Tuesday, December 15, 2015

what do I buy them for Christmas? a list of ideas

I've been enjoying all the Christmas gift list ideas out there, so I decided to contribute one of my own!

But before I do, here's some other ones to take a look at:
-one from Alicia Brummeler, mostly books
-one full of "little kitchen luxuries"
-one from Liturgy of Life, full of fair-trade-friendly ideas
-one from Anne Kennedy, full of pretty things


Now here's mine - divided by subject. I hope it gives you some good ideas if you are -- as I am -- still finishing up (i.e., starting) your Christmas shopping!


Books for Kids:

-"There Is a Bird on Your Head!" - this one's perfectly lovely - but really, any Mo Willems will delight - especially any of the Elephant & Piggie books.
- Minecraft books: for the obsessed kid. ("The Quest for the Diamond Sword" was a big hit around here)
Zita the Spacegirl" - great little graphic novel. This one was enjoyed both by the readers and by the kids who still needed to be read to.
-"The Seven Silly Eaters" - I love reading this one aloud; the poetry is so good. And I love the pictures even more: the family pictured is so wonderful and believable.
- "The Rithmatist" - an exciting tale for the older reader.
- "Dauntless" - Christian YA. This one was a big hit with my eleven-year-old daughter this year.
- "365 Pies and Tarts" - putting this in with "books for children" because that same eleven-year-old will not let her copy out of her sight. If you've got a budding baker, she'll enjoy the challenging variety in a book like this.


Books for Grown-ups, Fiction:

- "Dear Mr. Knightley" - your basic, lovely, curl-up-and-get-lost-in-a-good-story book. For your mother? sister?
- "Landline" - an off-beat romance between (whodathunkit?) a husband and wife.
- "Sylvester" - a constant reread of mine. Amazing dialogue, settings, set-up - and oh! the characters! I just adore this book.
- "The Martian" - even people who don't like sci-fi liked this sci-fi. Fascinating survival tale.
- “The Thief" - YA, but so tricksy and twisty and satisfying it just isn't fair to leave it to the kids.
- "Beauty" - a classic fairy tale retelling that is also too-often relegated to the children-only section. 



Books for Grown-ups, Non-fiction:

- "Mudhouse Sabbath" - Jewish customs through a convert's eyes. An easy, enjoyable read, with some depth.
- "Universal Principles of Design" - for the loved one who is always building and making things 
- "Pocket Ref" - useful, cool, AND the perfect gift for that guy on your list who is just so hard to buy for.
- "Handyman-in-Your-Pocket" - Ditto.
- "The Forest for the Trees" - thoughtful and useful gift for the writer in your life.
- "Sibley Guide to Birds" - I'm sure you know which hobbyist on your list wants this, right?



Toys:

- Sculpey - I am a huge fan of buying art supplies for Christmas, and Sculpey is hours of fun.
- Playdough - and this is for the kids who aren't quite ready for Sculpey.
- Melissa and Doug coloring pad - we've gone through several of these - they're great!
- new markers! - ask any kid: your very own set of brand-new markers is always a treat.
- scratch art kit - another fun art idea
-LEGO - of course. What home is complete without it? And so many choices!
- Razor scooter - I love mine, the kids love theirs, our family can go out on adventures together riding them - great product. (Don't forget a helmet!)


Music:

- "Christmas Star: Carols for the Christmas Season"- John Rutter and the Cambridge Singers, beautiful music for the season.
- "A Year with Frog and Toad" - this is a musical based on the beloved books (I know!) - very fun, and made the kids laugh.
- "Slugs, Bugs, and Lullabies" - this is the secret weapon I regularly employ to get the kids in a good mood on the way to school in the morning. "Tractor, Tractor" makes 'em laugh every time (you've got to get halfway through the song to start hearing the joke).
-"A Slugs and Bugs Christmas" - and this one might be even better.


Games:

- King of Tokyo - great for playing with the kids (fun for adults, too) - good if you want a gift for an entire family.
- Flashpoint - also good for kids
- Love Letter - "really fun" says my eleven-year-old.
-Hanabi - for the grown-up gamer


Hope this all helps as you check off your list!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell


This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links, I'll receive a small percentage of the purchase price - for my own shopping! :) (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Advent Project Devotional: "Law and Fire"

I'm honored to have a devotional up at The Advent Project today, writing about the Lord's first coming, and his second:

Judgment is a terrible prospect to us—and it should be, for we are desperately wicked—and yet, over and over again in scripture, we find the people of the Lord begging for judgment. Rise up, oh judge of the earth . . . The people of the Lord ache at the injustice in the world, and they know their Lord, the righteous Lord, is the only one who can set it right again.

Please head over to Biola University's CCA website to read the rest. The devotional over there includes, along with my words, a sonnet by Malcolm Guite, the scripture for the day, a beautiful painting by Julio Reyes, music by Paul Robert Wilbur, and the traditional O Antiphon prayer for the day.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

P.S. The fact that we're into the days of the O Antiphons means that Christmas is getting very close indeed!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Book Notes: "Shadows of Self", by Brandon Sanderson




"Shadows of Self", by Brandon Sanderson, continues the adventures of Lord Waxillium, begun in "Alloy of Law" (which I reviewed here).

The first book, "Alloy of Law", could be described as "old-fashioned (magical) Western lawman hits back at big-city crime".  It's largely focused on Our Hero, Lord Wax, the lawman-become-aristocrat. This sequel, on the other hand, is fun precisely because the sidekicks get a lot more play in the story - without the hero himself ever losing the determined purpose that keeps the plot ticking along.

My favorite character of this story was one of the sidekicks in particular: Wayne.  (And yes, Sanderson admitted that "Wax and Wayne" was meant as a pun.  In addition to that groaner, I invite you to look for the - TOTALLY JUSTIFIED BY THE PLOT - tinfoil hats worn by some of the townsfolk to protect their brains from interference. Sanderson really commits to his puns and jokes; it's great.)

Wayne, the sticky-fingered sidekick, has such a fun, sideways view of the world. He makes strange-yet-sensible observations all throughout the book. He's that guy whose comments always make you say, "What?!? . . . oh, um, yeah. I guess that's true." It was always fun to come across another scene about him.


All of the sidekick plots eventually take a back seat to the main story, which finds Lord Wax trying to discover who is causing all the riots and upheaval all over the city, and why. And the answer is one of Sanderson's signature surprises: he's so good at giving you that of course moment - the surprising-yet-inevitable conclusion that makes his books so satisfying at the end.

So, I'm not going to spoil that part. But I will recommend the book: it's an enjoyable read that doesn't disappoint. Looking forward to the next installment!


Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell


This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Friday, December 4, 2015

Movie Notes: "Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow"



"Edge of Tomorrow" is a sci-fi film good enough I recommended it to my father. (My father, you understand, is the person who introduced me to the genre in the first place, and fostered my love for it. I only recommend the good stuff to him.)

This movie is sort of like the invasion at Normandy in WWII, crossed with the movie "Groundhog Day", and featuring aliens and robotic armor.

Our hero, played by Tom Cruise, starts out as anything but heroic: he's a cowardly advertising exec who, when aliens invaded Earth, signed up with the Army before he could be drafted in order to secure a comfy post as a recruiter. Day in and day out, he convinces poor sots to join up and be shot at by the enemy he himself is terrified to face.

But one day, he angers the wrong general, and finds himself broken back to private, and dumped in the barracks of the soldiers who are about to be dumped on a European beach and ordered to make it past the enemy ranks.

He flails, he panics, he flails . . . and he dies.

And then wakes up back at the beginning of the same day, broken back to private and dumped in the same barracks.

It happens again, and again.

I don't want to go much further into detail, in fear of spoiling the fun, but rest assured that there's a real character arc for our hero: as he lives the same day again and again, he becomes a better man and then, more than that, he becomes a hero. And he's helped on that way by a woman who is already more of a hero than perhaps he can ever be: Emily Blunt's character, who is tough in a way that is - given her backstory - utterly believable.


I really enjoyed this one. It's an action movie, yes, but it also has so many funny moments, and lots of great character interactions. Not for kids, due to violence and some language, but I imagine I'd be comfortable watching it with older teenagers. Recommended.



Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell


This post contains an Amazon affiliate link; if you purchase something from this link, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Advent as an Anglican: the things for which I am grateful


I believe that Advent is a fruitful season for any Christian.

But I've been thinking in particular this year of how I am grateful for it as an Anglican.

Anglicanism is (among other things) a product of the Reformation. And so our focus during Advent is, as it is in other seasons, on the Scripture.


And how do we find those Scriptures?  Through our lectionary. Through our daily readings. The collects are suffused with them. The hymns? You can't get away from the prophets and the gospel and the epistles when you sing the hymns.

I am glad to be in a season that reminds me always of the Lord's goodness. That reminds me how He once came, and made us new, and how He will come again and make all things new.

Thanks be to God.


Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell


This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)




Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Yarnalong: "Alpaca Baby Shawl" and "The Game of Kings"


I'm linking up with Ginny, over at Small Things, who says, "Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading . . . I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading?"

The knitting:
I'm knitting "The Alpaca Baby Shawl", by Marie Grace Smith, in Knitpicks Imagination. The colorway is "Giant Peach".

This one is special, because it's for my only sister's first baby girl. Oh, I can't tell you how I'm looking forward to meeting this dear little one!  She's already got such a personality - she is SUCH a baby for dancing and kicking in her mother's belly. :D  I love her, and I love praying for her as I make this lacy baby blanket.


The reading:
I've started reading "The Game of Kings", by Dorothy Dunnett, encouraged by folks who compared her historical fiction to Patrick O'Brien's, whose work I've enjoyed in the past.

Much like O'Brien's work, this book gave me the feeling of having dived into cold water way over my head.  But (also like O'Brien's work), I haven't been able to put it down. Scotland, intrigue, and a silver-tongued anti-hero . . . I think I'm in this one till the end.


What have you been making and reading this week?



Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell


This post contains an Amazon affiliate link; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"Not Alone: A Literary Companion for Those Confronted with Infertility and Miscarriage"




It sounds weird to say that I'm very excited about this book release precisely because this book is not a cheerful book.

It's not. It's about infertility and miscarriage, and it's not a cheerful book.

But I hope very much that it's a good one.


I didn't contribute a chapter to this book. Instead, I had the honor of editing it.

And it was indeed an honor. The people who share their stories here are generous, honest, and brave. They're generous with their lives, willing to share their own stories in order to help others. They're honest about what actually happened, and don't shy away from the parts of their experiences that are hard or ugly. And they're brave enough to be open about what it's actually like to lose a beloved child before birth, or to never be able to conceive that very-loved child in the first place.

It's these contributors who make me excited about this book release. Because they are amazing people and their work is worth reading.

The hope behind this book is that those who are in the middle of their own encounter with these hard things will find companions here. Those who can walk alongside, who can say, "I know" and really mean it, and who can sit and stay and weep with and understand.

These stories testify to the fact that both miscarriage and infertility can be lonely experiences. We hope this book makes them a little less so.


Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell



Saturday, November 28, 2015

Weekly Links: Transfiguration, Advent, Memoirs, and more!



- "Can I Drag That Into Church?"  Good stuff to read on a Sunday morning:
Every week at church one of our pastors leads us through a time of corporate confession of sins and an assurance of pardon. This week my pastor Jason noticed the tentative way people were walking into church. “Are we allowed to come in like this on the clean wood floors? Is all the salt, slush, dirt, and powder too much of a mess for church this morning?” 
He pointed out that’s the way all too many of us walk into church every week: “Am I allowed to come in like this? Is this mess okay in here? Can I come sit in the pews with all the slush, grime, and filth from my life? Is this sin too dirty to clean up? Is my mess going to stain the carpet? Do I have to make sure I’m gotten every single speck off before I walk through the door?”

- "A Simple But Life-Changing Realization" - And this one is a good follow-up:
I came to understand that God’s commands are not suggestions. They are not vague notions of propriety. They are not tasks or to-dos. Not to the Christian, that is. To the Christian, God’s commands are promises. They are promises that you really can be this, you really can have this, you really can do this if you take hold of what he offers. God does not merely give the command and then leave you to your own devices. That would be impossible. No, God gives the command and offers the means to obey and fulfill the command.

- "More on Memoir": in my editing job, I see a lot of memoir proposals and queries. And this post hit home, more than I can say.


- Mere Fidelity podcast "Transfiguration": This episode is a great example of what I love about this podcast: intelligent Christians discussing approaching scripture and theology with great curiosity, knowledge, & love.


-And, finally, as this Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent, I couldn't let this go without an Advent link. So, take the time to head over to Anne's place to read about why Advent is a "Contrarian Celebration":
 The great looming temptation is to become tired and call it a day, to stop short at the end of the work, and miss the incredible mercy of what all the work is for.


Happy Advent!
Jessica Snell

Thursday, November 26, 2015

the lepers of Luke 17 and a prayer exercise for Thanksgiving Day


My Bible reading this week had me in Luke 17 - wherein is the story of the 10 lepers. As you'll recall, they were all healed, but only one of them came back and gave thanks.

As I woke up this Thanksgiving morning feeling grumpy & disgruntled, I needed to hear this story again. Thankfulness isn't automatic for me, cranky and graceless human being that I am.

So, I came up with a prayer exercise inspired by the leper who came back to give thanks. I wanted to share it in case it's helpful to anyone else. Here it is:

- take the time to look over the past year and remember - as many instances as you can - all the times you begged the Lord for something. All the requests, all the petitions, all the 5-second "help me!" prayers you sent up to heaven.   
- then take the time to thank Him for all His answers. The ones you understand, the ones you don't. But look at all the times He had mercy on you, all the times He healed you, all the times He provided for you, all the times He sustained you. That you are here, a year later, means that He upheld you, for in Him we live and move and have our being.

Yes, the lesson of the leper is a simple lesson: Go back and give thanks.

But I'm reminded that I shouldn't despise this simple lesson because of its simplicity. I should be grateful it is easy to understand, and in that understanding, I should follow it.

I should take the time to go back and give thanks.



Grateful for all of you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, November 23, 2015

Haman & Esther, Judas & John

"Esther Denouncing Haman", by Ernest Normand, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

My Bible reading this past week had me in the Old Testament book of Esther and this time through it, a new part of the story caught my attention. In Esther 4, Mordecai tells Esther that if she doesn't act bravely, help will surely arise for the Israelites from another place.

There is faith, if you want it. Mordecai allows that Esther might fail to do her part . . . but God won't.

Mordecai trusts in God, but he declares to Esther that it makes a difference to HER whether or not she is willing to serve, whether or not she is willing to adventure her life on behalf of God's people.

Here is the verse in question:
For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
It's the second half of that verse that's more famous - the "for such a time as this" bit.

But it's the first that struck me this time through: "if you keep silent . . ." deliverance will still arise.


It reminds me very strongly of C. C. Lewis' observation in The Problem of Pain:

For you will certainly carry out God's purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John.

Or, we might say, after reading this story, whether you serve like Esther or like Haman.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell



This post contains an Amazon affiliate link; if you purchase something from this link, I will (gratefully!) receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Weekly Links: Here Comes Advent Edition



My kids and I - and my mother, sister, and nephew - had the pleasure of participating in the video introduction to this year's Advent Project, hosted by Biola University's Center for Christianity, Culture, and the Arts (CCCA). The link will take you over to the video (which features my beautiful children), and you can also click through to the Advent Project itself.

Every day from now through Epiphany, you can find posted there a devotional, scripture, artwork, and piece of music that all go together. It's a wonderful tool for focusing on Jesus during this season of the Incarnation. I encourage you to use it!



More on Advent . . .

-I love reading aloud to my kids, and so I greatly enjoyed this post from Elizabeth Foss, which is full of ideas of what to read to your kids during Advent: "It's The Most Read-Aloud Time of the Year".

-I was honored to see that Tsh Oxenreider of Simple Mom included "Let Us Keep the Feast" in her Advent round-up again this year. I encourage you to go over and take a look at her list of resources for celebrating the season - there's some great stuff over there: "6 Ways to Keep Advent Simple and Special".

-One final Advent link: I love advice columns, and it was so fun to see a book I edited end up in the answer section of one!  Over at The Well, they have a wonderful advice column focused on women in academics, and they recently featured this question:
I am feeling overwhelmed by my academic life and the tasks of the upcoming holiday season. I have a full amount of academic responsibilities and these are only increasing as the semester progresses. On top of that, I’m astounded at the length of my to-do list outside of work, between purchasing gifts, attending holiday events, participating in church activities, and connecting with family members. And I'm hoping to at least make a stab at some Advent preparations and Christmas cheer in my home. How do you pick and choose between all the good things of this season?

Even if you're not in academics, I bet you can relate to the pressure the letter-writer is feeling!  Pop on over to "The Well" to read the thoughtful answers.  (Yes, "answers" in the plural! This advice column brilliantly features more than one advice-giver. I love it!)   (hat tip to the wonderful Anna M. Gissing for the link!)




Turning to other subjects . . .

-Here's a serious but important reminder: "When You Indulge in Pornography, You Participate in Sex Slavery".

-"'Askers' vs. 'Guessers'": This is an old article, but what a useful way to frame this difference!  (I think this isn't just "cross-cultural" in terms of ethnic groups or nationalities; it seems to me to be "cross-cultural" in terms of different family cultures, too - at least, my in-law experience would lead me to believe so!)


That's it for this weekend. I wish you a glorious celebration of Christ the King Sunday tomorrow!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell




This post contains an Amazon affiliate link; if you purchase something from this link, I will (gratefully!) receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Book Notes: In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton




"In Defense of Sanity: the Best Essays of G. K. Chesterton" is by - who else? - the immortal Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

I read this slowly, but not because I didn't like it. Rather the reverse.

And, much like my book notes on Boethius, I have trouble knowing how to review this other than to just quote from it. As Boethius' words are better than mine, so are Chesterton's.

So, here are a few (a very few) quotations from this almost 400-page long tome. May it do nothing more than convince you to read the great man's work for yourself:


On believing your beliefs:
“Don’t say, ‘There is no true creed; for each creed believes itself right and the others wrong.’ Probably one of the creeds is right and the others wrong. Diversity does show that most of the views must be wrong. It does not by the faintest logic show that they all must be wrong . . .”



On belief and the book of Job:
“The modern habit of saying, ‘This is my opinion, but I may be wrong,’ is entirely irrational. If I say that it may be wrong I say that it is not my opinion . . . A cosmic philosophy is not constructed to fit a man; a cosmic philosophy is constructed to fit a cosmos. A man can no more possess a private religion than he can possess a private sun and moon.
“The first of the intellectual beauties of the book of Job is that it is all concerned with this desire to know the actuality, the desire to know what is, and not merely what seems . . . If wishing to be happy and being quite ready to be happy constitute an optimist, Job is an optimist; he is an outraged and insulted optimist. He wishes the universe to justify itself, not because he wishes it to be caught out, but because he really wishes it to be justified . . . He remonstrates with his Maker because he is proud of his Maker. He even speaks of the Almighty as his enemy, but he never doubts, at the back of his mind, that his enemy has some kind of case which he does not understand. In a fine and famous blasphemy he says, ‘Oh, that my adversary had written a book!’ It never really occurs to him that it could possibly be a bad book. He is anxious to be convinced, that is, he thinks that God could convince him. In short, we may say again that if the world optimist means anything (which I doubt) Job is an optimist. He shakes the pillars of the world and strikes insanely at the heavens; he lashes at the stars, but it is not to silence them, it is to make them speak.”



On the bravery of aiming true:
“But the splendor of the furrowed fields is this: that like all brave things they are made straight, and therefore they bend. In everything that bows gracefully there must be an effort of stiffness. Bows are beautiful when they bend only because they try to remain rigid; and sword-blades can curl like silver ribbons only because they are certain to spring straight again. But the same is true of every tough curve of the tree-trunk, of every strong-backed bend of the bough; there is hardly any such thing in Nature as a mere droop of weakness. Rigidity yielding a little, like justice swayed with mercy, is the whole beauty of the earth. The cosmos is a diagram just bent beautifully out of shape. Everything tries to be straight; and everything just fortunately fails.
“The foil may curve in the lunge; but there is nothing beautiful about beginning the battle with a crooked foil. So the strict aim, the strong doctrine, may give a little in the actual fight with facts; but that is no reason for beginning with a  weak doctrine or a twisted aim. Do not be an opportunist; try to be theoretic at all the opportunities; fate can be trusted to do the opportunistic part of it. Do not try to bend, any more than the trees try to bend. Try to grow straight, and life will bend you.”



On great minds taking on a project not their own:
“The book originated in the suggestion of a publisher; as many more good books have done than the arrogance of the man of letters is commonly included to admit. Very much is said in our time about Apollo adn Admetus, and the impossibility of asking genius to work within prescribed limits or assist and alien design. But after all, as a matter of fact, some of the greatest geniuses have done it, from Shakespeare botching up bad comedies and dramatizing bad novels down to Dickens writing a masterpiece as the mere framework for a Mr. Seymour’s sketches. Nor is the true explanation irrelevant to the spirit and power of Dickens. Very delicate, slender, and bizarre talents indeed incapable of being used for an outside purpose, whether of public good or of private gain. But about very great and rich talent there goes a certain disdainful generosity which can turn its hand to anything. Minor poets cannot write to order; but very great poets can write to order. The larger the man’s mind, the wider his scope of vision, the more likely it will be that anything suggested to him will seem very significant and promising.”



On modern fantasy:
“There is no reason within reason, why literature should not describe the demonic as well as the divine aspect of mystery or myth. What is really remarkable is that in modern fiction, in an age accused of frivolity, in an age perhaps only too headlong in its pursuit of happiness, or at least of hedonism, the only popular sort of fantasy is the unhappy fantasy. There is a certain amount of fantasy that is avowedly fantastic, in the sense of unreal; mostly in the form of fairy-tales ostensibly written for children. But, on the whole, when the serious modern novel has dealt with preternatural agency, it has not only been serious but sad . . .”



On magical tales:
“But in any case I am convinced that every deep and delicate treatment of the magical theme . . . will always be found to imply an indirect relation to the ancient blessing and cursing; and it is almost as vital that it should be moral as that it should not be moralizing. Magic for magic’s sake, like art for art’s sake, is found in fact to be too shallow, and to be unable to live without drawing upon things deeper than itself. To say that all real art is in black and white is but another way of saying that it is in light and darkness; and there is no fantasy so irresponsible as really to escape from the alternative.”



On the unity of the sexes in marriage:
“To put the matter in one metaphor, the sexes are two stubborn pieces of iron; if they are to be welded together, it must be while they are red-hot. Every woman has to find out her husband is a selfish beast, because every man is a selfish beast by the standard of a woman. But let her find out the beast while they are both still in the story of ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ Every man has to find out that his wife is cross—that is to say, sensitive to the point of madness: for every woman is mad by the masculine standard. But let him find out that she is mad while her madness is more worth considering than anyone else’s sanity.” 




On true sportsmanship:
“…healthy people will agree that you never enjoy a game till you enjoy being beaten at a game.” 



Yes, there are parts of this book that show their age (not in a good way), but most parts of this book that feel aged give that impression just because they hit on eternal truth. Occasionally I felt, "Hmm, he's trying to hit his word count here."  Or page count, or however daily allotment of effort from a journalist was calculated in those days. 

But those slow bits are a definite minority. On the whole, this collection is a delight. I can't imagine you'd regret diving into it.


Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Weekly Links: the "My Writer Friends are Awesome" edition



My first link this week is really exciting! (to me, anyway, but to you, too, if you like good fiction!)
My friend, Ann Dominguez, has just released her first novel!

You might know Ann from the Ordinary Time chapter of "Let Us Keep the Feast". And if you do, you know she writes clear, beautiful prose that makes you happy to be alive in the world.

Well, the same is true of her fiction. I had the honor of reading one of the first drafts of this novel, and it kept my attention throughout the whole story. I love how she marries the tense, commercial form of a thriller with acute observation of the rhythm and flow of ordinary, everyday work and relationships.

Also? She's a practicing physician herself, so you can count on the medical details of the thriller being accurate. :)

Anyway, here is a link for "The Match", a medical thriller by Ann Dominguez.  Enjoy!



Okay, now on to shorter reads . . .

-And now that I've mentioned Ordinary Time and the church year, here's an interesting little post on Advent: "The War on Advent". An excerpt:
For many centuries, Advent was a season of spiritual preparation before the Feast of Christmas. It began four Sundays before Christmas. Contrary to the practice of so-called Advent in many churches, it wasn’t focused on the story of the birth of Christ and the singing of carols. That’s for the Christmas season. Instead, Advent is a time of reflection, penitence, and preparation, not of celebration.


-A piece on freelance writers and ethics: "Wil Wheaton and Why I Won't Write for the Huffington Post Anymore".


-"How to Stage Your Home for Living" - this article has such a very, very good point:
So then, in the weeks prior to our house hitting the market, we spent numerous hours "stageing our home for the sale . . . I can't help but be struck by the irony of the situation. We spend countless hours getting our home into its best possible condition, only to leave it? Most of the time while staging our home for sale, I wondered why we had never put in the effort to stage our home for living. You know, so we could have actually enjoyed it more while we called it home.


"50 Things a Man Should Be Able to Do" - I thought this was much better than most lists of its sort.


Oh, this is wonderful! It's a reprint of an old interview with J. R. R. Tolkien, and reams could be written in response to every paragraph. Lovely.  "JRR Tolkien: I never expected a money success".  The bit I keep particularly chewing over and over again in my mind is this:

Some people have criticised the Ring as lacking religion. Tolkien denies this: “Of course God is in The Lord of the Rings. The period was pre-Christian, but it was a monotheistic world.” 
Monotheistic? Then who was the One God of Middle-earth? 
Tolkien was taken aback: “The one, of course! The book is about the world that God created – the actual world of this planet.”

"Evangelicals Need to Read Richard Hooker": this article hooked me as soon as I read the phrase: Think of him as Anglicanism's John Calvin. Of course I had to read it all! And so should you. :)



Finally, this isn't a proper link, really, but this last week's collect (from the Book of Common Prayer) was amazing. I was so glad to have it as part of my daily prayers and thought you all might appreciate it, too. Here it is:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might
destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God
and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may
purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again
with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his
eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Amen.

Have a great weekend, folks!


Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell


This post contains an Amazon affiliate link; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Our Library Haul, Episode II

As will surprise absolutely no one who knows me, I'm a bit behind on getting these up. :)



But here's our library haul!

It includes, for me:
-"Shadows of Self", by Brandon Sanderson. Read it, loved it, review coming soon.
-"Last Song Before Night", by Ilana C. Myer. Just started it - good so far.
-"Eleanor & Park", by Rainbow Rowell. Unfortunately for me, in requesting "Eleanor & Park", I didn't stop to see what language the book was in. And so, what I received was "Eleanor y Park", not "Eleanor and Park".  I can read Spanish, slowly and painfully and badly, but that wasn't what I had in mind for this novel . . . time to return and re-request!

And, for the children, we got:
-a plethora of Mo Willems, best-beloved author of my early readers, including "A Big Guy Took My Ball", "Let's Go for a Drive", and "The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?"
-"The Search for Delicious", by Natalie Babbitt.
-A quartet of books for my budding scientist: "Key Discoveries in Engineering and Design", "Chemical Engineering and Chain Reactions", "Working in Engineering", and "Air travel: science, technology, and engineering".  (Yes, he actually reads these. If anyone out there is writing science lit for kids, my thanks to you! There really is an appreciative audience it, and that audience lives at my house.)
-"Home" - because we like seeing our mind-candy movies for free, thank you very much.

Have you found anything fun at the library lately? Tell me about it in the comments!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell


This post contains an Amazon affiliate link; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

I made a pair of earrings!

So I have been slowly (oh, so slowly) decluttering our home.

And one of the first places I decluttered was a bookshelf in our living room which held, strangely:

-children's novels
-DVD's
-video game discs
-crafting supplies

As I worked my way through the crafting stuff, I discovered that I own quite a few supplies for beading.

I organized all the beading stuff, throwing away things I thought I'd never use, and trying to get the rest of it into a condition where it would be easy to use, if I ever got the urge to make myself some jewelry.

The thing is, I got the urge to make jewelry while I was organizing.

Here is the result:


These earrings are the product of:
1) A pair of terribly glitzy old costume earrings. I pulled the pearl-drop beads off of a matrix of faux diamonds and some sort of silvery metal. (I wish I'd gotten a picture before I pulled them apart! They were a very 90s concoction)
2) Basic craft supplies. In this case: gold earring wires and a couple of headpins.

The result is something simple and lovely. It didn't take much skill - I'm a knitter, not a jewelry-maker. But all I had to do was thread the headpins through the beads, and twist them so that they hung properly on the ear-wires (which I did not make, but bought).


And now you can all enjoy my non-existant selfie skills, and see what they look like on:



Sorry for the blur!  Along with being a knitter, not a jeweler, I am a knitter and not a photographer!


Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Long thoughts on short stories


The fun of writing short stories is that you can write the “what if?”, but you don't have to write the whole arc. You can write a disaster, but you don’t have to solve it.  If in a novel (at least, in my novels), you have to have the triumph of the hero who struggles against a tragedy, in a short story you can just depict the tragedy itself.

The short story form is freer. You don’t – ha! – you don’t have to tell the whole story. Yes, it has to have movement. You have to have a change, or a decision, or a revelation. It’s not a static scene. That’s not interesting. It has to have movement.

But for someone like me, who believes that the story of, well, everything has, at its heart, a redemptive arc, and that that arc is at the heart of every good story – or that it at least has to be possible (there are tragedies where redemption is refused) – the short story allows for more experimentation. Because it's not the whole thing. It’s a small sliver. It’s a piece. It’s five minutes of the two-hour movie. It’s a scene.

And it better be a compelling scene. It better matter, it better mean something . . . but it doesn’t carry the weight that a longer piece of art – like a novel – has to carry. It can’t.

It can let you feel something – let you feel something exquisitely – without explaining all the rest of it. You get a little piece. It’s a sketch, a snippet, a sample.

And it’s fun to get to do that, especially when you’re used to writing things that take you months and months to complete. It’s fun to do something quick – something whose composition takes you a day, an hour – maybe only a few minutes.

I imagine the feeling is similar to what artists who work on 6’ canvases in oils feel when they get to do a 5-min. watercolor sketch.

Sometimes, short stories come out of “this feels like a little idea. I want a little canvas for it.”
Sometimes, short stories come out of the “this feels like a big idea, but I just want to highlight this tiny piece of it.”

They’re their own art form. And I’m not arguing that the short story is either inferior or superior to the novel.

It’s just that, as a novelist who’s now experimenting with shorter forms, I’m enjoying figuring out what works here, and why it works.

It’s fun!


Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Weekly Links - All Saints' Day Edition!


My weekly* round-up of interesting reading from around the web:

-As a Christian who appreciates science (and science fiction!), I enjoyed reading this interview with the Pope's astronomer.  A highlight of it:

Rather than learning something theologically new, what I take from my discoveries is a more general sense of the “personality” of the creator. It might be compared to discovering a trove of old manuscripts where you think one of them might be some unpublished play of Shakespeare. You’d be excited because it might be a wonderful new work, or even just a window into what he was thinking while he was writing. But you also need to be sure it really is Shakespeare that you’re reading, not some other writer.


- Our family loves the show "Mythbusters", and so I enjoyed this article: "The Craziest Myths the Mythbusters Have Tackled, According to the Mythbusters".


- Now onto religion and society: "This Is Your Wake-up Call" is a sober reflection on abortion and one of the hardest stories in the book of Judges.


- Simcha Fisher on "Rogue Laughter in a Flippant Society" - I especially liked this paragraph:
. . . think of the difference between an eleven-year-old boy laughing about sex, and a forty-year-old married man laughing about sex. The grown man has probably earned his laughter; the boy can't have done so, and is laughing partly because he wants to look more experienced than he really is. True laughter, and the best jokes, come when we have some experience with the subject matter -- when we've faced something big and have survived.

- Anne Kennedy on "Celebrating the Reformation". Good, timely stuff:

The church cannot go beyond the gospel. The Christian doesn’t graduate from a saving knowledge of Jesus into something better later on. So also, the Christian cannot ascend to something higher, cannot move on to some better, fancier doctrine. From the moment of Jesus’ first infant cry, to his sorrowful and painful death, to his rising again, to his crushing of his enemies under his feet those who love him can never cry out someone else’s name for help, they can never give glory to themselves or to another, they can never be sustained by some other grace, they can never lean on and be ruled over by some other authority than Jesus’ own Word, they can never be tethered by some other faith.

-Reformation Day yesterday, All Saints Day today - and yet it's still Ordinary Time!  So, here's Anna Gissing on "Living in Ordinary Time":
. . . many Protestant Christians have been re-learning the rituals and habits of living into these churchy seasons as a way to inhabit the gospel and to structure our lives in a way that helps us remember that God is the author of time.

-Speaking of Reformation Day, I enjoyed this dense bio on "Katherine Parr: Reformation Queen of England and Ireland".


-AND, speaking of All Saints' Day, here's a lovely sonnet by Malcolm Guite for All Hallow's Eve.


- Tim Challies is Canadian, but I think his wise words are a comfort in any political climate: "I Went Away for Just 6 Days":
The temptation is not only to put my hope in politicians but to put my despair in them as well. I will be tempted not only to find too much joy in the election of the person I voted for, but also to sink too far into despair in the election of the person I did not. Either way, whether I soar too high or sink too low, I am declaring that I have put my trust in a man more than in God. I have forgotten that, ultimately, it is God who rules over and through earthly rulers.

-Finally, my friends and family and I found this article on "The Things that Drain Each Personality Type Most" scarily accurate.



Happy All Saints' Day, folks!
-Jessica Snell



*Or, if we're honest, biweekly.