Saturday, November 18, 2023

Returning -- I Ought to Write at least One Blog Post This Year

 This will be short, just something to get a post written in 2023. I have reached 81 books read this year; however, a friend has reached 100, and I am trying to catch up to her. In addition to that goal, I am attempting to finish all the books I started but have not finished yet in order to list them as being read in 2023.

And, just to have some sort of images on this post for interest, I grabbed and dropped a variety of books I read and took pictures of. 

Monday, June 13, 2022

Remembering (Restak -- The Complete Guide to Memory)

I read books about the brain often because I find the brain fascinating and because Alzheimer's runs in my family. Before I even requested this ARC from NetGalley, I researched author Restak -- this would be Dr. Restak, well-known neurologist and neuropsychiatrist, professor, and author of many books. Restak and his book did not disappoint me. Five stars from me.

The book is grounded solidly in research, but it is not difficult to read. I like knowing where various thoughts, memories, and actions originate in the specific parts of the brain. I know other readers do not. Restak occasionally names the various parts of the brain; however, he does not do it every time. His research is current (as current as one's publication dates allow) because I know of some of the researchers and their research discussed in this book (e.g. Alia Crum). 

What did I feel Restak brought to the table? Research into memory and the brain is an absolute must have, yet I can get that from podcasts. Restak weaves together historical background, quotes from literary fiction, and case studies into his research with descriptive and imaginative language -- all of which applies  what has been learned thus far about memory. Included in the chapters are practical exercises and ideas to try. My husband and I both took the "Is My Memory Functioning Normally" quiz.  

I read this comprehensive book from June 1 to June 5, ending up with 37 bookmarks. I need the actual book in my hands and on my bookshelves, so I will be purchasing my own physical copy. Thanks to NetGalley and Skyhorse Publishing for this ARC.

Re: 52 Books in 52 Weeks? This is actually my 53rd book. I hope to fill you all in on the previous 52 soon. 

Friday, December 31, 2021

107 Books in 52 Weeks

 It has been so long since I've blogged, I think I've forgotten how to do so! Here I am at the last day of the year with proof that I have been reading. Quite a lot as it turns out. This year 2021 was filled with lots of highs and lows which I won't go into right now. The big news is that my husband had a clear and clean PET/CT scan for a second time (three months apart) and we will stay the course with immunotherapy in his battle with cancer. The second big news is that I retired which means I hope to blog more as well as get to all those "want to do" activities. One thing that will not change (I don't think) will be reading. This time last year I barely squeaked by with my 52nd book. This year, somehow, I went way over. Here is the evidence in pictures (and if you are on Goodreads, you can check out my reviews of the books). 

Friday, July 30, 2021

January '21 Reading (Mackesy, Rothfuss, Towles, Becker, Coursey, Fleming)

Starting to write in July and reviewing well over 52 books read for the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge which started in January seems like a hopeless situation. Nonetheless, let's see if I can do it. 

The Boy, The Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy --Perfect gift book for the right person, and I was the right person for the person who gave it to me. I get that some reviewers think it's a bit cutesy or filled with feel good platitudes, but sometimes it's nice to read something lovely even while knowing in reality fox would probably eat mole. I read it through several nights in a row. I gave it 4 stars. 

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss -- This is a discussion worthy book. The writing is beautiful, and it definitely is like Tolkien and Homer, or maybe those two meet up with Rowling. Yes, I wrote that, and I know I could not write a story like Rothfuss. The other shoe is going to drop with some critique, isn't it? 

I couldn't put the book down to do any of my work until I got to the Felurian section. I'm not saying it shouldn't be in the book. I think there is discussion worthy aspects of this section...until it just becomes over-indulgent. It's no longer about a deeper topic, and reviewers who point out Rothfuss's attitude toward female characters have a point. 

A more troublesome problem for me was the author's use of "black hands" as an expletive. I get that cuss words are intended to shock and be offensive; still, there are expletives that work with anger and there are expletives that reflect back badly on the person who swears them. The ones Rothfuss uses would not have worked for me thirty years ago, let alone in today's world. 

I'm just as eager to read the third in the series as others who give this book 4 and 5 stars. It would be lovely if Rothfuss would use his incredible abilities with language to craft a different expletive, give us women of depth, and move past the Circe and siren type of adventures. I think he has left us with enough loose ends to do so. I gave it 4 stars. 

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles -- I confess to being disappointed with this book. I read Towles's A Gentleman in Moscow (and also bought it), and I wasn't in love with his characters in his first novel as I was in his second novel. I suppose one could say that the story line and characters fit the time period Towles was going for. If you like Fitzgerald type of characters, this could be the book for you. 

These two books of Towles are also quite different from one another which is a good in that Towles doesn't write the same story over and over (as far as we know with just two books). I did not give this novel two stars which would have meant I didn't like the book at all. I liked it; I didn't love it, and I don't want to buy it. Towles's skillful writing comes through, and it would be a good book for a discussion group. Final conclusion: borrow it until you decide if this is a book you want to own. I gave it 3 stars. 

The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own by Joshua Becker -- The first two chapters in I was going to give this book 3 stars -- lots of excitement but not practical. I liked it okay enough to read but not buy. Then, I kept reading and I found what I was looking for -- lots of answers to the "yes, but how". Also Becker strikes a balance, and by that I mean he doesn't write that I have to give up all but 30 of my books. Hah! In the end, I had decided to buy the book for myself and buy it for others so that means a five star book. Get past the rah-rah part at the beginning, and if you don't like books with stories from the New Testament Bible, there really are only 3 in the entire book and Becker explains why he chooses those particular stories. His references to other minimalists and their ideas are diverse and lead to other sources. Short book -- read it here at the beginning of the year to start de-accumulating or read it at the end of the year when you are just short of your GR reading goal and need to read something quickly! I gave it 4 stars. 

The Joy Switch: How Your Brain's Secret Circuit Affects You're Relationships - And How You Can Activate It by Chris M. Coursey -- I bought this book after attending a free Thrive webinar. What Coursey brings to the table is an easy to read explanation of how to keep all parts of our brain open when all it wants to do is to shut down in the midst of unhappiness, sadness, fear, anger, etc. Keeping that same metaphor or analogy, I was hoping the table was going to include the 19 relational skills (it does not; the reader will be pointed back to the Thrive website). The book does include practices (so some good healthy food at the table) of which I was hoping for a bit more. On this same table I wish I had Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry along to say that there were a lot of repeated elements in Coursey's showstopper. In other words, I felt an editor with a bit stronger editing pen could have deleted some of the repeated sentences. 

The book feels rushed (dare I say that Coursey doesn't seem to have been given enough time to accomplish this showstopper), and, yet, I'm glad a friend passed along to me the link to the webinar, and I'm glad I bought the book. I plan on looking other researchers Coursey includes in the notes. Coursey keeps the specific scientific brain details to two pages which my family members like. I, on the other hand, like to read about brain research. 

I would like to see in future editions the following: sentences not repeated, less exclamation marks (or sentences that feel like Coursey really wanted to have included an exclamation mark -- and this is coming from someone who does like to use exclamation marks so I understand the desire), more practices, and the inclusion of material which is mentioned (like the 19 relational skills). To mention something but then expect the reader to go to the website makes the reader feel like the book was written for commercial purposes. To keep my analogy: it feels as if the host says a really great Pavlova would be excellent with this meal. Go to such and such a bakery and buy it. 

Eek. Please have your joy switch on, Chris Coursey, if you are reading this. I truly believe this is great material. I gave it 4 stars. 

How to Be Less Stupid About Race by Crystal Marie Fleming -- Apparently I bought this book and put it on my "currently reading" shelf on July 1, 2019...and then life happened in the form of a lot of health stuff and sad stuff, and I knew I wanted to take my time with this book. I either heard Fleming speak on a podcast or I read about her book on an Instagram account. Whichever it was, it was her discussion of the fallacies surrounding racism that drew me in. Once I had the book in hand, I started reading about these fallacies in the opening chapter (I so appreciate when a book actually includes what an author has discussed elsewhere), and I knew I wanted to take notes, highlight, etc., something I did not have time or energy to do in 2020. So there the book sat on my shelf until January 1 of this year. I did indeed take notes, highlight, and follow up closely on Fleming's endnotes. 

Two comments about the endnotes -- sadly, my book came with the final pages missing so my book only has 226 pages, something I did not realize until I was checking out notes for the last two chapters. My book stops after the 7th note on chapter 6, and is totally missing the notes on chapter 7. 

These words on endnotes rightly lead a reader to know that this is an academic book, not academic as in boring, but academic in that Fleming uses endnotes and college/university level vocabulary. I write this so one can understand why I bought the book (automatic 4 stars if I buy a book and I'm keeping it), and why I would gift the book (5 stars) but only to people who would actually read the book. 

I found the book clear, thoughtful as well as thought provoking, easy to read, needful to read, and at the same time, I have given away books that have nothing to do with racism and learned the experiential way that what I consider easy to read, others consider academic or "too intellectual". 

I do think this book needs to be in multiple college and university classrooms. What is not to like about an author who takes on everybody, and I do mean everybody: Dems, Repubs, Trump AND Obama, you, me, herself, the rest of the world. I might have lead with this since it was one of my favorite parts of Fleming's book that she doesn't excuse anyone, and she doesn't come across as I "used" to be this way and now I'm coming down from my state of perfection to tell you all that you are evil. 

Final comments: she warns everyone up front that she will use swear words, and then she rarely uses them, but they are there. Her lifestyle as she puts it (and I'll have to paraphrase and summarize since I don't know where the exact sentence is) is one that her church members struggled with. 

All I can say is if you read books with endnotes and you truly want to practice anti-racism, then read this book. I gave this book 5 stars.  

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Reviewing (52/52/2020)

Wow, one blog post in 2020. I haven't written so little since 2012. Yet, I did read 52 books in 52 weeks in 2020...barely. I squeezed in fourteen books during the month of December after asking for recommendations for books under 250 pages. I received a great many recommendations for which I'm thankful. Not all were so short. I finished two books which I had started earlier in the year, and I listened to two audio books (How have I missed 84 Charing Cross Road all these years?!) I even wound up with one book extra and one extra day in 2020! Libby, an online library was a lifesaver this year (although excruciatingly hard on my eyes until I got special online glasses). To a lesser extent so was Hoopla, online books attached to our local library system. Unfortunately, they only allowed me to check out five books a month. 

Since I did not blog for each book in 2020, let me give reviews here which are shorter than the ones I put on Goodreads. I will post my Goodreads Books in Review pictures after I post a picture of the books I do own. 

Neal Shusterman's Sythe series -- discussion worthy; violence and death; sci-fi
Rene Gutteridge Boo series -- first was okay; I could barely get through second; Christian-fi
Julie Yep-Williams -- The Unwinding of a Miracle -- one of the best non-fiction dying books
Blake Crouch -- Recursion -- I think part of a series also; sci-fi; discussion worthy
Audi Kolber -- Try Softer -- 5 stars --non-fiction; brain research+Christian; discussion worthy
Tembi Locke -- From Scratch -- non-fiction; one of the best grief books + love story + Italy

Georgette Heyer needs her own paragraph here as this was definitely a Georgette Heyer year for me. I needed her lighthearted fiction. Definite cultural issues in her treatment of certain types of women and of men who "cuff lightly their women" along with bad boys who meet the right woman and become good. Why then did I read her? Incredible vocabulary and dialogue along with stories that are as funny as Shakespeare and Austen (not the same, just saying don't give the grace to Shakespeare and Austen and take it away from Heyer). Also, Heyer is a master of satire so don't miss that she shows the upper class who supposedly have "good manners" being crude and the lower class who supposedly have bad manners being of worth and value. Most of the ones I read were her regency romances. The one mystery I fully read Footsteps in the Dark was a good one. The rest of her mysteries I did not finish. I hated her historical novel Beauvallet and only finished it because I thought I could rate it and warn others not to expect the same quality. 

Akilah Hughes -- Obviously -- non-fiction; part of my ever-growing list of books by women, books by those of a deeper coloring than I am

Lori Gottlieb -- Maybe You Should Talk to Someone -- non-fiction; therapist going to therapy and doing therapy; funny and real 

Richard Rohr -- Falling Upward -- Christian theology/formation; young life/older life
Lacy Finn Borgo -- Spiritual Conversations with Children -- Christian; one of the best; good for adults
Susan Meissner -- Bright as Heaven -- story with setting of 1918 epidemic -- read it before stay-at-home
Henning Beck -- Scatterbrain -- non-fiction; made me feel better about my brain. Lol. 
Liane Moriarity -- two books; I will say chosen for humor, but I never solve the mystery before the end

Kevin Kwan -- Okay, so I didn't read as many of his as Heyer's, but then again, he hasn't written as many as Heyer. Caveat: sex and language. I knew nothing of the cultural setting for which he wrote so that intrigued me. His books and Heyer's were somewhat chosen for the same reason -- nothing heavy in 2020; quick reads. I have to add that a person who has read a lot and read widely will pick up on his allusions to other literary pieces. Then, in his Sex and Vanity, I knew many of the settings in his book, plus he does take on, in a subtle way, biases. 

Kim Michele Richardson -- The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek -- finally a book I don't have to explain why I chose it -- historical background of blue people and librarians on horseback (or mule/donkey) 

Patrick Rothfuss -- The Name of the Wind -- just about killed my eyes trying to get this 662 page book finished in time, and all I wanted to do was read the story. Fantasy Epic novel -- think Tolkein and Homer even though, yes, there is a modern sensibility (or lack thereof for some readers). This is more so in his second book in the series which I finished the first week of 2021. Violence. Oh...and unfortunately his choice of cuss words ("Black hands!") bothers me tremendously. Discussion worthy book. 

Henry Van Dyke -- The Story of the Other WiseMan -- one of the short books recommended to me; perfect for December 

Helene Hanff -- 84, Charing Cross Road -- recommended to me, and I can not believe I have missed this book all these years. I could not find an ebook online (well, I think it was on Hoopla, but I had already used up my allotted five books) so I listened to it with the various narrators. Now I can't think of reading/hearing it in any other way! 5 stars!! 

George Saunders -- Congratulations By the Way -- Commencement speech written down -- excellent
Jessica Day George -- Tuesdays at the Castle -- upper elementary school book; excellent; new idea 
Sophie Kinsella -- I've Got Your Number -- What can I say? See Heyer and Kwan--see 2020
Matt Haig -- The Midnight Library -- Christmas gift; not embarrassed on this one; 5 stars; discussion
Richella Parham -- Mythical Me -- Christian, dealing with comparisons

Kate Bowler -- Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies, I've Loved  -- theme of prosperity gospel and dying...tempted to give you a plot spoiler in this non-fiction, but I won't. 

Nick Page -- A Nearly Infallible History of the Reformation -- Christian history, and I wish all history books were written with as much humor as this one. History class would have been a lot more interesting. 

In the words of my grandson, "Ta-da!" 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Sheltering on the First Day of Advent

Yes, it has been a long time since I long that Blogger asked me for not only one but two ways of verifying that I am who I say I am. However, today is the first day of Advent for 2020 (a year unlike other years), and the first word for #adventword2020 is "tender." I'm not sure that I'll post for every day of Advent, but I have some thoughts on this word (which even include a reference to a book although not one I have read this year in spite of thinking of it often). 

My first thought was "Why tender?" Maybe they were thinking of the Christmas song "Silent Night"? ("Holy infant so tender and mild") Yes, babies are tender; mild? My second thought was my tender arm after getting shots, specifically since I am due soon for my second shot of the shingles vaccine, and my knowledge from the first shot leads me to believe my arm is going to be tender for a week. However, I do not have that tender spot to take a picture of...yet. 

In an effort to understand the word better, I brought out my 1828 dictionary and also took a picture of my very tender Genovese Basil. 

From here on out are my random thoughts about "tender". (Bear with me, I'm out of practice with blog posts.) My arm will be tender after my next shot, but it will be worth it because I saw how my mother suffered from a full blown case of shingles. My basil leaves are tender, but when they are crushed is when the sweet fragrance and taste comes from the spice. Still, when some people are tender and crushed, their spirits, souls, and bodies are quenched and destroyed, so there is a tension between knowing when to be compassionate and when goodness will be released through touching that which is tender. 

I believe the Divine has that balance, and I would even go as far as to say that God "tenderizes" humans far less than some people think. I must write that I have known people who were given tenderness, but I wonder sometimes if a bit of crushing might have led to better outcomes (sort of like a shingles shot) because they wasted the tenderness given to them. 

Basically, I surmise that God is tender toward us because we were given choice. I have not found anyone who has convinced me that love can exist without choice. I picture Stepford Wives. Some are happy (the men?) but there's no love. I picture Brave New World where everyone is soma'd into bliss. There's no love. Love requires choice, and when humans have choices, they can choose to do devastatingly horrible acts. 

And now, dear readers (dear because you're actually reading this!), I'm not quite sure how to end this all Christmas-y. The first Advent candle is said to represent expectation or hope or expectation of hope. My hope is that in following Christ, I can choose a compassionate tender mercy over judgment and be rare in touching tender spots. There's Someone Who does it better than me. 

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Reading (52 Books in 52 Weeks)

What a year this has been! I would not like Job of the Old Testament wish a day or year away because it would be wishing away all the joys that happened as well. Instead let me desire to walk into the new year with Immanuel, God with me, and walk into it with strength, grace, and perseverance. When one has as many older family members as I have, I can not completely have a season without grieving. Let me take the blessing of having them with me for so long along with the sorrow of missing them when they leave our presence.

I couldn't accomplish all that I thought I would this year, and that's okay with me. I did not blog about all the books I read (although I took a few cool pictures); however, I did read 52 and more (71 actually -- maybe 72 if, before the end of the year, I finish The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton).

I did keep track on Goodreads and was able to take some (very poor) snapshots of my Year in Books 2019. So, here (or better displayed on Goodreads) you can see all of my 2019 books.

The shortest book was a book of poetry and I did not count it toward my 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge. Nor did I count any of the children's books. I'm surprised a marketing person did not talk Samantha Shannon into dividing her book up into thirds for more sales; however, I'm not sure where she could have broken the book up.

I read The Donkey's Gift because it was on the bookshelf at my daughter's house and her friend suggested I read this book of his childhood. I'm surprised more people have not read it. (And, now by calling him her friend, I will find out whether either of them read my blog posts. Lol!)

The star rating for Daring to Hope is well-deserved. If you read her first book Kisses From Katie, I highly recommend that you follow up with her Daring to Hope. First, because she is six years older in the second book and she has had time to reflect on her 2011 story. Secondly, her expression and description of her grief at losing a good friend is both accurate and healing at the same time.

Liane Moriarity is known for her book Big Little Lies; however, it was the second book I had read by her. I found her first funny enough that I wanted to read this one also. I have not seen the television series of the same name.

All of the books pictured above, I did write blog posts for.

I wrote on all of the above except Austin Channing Brown's book I'm Still Here Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness. I wanted to do a special post just for Brown's book because it was so incredibly good. I gave the book five stars and bought the book. I now follow her on Instagram.

After reading Austin Channing Brown's book, I started reading many more books by authors who are not considered white and male. It started an excellent practice -- one which I am continuing.

Books not blogged on (but reviews can be found on Goodreads)--

22. Under Our Skin by Benjamin Watson
24. The Librarian of Auschewitz by Antonio Iturbe (trans. by Lilit Zekulin)
25. The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
26. How to Be a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery
27. A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum (5 stars as you can see in the picture)
28. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
29. The Donkey's Gift by Thomas M. Coffey
30. The Tattoist of Auschewitz by Heather Morris
31. Twelve Patients Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital by Eric Manheimer, M.D.
32. Empire Falls by Richard Russo
33. Reunion by Hannah Pittard

34. Reconstructing the Gospel by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
35. The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind by Barbara K. Lipska
36. Italian Rustic by Elizabeth Helman Minchilli
37. The Sellout by Paul Beatty (not for the faint of heart; check out Goodreads reviews first)
38. My Reading Life by Pat Conroy
39. All the Place to Go by John Ortberg
40. The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison
41. In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume (my granddaughter chose this one for me to read)
42. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
43. Running with a Police Escort by Jill Grunenwald
44. The Stars are Fire by Anita Shrive
45. Old in Art School by Nell Painter (audio version; recommended on a list of books for each age)
46. The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White

47. The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shrive
48. My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
49. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarity
50. How the Bible Actually Works by Peter Enns (chosen by nephew to discuss with me)
51. Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis Majors
52. Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors
53. Love Does by Bob Goff
54. Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen
55. Arabella by Georgette Heyer (my first introduction to this prolific writer)
56. Frederica by Georgette Heyer

57. Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer
58. The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
59. Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis -- actually I did blog on this one last week
60. Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Granny, McMillan, and Switzler (a work read)
61. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
62. Dominicana by Angie Cruz
63. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
64. The Quiet Gentleman  by Georgette Heyer
65. The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher Heuertz
66. How to Walk Away by Katherine Center
67. Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
68. Sorry, I'm Late, I Didn't Want to Come: One Introvert's Year of Saying Yes by Jessica Pan

I'm not sure how Goodreads wound up with 71 books. I know I did have a couple of children's books in there that I did not count for my 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge.

After 214 spam responses on the One of Our Thursdays is Missing, I decided to turn off the comment section on my blog, but feel free to respond to my reviews on Goodreads. I'm looking forward to 2020. See you next year!

P.S. My apologies to those reading this on a phone. I'm guessing that the formatting will be totally off.