a miracle!–and her mother suffered traumatic burn injuries on her bottom half. This book is how Sarah was able to find her personal relationship with God and how she was able to use how He viewed her to improve and do better.

 

I couldn’t believe all that Sarah had gone through in her life and what a miracle it was that she survived. I couldn’t imagine being in her place, dealing with a meth addicted father, or having to take care of your injured mother as well as your brother and father’s funerals at age 19 while under the influence of alcohol and depression. Sarah’s story truly is one of courage, faith, and hope. She is the epitome of staying strong. Presently, Sarah is married with children and working on a grad program for family therapy. She wants to specialize in loss therapy because she was so influenced by her personal therapist from her own past experiences. No matter what religion you are, this is a good, uplifting read and will definitely make you thankful for your life!

 

Better Than Before
by Gretchen Rubin
** I received this book from Blogging for Books  in exchange for a review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I LOVE Gretchen Rubin! I read The Happiness Project a few years ago, and fell in love! She really spoke to my heart because her personality is a lot like mine! Ever since then, I have been trying to improve myself by her example (although I still need to read Happier at Home). So, when I had the opportunity to read Better Than Before, I was super excited. And, the fact that this book is about making and breaking habits, and I read it in the first month of the year during a time where my life was changing, seemed perfect! To be completely honest, I haven’t finished this book yet–moving got in the way!

 

In this book, Gretchen reflects back to her experience from The Happiness Project and wanted to dive farther into that–why do certain things make us happy, why do some of us succeed while others fail, etc. In form true to her, Gretchen decided to do research–she organized the book in findings of her research, answers to her questions. She reflected on her personality and her responses to certain stimuli. But, the main point she was trying to get across was: there is no one-size-fits-all method to success; there are many different ways to succeed, and you have to find the right model for you.

 

I can’t wait to continue to read and finish this book–I’ve been taking my own notes in the margins for me, researching myself as Gretchen has been sharing her findings. I’d suggest doing that when you read it!

 

Rules for the Linkup

“>1) Follow both of your hosts:

Tayler from The Morrell Tale
Emilie from Burke Does
2) Link up a reading roundup post or a book review post. Make sure it’s not to your blog’s homepage, but for a specific post. All posts that aren’t a book review will be deleted. The linkup will be open for two weeks!
3) Read and comment on at least two other book review blog posts. This is to help build community and meet new bookworm friends!
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Tayler is a work at home mom. She does free lance articles and dabbles in graphic design and virtual assisting for bloggers. She spent 3 years as a history and English teacher. Her passions are her husband, two children, history, reading, nature, and her Savior, Jesus Christ.

Book Review | Sterling Bridge

**I received a free copy of this novel from Cedar Fort Publishing & Media in exchange for a review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I was excited to read a sports book! I’ve been told time and time again by different sites, professors, articles, etc, that teachers need more sports books for boys to relate to. So, although I don’t really like most sports movies or books, I decided to try it out.

Sterling Bridge by Chad Robert Parker is a historical fiction that is very reminiscent of Remember the Titans. It takes place in the 1920s in Tooelee, Utah. Tooelee (too-el-ah) is still a very small town today–it began as a mining town for all the copper and silver mines in the mountains in the west of Salt Lake Valley. In the 1920s, the last of the original Mormon pioneers were beginning to die off, but their descendants still harbored a distrust and prejudice against non-Mormons (I can’t really blame them due to how the early Mormons were treated), but many non-Mormons and immigrants began settling in Utah to work int he mines. Part of the 7th grade history Utah Studies curriculum is to teach students about the impact of the immigrants and different cultures that settled Utah. The year I taught it, I had my students do a big multi-cultural heritage project and they loved learning more about their ancestors and their cultural heritage.

In this book, Tooelee is a divided town–Old Town and New Town…divided between original pioneer settlers and the migrants/immigrants. The narrator is 14 year old Joe Lacey. He meets Sterling Harris (a real man), a Mormon from another Utah city who is a football coach. Harris brings together both Old Town and New Town, immigrant and pioneer descendant, Mormon and non-Mormon into a rag-tag team. He creates unity with the boys and brings unity to the town.
I was honestly a little disappointed with this book. This was Parker’s first novel published, so I have to give him some lax, but I honestly didn’t think it was well-written. It is a little confusing to follow the events. Parker has this whole world perfectly set up in his mind and he knows the history so well, but narrating it to us was a little difficult. I also realize that Parker is a Mormon author and Cedar Fort’s target audience is the Mormon community, but I think the book would have done better with less detail and plot of the Mormon church. I mean, difference of religion is a big topic, but the book could relate to other people like Remember the Titansdid by focusing on the fact of different cultures coming together to be stronger.

Buy the book here:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon

Find out more about the author here:
website

Sterling Bridge by Chad Robert Parker Blog Tour

Tayler is a work at home mom. She does free lance articles and dabbles in graphic design and virtual assisting for bloggers. She spent 3 years as a history and English teacher. Her passions are her husband, two children, history, reading, nature, and her Savior, Jesus Christ.

Book Review | Jihad, Jesus, and Peace

I am always interested in the similarities and differences in different religions. I believe that all religions have grains and seeds of the One Truth. So, when I saw this book on one of the display shelves in the library, I was very interested in what this book had to say about the ending days and Islamic jihad and how it’s related to Christianity.

The author, interestingly enough, is of Egyptian and Middle Eastern descent, even though he is a Christian and was one of the founding pastors of The Church of The Apostles in Atlanta, Georgia. Michael Youssef explains on the back cover that he would “provide answers that are concise and biblically accurate.” As a historian, this really intrigued me because it seemed like it would be a pretty unbiased book, though with a hint of Christian perspective.

Jesus, Jihad, and Peace, a very conservative Christian's view of Islam. It's a bit skewed and definitely biased.
Via

But, I was wrong.

The first few chapters were interesting. It talked about some of the basic of Islam, as well as the historic culture of the Arabs and how that influenced the culture of Islam. Just like Mormonism, sometimes it’s hard to tell between the culture and the actual religion. However, I already knew that information from high school and college history classes. But, I don’t really keep up with the news well, so the next part was interesting to me: he explained the difference between “moderate” Muslims (the ones that believe their religion is one of peace), ISIS, The Islamic State, The Muslim Brotherhood, Al’Qaeda, and other fractions and fanatic/terrorist groups.

Once Youssef set that up, he started to sound very anti-Islam on a whole. He said that those fanatic groups, although evil, had more of a truth on what the Koran says than the “moderate” Muslims. He would like to believe the “moderate” Muslims were the true Muslims, but they didn’t really understand their Allah’s commands of subjugation and creating a world caliphate according to the Koran. He used passages from the Koran to show that the goal of Muslim religion is to dominate the world into a theological dictatorship known as the World Caliphate. He claims that the word Islam doesn’t come from the Arab word for peace, but subjugation. He says that the violent actions against infidels, unbelievers, and hypocrites, is the true jihad, and jihad of inner struggles and against Satan are secondary. He says that most governments, including the US’s has been compromised by Islamists connected to the Brotherhood and they are taking down our government and subjecting us very subtly from the inside out.

I hated the way Youssef started to sound! He also used Bible quotes to prove that the AntiChrist will be the Islamic prophesied savior, their version of a Messiah. He uses Bible prophecies to connect them to Muslims, as if Islam is the Devil’s tool. It made me sick. Half the book just sounded like he was better because he was Christian and automatically saved. It read very conspiracy theory. I mean, he says he has studied this and researched it and read sources of all sides. Well, I have read the Koran as well, and have had numerous Muslim friends. The Koran was peaceful and respected the Christians and Jews (although almost in a patronizing way) and a lot of the teachings of the Koran is parallel to the teachings of the Bible! Also, for crying out loud! Using the Koranic passages that talk of war against non-Muslims during the time of Muhammad to show how “evil” Islam is…does he not realize that God of the Jews commanded them to do the same to non-Jews in the Old Testament, even to kill all the herds and animals of the tribes they were to decimate?!?!

Overall, this was a really disappointing book. Although, it did teach me a little bit more about the fanatic Islamist groups. It was also a little ironic because I had finished it a few days before the Paris attacks, and I had started to write this post during the weekend. We now know that ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks, as well as a few other suicide bombings (and then, coincidentally, a few natural disasters) in other countries on the same day. So, there was a little apoplectic/conspiratorial part of me that thought, “he was right!!” But, that only lasted for 5 minutes.

What is your opinion on this book, the attacks on Paris, and just current news with fanatic Islamist groups?

Tayler is a work at home mom. She does free lance articles and dabbles in graphic design and virtual assisting for bloggers. She spent 3 years as a history and English teacher. Her passions are her husband, two children, history, reading, nature, and her Savior, Jesus Christ.

Book Review | Continuous Conversion

If you have been following my Instagram or Twitter for a while, you know that I have just been raving about The Continuous Conversion by Brad Wilcox. Seriously! This book has been a game changer! As you know, this year, I’ve had a little bit of trial of faith. But, this book has helped me refocus on the plain and precious truths of the Gospel!

To truly believe in your faith, you need to have a real conversion. It is a progress. It takes time. #mormon #lds

Because this book is just so stock full of amazing truths, I’m going to do the same as I did with One Thousand Gifts and just list some of my favorite quotes! But, whether or not you are Mormon, I seriously suggest reading this to focus on Christ, His Grace, His love for us, and His plan for us. (He does include a few chapters on the LDS temples, but I decided to leave those quotes out and focus on ones that other Christians could relate to as well.)

“God isn’t just proving us, He’s improving us.”

“‘I can’t do this Mormon thing,’ a friend told me. ‘I’ve tried and the expectations are just too high.’ And she’s not alone in her thinking. Many people, as they feel themselves falling short of perfection, are tempted to quit trying. But are there only two options? Think of it this way: When a person is learning to play the piano, are the only two options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? Similarly, in mortality, are the only two choices being perfect or giving up? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes practice. Discipleship is a journey, and true conversion is a continuous process.”

“Sometimes finding hope and motivation to keep moving forward…is as simple as going back to core doctrines and refocusing on them through new eyes.”

“True conversion occurs when we stop trying to earn heaven and start trying to learn it. Conversion deepens as we understand the purposes and power of God and recognize how freely He offers His help…Conversion is refined as we nourish our testimonies and bring life to our discipleship. Conversion endures as we draw on the power of Christ’s name and His holy temple. Conversion allows us to reach outward as we serve int he kingdom and juggle life’s many responsibilities.”

To truly believe in your faith, you need to have a real conversion. It is a progress. It takes time. #mormon #lds

“I guess it would be easier if getting a body or getting baptized were our ultimate goals, but those are not the end. They are just a means to the end. Going to the temple and even going to the celestial kingdom are not the ends. They are means to the real end. The ultimate goal is for all of us to become more like our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ.”

“Elder Dallin H Oaks said: ‘The Final Judgement is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts–what we have done. It is an acknowledgement of the final effects of our acts and thoughts–what we have become.”

“We accept the Atonement by faith, which includes repentance, covenants, and ordinancesBaptism and temple ordinances are not attempts to add to the finished works of Christ’s sacrifice. These and other righteous works are extensions of our faith, by-products of our acceptance of Christ, and evidence of Christ working with, in, and through us.”

“How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him?”

“Parents know that children are learning and growing. Their love is bigger than smelly diapers and temper tantrums. They see beyond such moments to the children’s great potential. God must feel the same.”

“Giving up would be rejecting the Atonement. Trying is accepting the Atonement.”

“In the command, ‘Be ye therefore perfect’ (Matthew 5:48), the Greek word that was translated as perfect is teleios, which means ‘finished’. We are finished as we place ourselves in the hands of the ‘finisher of [our] faith’ (Moroni 6:4). As we make covenants with Christ, He offers to be our tender tutor.”

“I visualize grabbing the iron rod as grasping the arm of Jesus Christ. The only way any of us can make it is by holding on to the Savior and being infused with His power.”

“Because of the necessity of agency and choice, we must be the one to grasp, figuratively or literally, the extended had. It is that outreached hand that we call grace.”

“Taking hold of His hand and allowing Him to lift us doesn’t happen automatically or quickly. It is a spiritual skill that has to be learned and relearned, and then, that learning must be continually applied.”

To truly believe in your faith, you need to have a real conversion. It is a progress. It takes time. #mormon #lds

“Occasionally I have seen a man walking near the BYU campus carrying a large cross bearing the words ‘saved by Grace’. He seems to thinks LDS are missing that message. On the contrary, we already acknowledge and agree that we are saved by grace alone. However, we also recognize that being saved by grace is only part of the purpose of Christ’s cross. Christ came to save us by bridging the abyss between humans and the divine, but then what? Salvation assures there is life after death and life after sin, but there also has to be life after salvation! Our goal must include more than returning to and making peace with God. It has to be transformed by Him.” 

“When I focus too long on my inadequacies, I peter out quickly in my quest. When I focus instead on Christ, I find ‘the power of godliness’.”

“The Bible is not religion; it is a history of those who had religion. The religion of those who live within the covers of the Bible centered in living oracles and the ordinances of salvation. Theirs was a religion of prophets and apostles. That is the same religion we enjoy today.”

“My oldest son, Russell, would say, ‘We believe in the exact same Christ you do. We just know Him better.’ How could Russell make such a bold claim? Because we have additional scripture and the words of modern apostles and prophets who testify of Christ and help us come to know Him. It is one thing to believe in Jesus. It is another thing to know Him.”

“Too many LDS were zealously testifying of truth without actually knowing the gospel…Some LDS go through all the right motions without feeling any of the emotions. They settle for rule following instead of religion, for obedience and sacrifice instead of consecration, for testimony instead of conversion, and for cultural Mormonism instead of the soul-transforming fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. IT is time for a little zeal with our knowledge. It is time for a few alarm clocks to ring. ‘Awake and arise, come forth, and do not tarry.’ It’s time for wide-awake discipleship.”

“While serving his mission…my son David once wrote, ‘People need to realize that Christ’s Atonement is not just about giving us a fish, but teaching us to fish. It is not bout feeding us for a day, but rather feeding us for a lifetime–an eternal lifetime.’ If this were not true, then Christ’s suffering could be dismissed as nothing more than a kind but shortsighted act of a friend who is allowing us to turn in His homework with our names on it. Such a good deed might get us a passing grade in the moment, but it wouldn’t teach us anything in the long run.”

You NEED to read this book!
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Tayler is a work at home mom. She does free lance articles and dabbles in graphic design and virtual assisting for bloggers. She spent 3 years as a history and English teacher. Her passions are her husband, two children, history, reading, nature, and her Savior, Jesus Christ.

Book Reivew | From Baptist Preacher to Mormon Teacher

** I received a free copy of the novel from Cedar Forts, Inc. in exchange for a review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

As some of you may know, this year, I’ve had some challenges with my faith. One thing that has hurt it was the knowledge that there has been an influx of Mormons leaving the Church this past year. Some of my friends have even left the church. So, I’ve been trying to refocus on the plain, simple, pure, and true center of the Gospel–Jesus Christ. I’ve been reading books written by Mormons on topics such as grace, faith, Christ, testimony, and overcoming trials of faith.

Since I was born in the Mormon Church, and have never known any differently, I’ve been really interested in converts to my church and their reasons why they left another religion to come to ours. So, when I had the opportunity to read and review From Baptist Preacher to Mormon Teacher by Wain Myers, I was excited and really interested. I had lived about 8 years in Virginia, where the Baptist church flourished. Although I personally never encountered any hate from baptists there, I have had friends who have. One Mormon friend of mine was invited by a Baptist friend of hers to a local baptist church’s “Bring a Mormon friend night” youth activity. The Baptist friend thought it was going to be a bonding experience. But, it turned out to be a Mormon-bashing experience. The Baptist friend profusely apologized to my friend. So, knowing that Myers was a Baptist preacher who turned Mormon really intrigued me!

Wain Myers went from a born again baptism preacher who believed he was doing God's calling to a being a convert of the Mormon church because he believed that God told him he was ministering for the wrong religion.

First of all, let me just say I love the way this is written. It is so conversational. Myers isn’t afraid to share his personal revelations and heart-felt heart-conversations with Heavenly Father. He also isn’t afraid to let his culture, heritage, and fun-filled personality shine through in his writing. There is definitely some Southern humor, as well as Baptist preacher mannerisms in it, which makes it a fun, quick read.

Myers was born to a church-hopping mother in a ghetto area, with a non-present father. But, at a young age, after a sermon at a Baptist Church, he had a clear vision that he was supposed to start teaching the Gospel. So, he spent his life working toward that goal. He became a Baptist Preacher, and he was a dang good one, too. He loved preaching, he loved sharing the word of God. But, he was being paid for it, which never set well with that. And, he believes because of that payment (manna, or temptation from Satan), his life started to spiral down. He was a preacher on Sunday, but during the week, living not how he was supposed to. He finally left his Baptist Church and moved. He met a woman who just emanated the Spirit from her and he had another personal revelation that she was to become his wife. Sebrina was a recent convert to the LDS Church, and he started becoming interested in the Church as he felt God was leading him to it.

Although there were issues Myers felt with the Church, especially the topic of blacks not being able to hold the priesthood before the 1970s, he trusted in God and allowed God to speak to him and let him know the church was true. He related an experience he had before he even thought about the LDS Church similar to Joseph Smith’s first vision: going to a secluded area and asking God which church he was to join. God answered to him none but that He would lead Myers to His true church. When Myers heard the Joseph Smith story, that was an affirmation that the LDS Church was the church he should join.

There were a few quotes that really helped me because they reflected the issues I’ve had with my church recently:

“One of the best things that happened to me while I was trying to find my Father’s straight and narrow path was that my faith in men of God was shattered. It didn’t feel amazing at the time, but now that I look back, it was nothing but amazing. You see, as I sought counsel from preacher after preacher and received heartbreaking answer after heartbreaking answer, I realized that I was looking for God in all the wrong places. It became painfully evident that I wasn’t going to find Him, the real Him, in any of the churches or pastors I was interacting with.
When I found the truth in the LDS Church, I didn’t see its leaders as men of God; I saw them as mortal men searching for answers–just like I was. That’s not to say that they weren’t men of God; that’s just to say that I didn’t expect them to be perfect. I knew that only one man has walked the earth in perfection. I have a clear understanding that we are all prone to mistakes and bad decisions–even Church leaders.” Page 82

 

“When people tell me that they’ve asked God if the LDS Church is true and haven’t received an answer, I know that they aren’t truly relying on God for the answer. Instead, they’re relying on their own understanding for the answer. ….
A young man once said to me, ‘Wain, I don’t get it. There are so many issues and past practices with he LDS Church that are bothersome.’ I responded by pointing out that his issues with the Church are all based on the actions of man, not God. I’ve dealt with–and continue to deal with–the problems I have because my faith is in God, not man. Members of the LDS Church are human and have shortcoming and flaws, just like everyone else. I cant judge them; I’ve got too many of my own weaknesses and sins to correct.” Page 130
 
It is definitely a book worth reading!
To purchase the book:
For more about Wain Myers:
Tayler is a work at home mom. She does free lance articles and dabbles in graphic design and virtual assisting for bloggers. She spent 3 years as a history and English teacher. Her passions are her husband, two children, history, reading, nature, and her Savior, Jesus Christ.