The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege by Ken Wytsma

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.
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The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege by Ken Wytsma

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

So. Is privilege in the United States real, or is it something that people imagine, for any number of reasons? Author Ken Wytsma takes a look at this issue in The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege.

In my book reviews, I normally don’t make a big point of the author’s race or gender. Nevertheless, I’ll note that this book, which is directed toward a Christian audience, was written by a white man. And, yes, a lot of people—especially white people—should read it. It’s important to bear in mind that the fight for racial equality in the U.S. isn’t something any one race should be fighting for alone.

I’ll also note that this book isn’t out to just broadcast grievances, to shame the country, and to make people feel guilty. No, this is about seeing the historical roots of a very real problem, as you can’t truly remedy anything without getting to the bottom of it. The author also includes action points, so readers won’t be left with this problem without any idea what to do next.

The book has so many compelling points, like the need not to merely do acts of justice, but to become just. Or the idea that people might think they’re following the golden rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) when really they’re following the silver rule (“Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t have them do to you.”) The silver rule is passive. The golden rule requires action.

I highly recommend this book for the Christian community. If you think racial issues are “just politics” or not something that Christians should be too concerned about, I’d encourage you all the more to read this.

Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. Blogging for Books provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.
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Five Gold Stars

Gone

Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

No violin meant more to former child prodigy and then professional soloist Min Kym than the 1696 Stradivarius she found at age twenty-one. When, years later, thieves steal her violin from her, they essentially steal much more than a wooden instrument. Min Kym relates her story of losing her violin and finding her voice in her memoir, Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung.

This author brings not only music but also her instrument itself to life through her words, so that her violin is thoroughly personified on the page. I’ll confess that the extent of it made me uncomfortable at times, as I don’t believe I’ll ever feel so deeply for an object.

But, as a writer and a bibliophile, it’s not like I don’t get it. (I mean, you may not see me when I hug a novel I’m reading or kiss the spine of one of my own books when it’s finally in print, but know that I do get it.)

I won’t pretend that I understood all of the author’s musical language, or that I recognized all of the renowned names she mentioned–some I did, some I didn’t. I also had a little trouble following the logical flow of her thoughts, here and there.

Yet, it’s those intangible but very real somethings she taps into through music, those indescribable places where the soul takes flight… Whether one has the experience through music, literature, or dance, through culinary arts or through connecting with loved ones–even if we haven’t the words to truly do those places justice, the experiences are universal.

This memoir is a journey, one with soaring highs, desolate lows, and crucial discoveries, and it closes on a note of hope that makes the journey all the more worth it.

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
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The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta von Trapp

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Countless people the world over are familiar with the collective singing sensation of Maria and Captain von Trapp and their several children from The Sound of Music, the Rodgers and Hammerstein film and the Broadway musical, which together garnered multiple Academy and Tony Awards. I wanted to read the real story behind it all, written by Maria herself, for a number of years before I finally did it–and it was quite the experience.

I was surprised at the amount of humor in the memoir, as the author relays the story of her family in such a personable voice, right from her opening line in “The Chapter Before the First” (since she’s worried that if she called it a Foreword or Introduction or something, we’d just skip over it, as she would.) And she and the Captain–well!

“I wish I could see your eyes when you read the announcement of my engagement,” the Captain writes in a letter to Fräulein Maria while she’s still only the governess of his children, referring to his possible betrothal to a certain Princess Yvonne.

All “flared up,” Maria immediately writes back, “My eyes are none of your business.” Heeheehee, now, Fräulein! Captain! You two.

It’s not all fun and games and a family in song, of course. The Nazi invasion into Austria makes things suddenly eerie. I mean, imagine your children coming home from school and reporting that the teachers are beginning to disappear, being replaced with new ones. Or you’re walking through town and see that the names of all the streets have been changed. It becomes illegal to greet your friends and neighbors with “hello” or any other salutations other than “Heil Hitler.” And speaking of the leader you’re supposed to hail, what do you do when you get a call declaring that your family has been chosen to sing for the Führer’s birthday? What happens if you say no to Adolf Hitler?

I was somewhat more engaged in the first half or so of the book than the second, and the account in Maria’s letter toward the end had a depressing effect on me. But overall, this is a rich and delightful memoir full of hope.

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Yeah, sure. Like I’d really be able to resist posting clips from the legendary and simply awesome Rodgers and Hammerstein film, here. Definitely one of my all-time favorite motion pictures. 🙂

Favorite Reads 2016

Annual Favorite Reads Banner Jewels

I received complimentary copies of most of the books I mention here in exchange for honest reviews, which you’ll find in the posts I’ve linked to.

I’ve been waiting for this all year! As my blog is all about hope and inspiration, these are the books that most fit that bill for me in 2016 and that I highly recommend to fellow readers. You’ll find them listed in a pretty eclectic order.
*And to the authors of the winning books, if you’d like a little gift for making the list, see the bottom of this post.*

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Love at First Note_COVER.inddLove at First Note by Jenny Proctor

Christian Fiction/Romance

★★★★★ from me

There are plenty of reasons why a relationship between violinist and concertmaster Emma Hill and pianist and pop culture sensation Elliott Hart would never work. But, still, off they go. What I thought started off as a humorous and entertaining enough story became a symphony of emotion and (sometimes painful) discovery, to the point where I felt everything. The joy, the fear, the frustration, the passion, the doubt, the determination, the romance. Not to sound corny, but it really is a “you’ll laugh, you’ll cry” type of read, its own kind of quirky but ultimately harmonious masterpiece.

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Honest and for TrueHonest and for True by Jane Lebak

Women’s Fiction/Comedy

★★★★★ from me

Lee, a bright and hilarious car mechanic, has this terrible habit of lying about her job to every man she dates. Her bright and hilarious best friend and guardian angel, Bucky, wants Lee to drop the dishonesty already before it costs her more than she’ll ever want to lose. I found this novel to be quick and clever, imaginative and real, and a downright riot. The story also tugged at my heartstrings, taking a thought-provoking look at relationships: romantic, familial, one’s relationship with oneself. If you’ve got an appreciation for George Bailey and Clarence Odbody’s adventure in Bedford Falls (or, um, Pottersville), check out The Adventures of Lee and Bucky in New York City.

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A Light in the DarkA Light in the Dark by Becky Doughty

New Adult Fiction/Romance

★★★★★ from me

When a handsome, tortured artist auditions to join Tish Ransome’s band… Well. This is the second book in the Fallout series but can be read as a standalone. And I must say, the novel had me sobbing so hard toward the end that I hardly knew how to review it. Beyond the characters’ initial family and friendship threads, beyond the romance and humor, and even beyond the art, the journey here got real to me on a whole different plane. I’d recommend this novel to fiction fans who wouldn’t mind getting more than just an angsty romance out of a romantic read.

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The TouchThe Touch by Randall Wallace

Christian Fiction

★★★★★ from me

Andrew Jones, a young, gifted surgeon, refuses to operate anymore after a personal, fatal tragedy. Although this novella is by the screenwriter of the 1995 film Braveheart, I didn’t read it with Braveheart expectations or qualifiers in my brain. I just took the story as it came, and I’d encourage all readers who normally steer clear of novellas because of their “too short” or “no depth” stigma not to prejudge and pass up this book on that basis. It’s too nuanced, too raw, too beautiful, too powerful of a book to overlook. Both within and outside of the operating room, this story is beauty and art, faith and genius, trial and triumph, and it is now one of my all-time favorite books.

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The Confessions of XThe Confessions of X by Suzanne M. Wolfe

Christian Fiction/Historical Fiction

★★★★★ from me

Here’s the story of the historically “nameless” concubine of a bishop of the Church, Augustine of Hippo. I’ll admit I’m not crazy about one book blurb’s description of this novel’s central relationship as an “affair,” as that can connote something scandalous or unlawful, and this book isn’t about some seamy liaison. It’s a look at the complexities and ironies of life and love through the eyes of a woman of low societal standing. As a lover of language, I was drawn in by the author’s fluid style, pleased to find an example of how poetry in prose still lives. I found this novel utterly redemptive in that it gives this woman a voice, and an “insignificant” life given by God is therefore made precious.

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My Soul to KeepMy Soul to Keep by Davis Bunn

Christian Fiction/Suspense

★★★★★ from me

The indie film project of Hollywood has-beens might get buried alive by the competing project of some of Hollywood’s elite. A David and Goliath tale, this is, but there’s no smooth sailing as the filmmaking battle rages both above and beneath the surface. I wasn’t sure if I had a thriller on my hands, technically, but the intrigue certainly kept me turning the pages, and the motives and decisions of the principal characters kept me engaged. That is, I was rather riveted right through to the ending—not a fairytale ending but one bearing its own triumph and something of more value than a fairy tale.

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UnconditionalUnconditional by Eva Marie Everson

Christian Fiction

★★★★★ from me

*A 2016 Favorite Cover Pick*

Samantha hasn’t recovered from her husband’s murder, but reuniting with her best friend, Joe, and meeting “his kids” may change everything. This novel is based on the screenplay by Brent McCorkle, inspired by true events. Much like the movie, which I think is pure awesomeness, there isn’t anything super sensational or spectacular that makes the novel great. But it’s love that gives this story of friendship and redemption its strength, makes it exceptional. Pure, simple, honest love, like the most natural thing in the world—unhindered by years, by hardship, by tragedy, by race. This is a truly beautiful and brilliant read.

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praguePrague: My Long Journey Home by Charles Ota Heller

Nonfiction/Memoir

★★★★★ from me

How fortunate I was to come across this book. The author, originally from Czechoslovakia, tells a story of World War II, the Holocaust, and immigration to the United States from his perspective. I must say, one point among many that I found interesting was the author’s comparison of the treatment of Jewish people in the occupied country he left to the treatment of people of color in the U.S. Overall, this account is informative, layered, heartrending, and inspiring, and I believe that anyone who values remembering and learning from history can appreciate this memoir.

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The CenturionThe Centurion by Ken Gire

Christian Fiction/Biblical, Historical Fiction

★★★★★ from me

Now. Even with the early, bizarre crucifixion of the “King of the Jews” that has lasting influence through this novel, it isn’t a story centered on that. Rather, it’s the story of the life and career of a Roman centurion named Lucius; Mary Magdalene, a follower of Jesus; and equally about the history and conquests of Rome paralleled with the dangerous forging of the new Church. The author reveals compelling imagery and a depth of human emotion in this weighty tale, as epic and violent as it is contemplative. I found the telling of it all to be consummately amazing, and I’d strongly recommend it to any military and historical fiction fans—ChristFic readers and otherwise.

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a-river-too-deepA River Too Deep by Sydney Tooman Betts

Christian Fiction/Historical Fiction

★★★★★ from me

Has Alcy Callen, a young woman of faith, mistakenly labeled a whole people group as “savage”? In some ways, this book reminds me of Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, a historical television show that I love and respect for many reasons, including its depiction of race relations in America. I appreciate fiction that can take characters of different cultures and depict them as more than caricatures of their race, and the author achieves that here. Then, not to mention the novel’s romance, which I found to be riveting and passionate in its simplicity. This novel reinforced–even renewed, really–my love of historical ChristFic in a big way.

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long-way-goneLong Way Gone by Charles Martin

Christian Fiction

★★★★★ from me

*A 2016 Favorite Cover Pick*

After taking everything his father had, how can a certain songwriter ever go back home? This contemporary prodigal son story is quite heavy and intricately woven. It gives a powerful depiction of a love so fierce, I had to set the book aside for a while and just breathe. I couldn’t even cry. The book gave me so many thoughts–possibly what Wordsworth would call “Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.” (That isn’t to necessarily say I didn’t cry over it all later, though…)

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And that wraps up another (calendar) year of great reading for this book lover! Entries for 2016’s Favorite Reads giveaway are now closed, but comments on the post are remaining open.

The Confessions of X long-way-gone

You can get started on a favorite epic fiction series of mine with a free copy of The Movement of Crowns, available at Amazon.

Movement Trio Wheel

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Congratulations, authors, and thank you for writing your books! If I’ve selected yours as a Favorite Read this year, you’re welcome to a complimentary medal to display on your website, blog, social media–wherever you wish. Click the image below and contact me to receive a full size PNG medal. (The lined watermark will be removed, of course, and the medal will include the year on it, 2016.) Thanks again!

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