Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Top Ten Books that Surprised Me

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Surprised Me

1. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky - I read this back in 2011 and I was not expecting to love it. I was expecting it to be difficult to wade through, but instead, I was caught up in the murder mystery and deeply moved by the theological and philosophical discussions.

2. Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry - I read this one in 2013 and I was surprised by how much I loved it. It's outside of my favorite genres. From what I can remember it was rather slow-paced, but I know that I loved it. I suppose I need to re-read it and see if I still do.

3. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - I'm pretty sure this was the first book I read by Neil Gaiman, and I didn't know what to expect, and I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did.

4. The Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series (5 books) - I discovered these books in 2011 when a friend sent them to me in a care package while I was living in Mexico. And again, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed them, especially considering their intended target audience was a middle school age boy.

5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - read in 2013. I was hesitant to read this because I usually don't like to read books where I basically know that one of the characters is going to die. I mean come on, it's the cliche kid with cancer story, right? Except it's more than that. Here is what I wrote on Goodreads right after I read it: "Just read it. Seriously. You will laugh and you will probably get teary eyed at the very least. It is worth it."

6. Rysa Walker’s Timebound trilogy (The Chronos Files) - I found this through Kindle Unlimited and so I didn't have super high expectations, but it was a delight!

7. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch - This one came highly recommended but I was still surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It is a sci-fi thriller that plays with the idea of the multi-verse and a big twist.

8. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, (Audiobook Narrated by Wil Wheaton) - I don't really remember how this first landed on my radar, but I loved it so much that it surely exceeded my expectations.

9. Off to Be the Wizard (Magic 2.0 #1) by Scott Meyer - this was another series I found on Kindle Unlimited that I really enjoyed.

10.  Heirs of Grace by Tim Pratt - A fun fantasy story featuring a magical house full of magical things, and a strong female leading character. (also discovered through Kindle Unlimited)

Monday, March 05, 2018

Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue (Theology Book Club - March 2018)

As you may know by now, at the end of 2017 I started an online Theology Book Club by creating a Facebook group and inviting people I thought might be interested. This group is intended to be a safe space to discuss books and theology from more of a "Progressive Christian" point of view.

This month we will be reading and discussing Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue (aka Science Mike on Twitter).

Blurb from Amazon:
From the host of the popular podcasts, The Liturgists Podcast and Ask Science Mike, a story of having faith, losing it, and finding it again through science—revealing how the latest in neuroscience, physics, and biology help us understand God, faith, and ourselves.

Mike McHargue understands the pain of unraveling belief. In Finding God in the Waves, Mike tells the story of how his Evangelical faith dissolved into atheism as he studied the Bible, a crisis that threatened his identity, his friendships, and even his marriage. Years later, Mike was standing on the shores of the Pacific Ocean when a bewildering, seemingly mystical moment motivated him to take another look. But this time, it wasn't theology or scripture that led him back to God—it was science.

Full of insights about the universe, as well as deeply personal reflections on our desire for certainty and meaning, Finding God in the Waves is a vital exploration of the possibility for knowing God in an age of reason, and a signpost for where the practice of faith is headed in a secular age. Among other revelations, we learn what brain scans reveal about what happens when we pray; how fundamentalism affects the psyche; and how God is revealed not only in scripture, but in the night sky, in subatomic particles, and in us.

​If you would like to join the Facebook Group and join the discussion you can click here to email me. Or submit this contact form below:

Thursday, March 01, 2018

What I'm Into (February 2018)

These are basically my favorite shows that are currently airing plus one I'm really excited about that is premiering soon!

I came down with the Flu (type B) on Friday, February 9. 😓 I didn't know I had the Flu until Sunday, the 11th. And I didn't go back to work until Friday the 16th. So I slept a lot and watched a lot of TV that week! I binge watched all of season 5 of Will and Grace, caught up on Supergirl and The Flash, and watched the final two episodes of Star Trek: Discover, which were AWESOME! I LOVE that show!

There weren't many new episodes airing during the Olymics, and I didn't watch the Olympics. But this week I watched the first two episodes of the new season of The Voice because I freakin' love Kelly Clarkson! And oh my word, the judges were cracking me up! I have a feeling I will at least watch all of the blind auditions this season and I might even keep watching after that, which would be a first!

I'm also starting to watch Battlestar Galactica (2004) for the first time. I'm sure I'll be telling you more about that later...

Oh, and I've watched two episodes of Black Mirror:
S1E3: The Entire History of You
Set in an alternative reality where everyone has access to a system which records everything they do, see or hear. You need never forget a face, a holiday or a night out again... but is that always a good thing?

S3E1: Nosedive
Insecure office worker Lacie lives in a happy, smiley, status-obsessed nightmare world. Her old friend Naomi is one of society’s elites, and Lacie may have found a way to join her…

I know there are some episodes I don't want to watch, but I think there are several more that I do. (S4E1: USS Callister; S2E1: Be Right Back; S3E4: San Junipero; S3E2: Playtest;)

Other shows I want to watch
I want to watch David Letterman's show on Netflix: My Next Guess Needs No Introduction! First President Obama, then George Clooney.

I also still want to go back and finish watching The Good Place season one. I watched the first three episodes, and I liked them a lot, but I just haven't gotten back to it yet.

Eventually I still want to check out Black Lightning (the newest superhero show on the CW). But that might not happen anytime soon. I think I would be more inclined to watch it if it were set in the Arrow-verse the way the other four shows are. But I don't know anything about this superhero, so maybe it just wouldn't make sense to connect him to the others? I don't know.

There is a new show called Krypton that I want to check out though. The first episode will air on March 21 on SyFy. Krypton will focus on "the untold story of Superman's grandfather as he fights for justice on his home planet." (Please be good! Please be good!)

I've also been told that I need to watch The Orville, and I probably will... eventually...

And finally, there is a new show called "Rise" premiering on March 13 on NBC that I'm looking forward to. When I watched the preview it reminded me A LOT of Glee, but I loved Glee, so I'm fine with that, lol!

Read and Reading 

Finished in February:
Currently Reading:
Connect with me on Goodreads to see what I am currently reading and keep track of the books you are reading, have read, and want to read: Jennifer's Goodreads Profile

These are the movies I have watched in February:

I've actually seen Black Panther twice already in the theater, because it is THAT AWESOME! (Seriously, go see it!)


I have STILL been obsessed with the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman ever since I saw the movie the first time on December 29!

Here are some of the videos I've loved related to this over the past month:

'The Greatest Showman' Star Keala singing "This is Me" on Ellen

The Greatest Showman A Cappella Mashup by BYU Vocal Point and Friends

Rewrite The Stars (Piano/Cello/Violin Cover) by The Piano Guys

Kaela Settle performing "This Is Me" on The Graham Norton Show


As always I am ridiculously behind on all of the podcasts I want to listen to... but I did manage to listen to a few semi-recent episodes of The Bible for Normal People by Peter Enns and Jared Byas:

I also managed to listen to the recent two part episode from The Liturgists:

I have also had the opportunity to be a panelist on several episodes of John Weldy's Reclaiming Christianity podcast.

Most recently I was on the episode on "Women and Evangelicalism". John Weldy, Tiffany Earle, and I discuss the relationship between women and evangelicalism through the lens of Deborah Jian Lee’s Rescuing Jesus. How have women been shaped by evangelicalism? Why is there such a disparity in gender equality? What is the effect of purity culture? And how can we address these issues? You can listen to it by clicking here.

You can check out the other podcasts related to the Theology Book Club by clicking here.

Theology Book Club:
Back in November I started an online Theology Book Club where we can read and discuss books like those listed below:

This was/is the schedule thus far:
December: What is the Bible? by Rob Bell
January: Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God by Brian Zahnd
February: Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism by Deborah Jian Lee
March: Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found it Again Through Science by Mike McHargue
April: The Bible Tells Me So by Peter Enns
May: Why I Left, Why I Stayed: Conversations on Christianity Between an Evangelical Father and His Humanist Son by Tony Campolo and‎ Bart Campolo
June: Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans
July: Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans
(I am REALLY excited to read Rachel's new book!)

If those books sound like your cup of tea and you would like to join the Facebook Group you can click here to email me. Or click over to the Theology Book Club page and fill out the contact form at the bottom. In addition to the online discussion within the group, we also have monthly (and weekly for those who are interested) chats where people can participate by talking over the voice channel (using Discord), or they can choose to just listen and engage via text if they so wish.

You can follow me on Instagram @jenniferneyhart.

Here are my two favorites from the past month:

On the Blog

This post is linked up with What I'm Into at Leigh Kramer.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Top Ten Books I Could Re-read Forever

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Could Re-read Forever

(This is more like 35 books because it's mostly a bunch of series of books.)

1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
2. The Space Trilogy (Ransom Trilogy) by C. S. Lewis
3. A Wrinkle in Time and the rest of the Time Quintet by Madeleine L'Engle
4. The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis
5. King Lesserlight's Crown: A Children's Story for Grownups, Too by Charlie W. Starr
6. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
7. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
8. The Weight of Glory by C. S. Lewis
9. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
10. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

And when I say I could re-read these forever, I'm telling you that I actually re-read these books every 2 or 3 years at least! No wonder my TBR pile never shrinks! There are always new books to read but I can't stop returning to these!

But I am in good company. C. S. Lewis wrote the following about the merits and wisdom of re-reading in On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature
"An unliterary man may be defined as one who reads books once only. There is hope for a man who has never read Malory or Boswell or Tristram Shandy or Shakespeare’s Sonnets: but what can you do with a man who says he ‘has read’ them, meaning he has read them once, and thinks that this settles the matter? [...]
We do not enjoy a story fully at the first reading. Not till the curiosity, the sheer narrative lust, has been given its sop and laid asleep, are we at leisure to savour the real beauties. Till then, it is like wasting great wine on a ravenous natural thirst which merely wants cold wetness. The children understand this well when they ask for the same story over and over again, and in the same words. They want to have again the ‘surprise’ of discovering that what seemed Little-Red-Riding-Hood’s grandmother is really the wolf. It is better when you know it is coming: free from the shock of actual surprise you can attend better to the intrinsic surprisingness of the peripeteia.” - C. S. Lewis 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Favorite Films from the Last Ten Years

I saw someone post about their favorite films from the last ten years and so I thought I would do that too! These are my personal favorites, not necessarily the best or greatest movie of their year. Also, I am really bad at choosing between my absolute favorites! So I list lots of three-way ties, four-way ties, and even one five-way tie! Can you guess my favorite genres? haha!

2017: Three-way tie
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi
- Wonder Woman
- The Greatest Showman

2016:  Four-way tie
- Captain America: Civil War
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
- Arrival (I couldn't stop thinking about this one after I watched it!)
- Hidden Figures

2015: Three-way tie
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens
- The Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Ant-Man

2014: Three-way tie
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- X-Men: Days of Future Past

2013: Three-way tie
- Star Trek Into Darkness
- Iron Man 3
- Man of Steel

2012: The Avengers (This is the only year I could choose just one top favorite!)

2011: Four-way tie
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II
- X-Men: First Class
- Captain America
- The Adjustment Bureau

2010: Four-way tie
- Inception
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
- The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader
- Toy Story 3

2009: Four-way tie
- Star Trek
- Inkheart
- Avatar
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

2008: Two-way tie
- The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (because, Narnia!)
- Iron Man

2007: Five-way tie
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Stardust
- Hairspray
- August Rush
- Enchanted

See all of the movies I watched in each of these years and how I ranked them:
2017 movie rankings
2016 movie rankings
2015 movie rankings
2014 movie rankings
2013 movie rankings
2012 movie rankings
2011 movie rankings
2010 movie rankings
2009 movie rankings
2008 movie rankings
2007 movie rankings
2006 movie rankings
2005 movie rankings
2004 movie rankings
2003 movie rankings
2002 movie rankings
2001 movie rankings
2000 movie rankings
1999 movie rankings
1998 movie rankings
1997 movie rankings
1996 movie rankings
1995 movie rankings
1994 movie rankings
1993 movie rankings
1992 movie rankings
1991-1990 movie rankings
1989 movie rankings
1988-1987 movie rankings
1986-1985 movie rankings
1984-1983 movie rankings
1982, 1981, 1980 movie rankings
1970s movie rankings
1960s-1950s movie rankings

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Book Review: A Circle of Quiet (Crosswicks Journals #1) by Madeleine L'Engle

A Circle of Quiet (Crosswicks Journals #1) by Madeleine L'Engle
Paperback, 256 pages
Published 1971 

My rating: 5 of 5 stars 

I loved this book so much! And reading this reminds me of how much I love Madeleine L'Engle and how much I want to read (and re-read) everything she wrote!

I shouldn't really be surprised given how much I love L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time books. And this book gives us her thoughts on everything from theology, writing, children’s education, writing books for children vs. adults, and more.

There is also encouragement here for those who want to see their own books published: A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 26 times before it was published!
"A Wrinkle in Time was almost never published. You can’t name a major publisher who didn’t reject it. And there were many reasons. One was that it was supposedly too hard for children. Well, my children were 7, 10, and 12 while I was writing it. I’d read to them at night what I’d written during the day, and they’d say, “Ooh, mother, go back to the typewriter!” A Wrinkle in Time had a female protagonist in a science fiction book, and that wasn’t done. And it dealt with evil and things that you don’t find, or didn’t at that time, in children’s books. When we’d run through forty-odd publishers, my agent sent it back. We gave up." - L'Engle
And even though this was published in 1971 there are some parts that feel as though they could have been written this year:
“This sense of urgency has always been with my children, and those I work and talk with. They’ve grown up knowing that at any moment we could blow up our planet if some madman pushes the wrong button.” - L'Engle
“….we were listening to the news and when the weather report was announced he said, “Storms tomorrow. If there is a tomorrow.” - L'Engle
But I think the parts that resonated with me the most were where she talks about her own doubts in the midst of faith:
"I found myself earnestly explaining to the young minister that I did not believe in God, 'but I've discovered that I can't live as though I didn't believe in him. As long as I don't need to say any more than that I try to live as though I believe in God, I would very much like to come to church--if you'll let me.” - L'Engle
“The minute we begin to think we have all the answers, we forget the questions.” - L'Engle
I'll leave you with some of my favorite quotes from this book on writing:
"If a writer says he doesn’t care whether he is published or not, I don’t believe him. I care. Undoubtedly I care too much. But we do not write for ourselves alone. I write about what concerns me, and I want to share my concerns. I want what I write to be read. Every rejection slip—and you could paper walls with my rejection slips—was like the rejection of me, myself, and certainly or my amour-propre. I learned all kinds of essential lessons during those years of rejection, and I’m glad to have had them, but I wouldn’t want to have to go through them again." - L'Engle
"Of course. It’s all been said better before. If I thought I had to say it better than anybody else, I’d never start. Better or worse is immaterial. The thing is that it has to be said, by me, ontologically. We each have to say it, to say it our own way. Not of our own will, but as it comes out through us. Good or bad, great or little: that isn’t what human creation is about. It is that we have to try; to put it down in pigment, or words, or musical notations, or we die." - L'Engle
A Circle of Quiet Purchase Links: PaperbackKindle Edition, Audible Audiobook

View all my book reviews

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Top Ten Books That Have Been on My TBR List the Longest and I Still Haven't Read

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Have Been on My TBR List the Longest and I Still Haven't Read

As of this moment I have 2278 books marked as Want to Read on Goodreads... And even though I first joined Goodreads in 2007, I didn't start using it actively until January of 2012, so that is when most of these were marked as "want to read" on there.

1. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (unabridged) - I read an abridged version in 8th and 9th grade and loved it. So I've been wanting to read the unabridged version for quite some time.

2. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

3. The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas - I remember seeing the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio in it when I was in high school and I've wanted to read the book ever since then.

4. The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton - Chesterton was a big influence on C. S. Lewis and so I've wanted to read more of his books for a long time.

5. Dandelion Fire (100 Cupboards, #2) by N. D. Wilson - I remember reading a post that said readers who loved Lewis/Narnia would enjoy this series so I decided to give it a try. The first book was okay, but I never got around to finishing the series. I even re-read book 1 in 2016 to refresh my memory so I could read books 2 and 3 and I still didn't finish the series!

6. The Chestnut King (100 Cupboards #3) by N.D. Wilson

7. The Place of the Lion by Charles Williams - this author was one of the Inklings (C. S. Lewis's group of writer friends), and so of course I have wanted to read some of his books for a long time too.

8. Descent into Hell by Charles Williams

9. The Austin Family Chronicles by Madeleine L'Engle, books 2-5 (I read book one in 2015.) I simply love Madeleine L'Engle! I'm reading the first book of her Crosswicks Journals now, A Circle of Quiet, and it is delightful.

10. The Magicians Series by Lev Grossman - I don't remember how I heard of this one, but the premise intrigued me.

(yes, I realize I already listed ten, but I wanted to include this one too...)

11. The Monster in the Hollows (The Wingfeather Saga, #3) by Andrew Peterson - I'm pretty sure this series was also recommended for fans of Lewis/Narnia in the same post that was recommending the 100 Cupboards series.

What books have been on your TBR list the longest?