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.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Apologizing (Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis)

I have no apologies for not writing the past eight months. My sister died in May and withdrawal turned out to be my way of grieving; so to dear friends and acquaintances, I have thought of you; I do love you; and loving you from afar worked for my health and sanity as I navigated this new normal.

When I first made notes for this post, I thought it would be not an eulogy / sort of an eulogy. In a way all of my writing this day forward will reflect in some way the loss of my closest friend. I write that not to slight my other siblings or friends, but my sister Becky was my first friend and no one can ever take that position. Up to this point, she had been my longest endearing friend, and, someday, other siblings will pass by the number of years the two of us had together.

This return to writing does include both a review of the book Girl, Stop Apologizing, and a change in my signature pieces in each blog piece. I'm subtracting the "What I Would Do Differently" and the "Transformation" sections and going for a direct "Out of the Box" addition...with no apologies. Also, with no apologies, I'm leaving the former sections in the past and not going back and editing, even though I may not even have those same feelings or thoughts anymore.

Richard Rohr writes in Falling Upward (review to come later): "The supposed achievements of the first half of life have to fall apart and show themselves to be wanting in some way, or we will not move further. Why would we?"(xix) Why would we if we think we have it all together?

I happened to see this book Girl, Stop Apologizing at the local library during a time when I was ready to think about what I wanted my days to look like. I bookmarked Hollis's section on "Choose One Dream and Go All In" I liked the idea of closing my eyes and imagining the best version of myself. Pages 98 through 107 almost make it worth buying the book.

There's some solid ideas to remember, encouragement we've probably read from other authors as well, about comparisons, shame, guilt, boundaries; however, as one really good comprehensive review on Goodreads mentions (by Johanna), Hollis has some troubling issues in this book: pop culture references (continual), a lot of privileged feeling, ambivalence on weight and looks, just some things that feel a little off. I'm not expecting an apology; I'm just writing for me, there were parts I liked and parts that felt off.

I'm stopping here (with no apologies) because it's my first attempt back at writing and posting. This book is actually something like #67...way over my 52 books in 52 weeks, but I chose this one because of the title. My hope is to get back to reviewing all the books read from April through November. 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Missing (One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde)

I'm going to hop out of order in my book reviews. I have three books I finished prior to this light-hearted one, but those reviews will take more time than I have to give at the moment. This book was a "blind date" book during the month of February at our local library. I finished it today, this last day of March...a very long blind date.

I don't know how I have missed reading any of the books in this series. It's a perfect book for me, not that I think it is for everyone. You really have to like books and all that goes into writing and reading books. I've been searching to see if someone else has found a way to describe the book: an alternate bookworld. Readers of this series write that one has to read the other 5 that came before this one, but I didn't know there were five others and I did just fine. I didn't feel as though I could fully navigate in this alternate world, but I felt this way because the whole novel was...well, so novel, truly! Perhaps if I had started at the beginning (as I did with The Invisible Library series), I would have been bored with the explanations of how the Bookworld worked (as one reviewer was).

Several other reviewers in Goodreads have fully written out the "dorky, readerly" quotes. I would have written quirky and humorous, but definitely "readerly" and I'd rather not rewrite them all out, but do peruse through Goodreads or Jasper Fforde quotes because they will tickle one's reader funny bone (e.g. trying to figure out who is speaking on page 133 written as a joke; the "Law of Egodynamics: 'For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert").

As a book to borrow from the library, it's a 5 star borrowing book. I can't quite give it a 5 star buying book rating even though there are a few thought-provoking parts when Professor Plum discusses RealWorld with written Thursday: " can discount at least eighty percent of chat as just meaningless drivel...In some individuals it can be as high as ninety-two percent. The people to listen to are the ones who don't say very much" (179).

Also, I think I may have moments in the future while reading another author's fiction book where Fforde's Bookworld will intersect with my reading. I'll find myself wondering about the genre or a metaphor or whether there's tea in that teapot. Lol! (You just have to read the book for yourself.) Rating range of 3-5. Why did I start the range with a 3 which only means "I liked it"? It was a great "blind date" with an immediate attraction -- it was all so new and fresh to me, and every time I picked the book back up, I found parts to like; however, I did go out with some other books throughout this six week time of reading. I got bogged down a little in the middle section, picked up steam again after that, but then somewhat raced to finish it. I'm glad I read it and glad I was introduced to Jasper Fforde books via a "blind date", but it's still a rating range of 3 - 5 (a borrow from the library 5). 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Borrowing (The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman)

If the title of this post led you to believe that this would be about finances, it is not. I finished the last three books of the Invisible Library series -- or, at least, the last three written. Since Cogman writes about one a year, and The Mortal Word, came out in 2018, perhaps another in the series will turn up. The stories are the types that could go on solving one crisis after another, while the reader wonders whether the heroine will wind up with the hero or not. Also, there are unsolved mysteries at the end of the fifth book. More on that at the end of this post.

I checked all five books in the series out from the public library which seems fitting since the series revolves around THE Library and libraries in various versions of the world. The first in the series The Invisible Library fascinated me with its references to books, its fantastical characters, its alternate many of my favorite elements all in one book and a storyline that was new to me. (Read that review here.) The Masked City was good in a three stars kind of way. I felt (as mentioned in my review here) that the author used a large portion of the book catching up readers who had not read book one of the series. Yet, moving on the book three The Burning Page, I started bookmarking pages...a lot of pages. This is always a good sign when I am reading a book. I started being impressed with Cogman's descriptions: "It wasn't psychic powers, as some people would have described them. It was simply alpha teacher, channelled with a side order of extra ice and public humiliation, and it worked far too well" (91).

Also included within a good solid story are lines that would make a discussion group happy (because they're so discussable): "'Not sympathy so much as pity,' Silver said. 'Sympathy would imply I might even try to help them. Pity is much safer. It can be delivered from on high without getting involved. I pity them. I sympathize with you, detective'" (189). Interestingly, one reviewer stated that YA ethical issues show up in this book (which I totally agree with although I would say those issues are not just for young adults), but those issues make me like the book even more, while for the reviewer mentioned, he feels he's "too old of a dog for that." The Language and its power continues to intrigue me as does the tension between chaos and rigid order. I don't think I'm going to actually buy the book so I can't quite give it 5 stars; however, 4.5 seems fair.

I checked all five of the books out of the library at the same time so a bit of boredom may have been setting in as I read The Lost Plot, not necessarily due to the plot, but due to the author's need to fill in readers who have not read any of the previous books. Also, this one is set in an alternate United States, and my own country's story of Prohibition as a setting didn't seem interesting. (The real history with the narratives of real people might be, but this setting was used as background for the story of Irene and Kai.) Also, while the wolves weren't as bad as the robotic alligators in book one, they're still a bit silly at times. I confess that my review is being written a number of days after reading the book so I may have had more to write if I had written the review right away. Mostly I remember liking the book and being glad I read it, and eager to read the next book in the series. Three stars for book four in this series.

By book five The Mortal Word, I was powering through this series, much as if I was bingeing on a television series (please, someone make this into a television series so that I can binge on it). As I close out this post on this series, I think what started to happen is the newness and the novelty started to wear off. Cogman still has the capacity to reach readers with her allusions to books, metaphors, other literary devices, but by book five, I was ready for a break from the series. I almost think it would have been better if I had read the books as they had been published with some time in between reading. I will be able to do that (let some time slide by) if a book six is forthcoming. Cogman could easily fit in a book six as not all has been resolved. Sure, there's the "will the heroine and hero get together?" but there's also the backstory of Irene and her parents--will the mystery be solved?...and, of course, will chaos and order find a way to stability and peace? Even though I don't have any bookmarks in book five, I do remember the story being better than book four, so let's go with 4 stars. Overall, I would give the entire series four stars.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Inspiring -- Four Books, Four Authors

Call this my "trying to catch up post" and "trying to get books back on the bookshelves and back to the library" post. I've grouped these four books together for no other reason than two of them I started in 2018 (so they don't qualify for my 52 Books in 52 Weeks reading challenge for 2019) and the other two books are short (but were read this year, 2019).

I finished Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang while my husband drove us six hours to my mom's house for a Christmas gathering, December 2018. I remember liking the book, whether that means 3 stars or 4 stars, I don't quite recall. Perhaps, the dialogue on page 105 needs to be something I embrace: "I only buy a book after reading it twice. If you can enjoy it more than once, you know it's a keeper." This book, however, is mine, and I had not even read it once. It was a book club selection. I enjoyed it; I got along with the story fine even with the separate narrators for the chapters (something that tends to annoy me). There is some mild satire aimed at some home schoolers. As a mom who engaged my children in personalized learning (aka homeschooling), I knew of some people like the ones in the book, but it is not a description of homeschooling for all.

I had bookmarked a page with a quote mentioned by other reviewers. I'll give the comment in context (163):
"Malfunctioning air sacs..."
"Why do you do that?"
"Do what?"
"Take something beautiful and vandalize it with skepticism?"
"Because without beauty, we'd be bored. Without science, we'd be dead."

The book is labeled realistic fantasy or something like that. I have no problem with that label. It's a realistic story with fantastical elements in it. It's not heavy and dark and complex, but it does have parts worth discussing. Probably 3 stars, but I'm feeling generous (and I've forgotten if I just liked it or really liked it) so let's say 4 stars.

I bought The Circle Maker during a women's getaway time. I started it in September of 2018 but finished it in February of 2019, not because I drudged through it; I wanted the thoughts and ideas and practices to sink in deeply. I can see where reviewers with critical comments are coming from. At first, author Mark Batterson does seem to be "naming and claiming it" but if one reads the entire book, it is not. When all is said and done, prayer to Batterson is indeed about relationship with God. Is the book in the style of popular writing rather than academic and scholarly? Yes. But, goodness, I'm not going to say the book is for "no one". I have underlining and comments and dialogue with the author's words throughout the book. Did it point me to relationship and intimately knowing God, knowing Jesus, knowing the Holy Spirit? Yes. Did it inspire me? Yes. Did I push back (albeit only in my written comments inside the book) against how Batterson put some thoughts? Yes. Am I keeping the book and referring to the "discussion" I had with the written words and thoughts? Yes. Do I think the book is worth using in a book discussion group? Yes. 3-5 stars. Cautiously and generously, I'll go with 4 stars.

I read Out of the Maze by Spencer Johnson (published posthumously by his children) in one day. It's only 84 pages. It's an inspirational type of book. This book follows up on Johnson's book Who Moved My Cheese? While I would have chosen a different word than "beliefs" as in "Old beliefs do not lead you to a new cheese" I get the point of the book. If you hang on to how you thought life should be and refuse to face your fears and the habits that are keeping you captive, then you're going to starve your opportunities for growth and joy. Now, my wrapping that up in one sentence doesn't mean the book is not worth reading. A sentence alone can't do what an illustrative story does. 3 stars because I like the book, but I've already been quite generous with my stars today. ;)

The Power of Yes is also clearly marketed as an inspirational book to buy on a whim. I actually picked it up off of the public library shelves on a whim. Sure, it's kind of a self-help type of book, but somedays, one is in the mood for a light inspirational self-help type of read. Author Abbie Headon includes a story example of someone who said "yes" in his or her life, a motivational quote (and there's nothing wrong with reading something motivational if it helps to move beyond reading into action), and a "Yes Lab" with each section. The nice part about calling these "labs" are labs are made for experimenting. So, if the motivations and experiments lead one to actions for good, then possibly this book is worth saying "yes" to for less than twenty-four hours. (I started it on one day and finished it the next without staying up all night.) Three stars. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Hoping (Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson)

I've fallen in love with a new author: Jacqueline Woodson. I met her through her book Feathers which I picked up off of the Black History display of books for children in my town's library.

It's the skinny book on the right with 'J' for juvenile on it. My review of the book on the left, Children of Blood and Bone, can be found here. As for the book in the middle The Sellout, I'm still reading it. Beatty writes satire which is not my normal go-to genre to read.

However, Feathers is the type of book I enjoy immensely: thought-provoking and discussable with characters I care about even though the book is written for a juvenile audience and short in length, all of which makes it a good choice for middle school or high school interdisciplinary units...or for a adult discussion group in need of something with fewer pages (say during a holiday season).

I picked up this book from the local library's display of books for Black History month in February. This book, along with the other two books mentioned already and three other books (I'm Still Here, Under Our Skin, and Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy -- another children's book) are providing me with a diverse group of voices.

The voice in Feathers is gentle. As mentioned by other reviewers, Woodson includes a lot of issues--mom who keeps miscarrying, deaf brother, new boy in town who doesn't look like the rest of the classroom, classmate who struggles with living the Christ-following life versus saving souls, bullying, and outsiders.

I like that the deaf brother isn't just in the story to help the main character grow or move the story along. Granted, he is one of the "outsiders", but there is a little something "outsider" about each of the characters except the mean girls who are no longer interested in a good looking young man once they find out he is deaf.

I have to admit that my reading of the other books mentioned in this review raised a question for me as to whether the outsider coming into the community had to be this particular boy. I won't write more than that. There are some interesting twists at the end, and in the case of this book, you could read some of the reviews and find out all about the story, but I felt it meant something more to me to come at the story cold, knowing nothing about it.

πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’• While I was able to pull from a small section (2 shelves) of our home library a number of books with diverse characters, I was disappointed to realize that only 3 of the 10 books had black or Hispanic authors. (We do have a large collection of books written by Alan Say, but he may be our only Asian author. ) Those three are Marie Bradby, Patricia C. McKissack, and John Steptoe. It's possible that when my children were young, we did not have access to more diversity anymore than we had access to characters with medical challenges being anything more than characters to help the main character grow. However, that is not the case anymore, and just reading about diverse characters is not enough. We all need to read works from a diverse group of writers.

--- At the moment, I can't think of a better way to grow in Christ-likeness in the area of seeing all humans as created in God's image than to get to know a diverse group of people as friends. And, if that is not forthcoming, then at least to start reading literature written by a diverse group of writers.   

Monday, March 04, 2019

Arising (Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi)

Let's start with the content warnings first. If you don't read books that have multiple deities and/or magic in them, then don't read this book. If you do read metaphorical, symbolic, and allegorical books, then you may or may not like this one depending on what you bring to the reading. I've pictured Children of Blood and Bone (CBB) by Adeyemi with The Master and Margarita (MM) by Bulgakov because what Elena N. Mahlow writes of MM is true of CBB: "...the subtext is the reason...the main story" (The Master and Margarita: The Text as a Cipher).

That subtext is socio-political with a good measure of religion thrown in...but make no assumptions about which is which. In Bulgakov's case, the religious parts of the story held the truth about the reign of Stalin whereas the political parts that looked like they held to a political line, were not really acquiescing to the current political state at all.

I'm not saying that Adeyemi had that deep of intentions in Children of Blood and Bone (CBB)  but Adeyemi, like Bulgakov, did have some political issues in mind (because Adeyemi tells this to her readers).

Also, like Bulgakov, Adeyemi is a powerful storyteller. I don't normally like authors to switch to a different character in the story for each chapter, but I was so engrossed in Children of Blood and Bone (CBB), the changes and transitions seemed flawless and smooth. I started this book on February 23 and finished it on February 24 -- a 531 page book.

A quick read through the reviews of the book really do point back to my first comment about how what a person brings to the reading determines how the reader values the book. A YorΓΉbΓ‘ woman pointed out the flaws in the story (even though the story is fantasy, the YorΓΉbΓ‘ really are a Niger-Congo ethnic group), and that took away some of the excitement I felt with the story; nonetheless, I still have to admit once again: I read the entire book within 24 hours.

The book was given to me by a daughter along with two other books. I kept putting her off on this book because I thought it was going to be scary (I don't like horror books or grisly realistic murder anything) so when we finally read it, I found the story intriguing and raced ahead of the daughter (just had to put that in here).

πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’• I found out later that CBB is a YA book, which probably explains the light touch in the romance/sex department. I don't know that I would recommend it as a YA book, but I saw that a teacher has put together a classroom guide. I don't know that I'll buy it, but I am curious about what he pulled together. The "cutting" part of the book disturbs me a bit because the cutting in this book leads to powerful magic unlike the cutting in Storm Siren by Mary Weber -- in Weber's book, cutting is a mark of slavery.

--- The power in blood shown in CBB goes way back in time. In fact, I recently heard an old hymn about the power in the blood. Since this is my spiritual transformation section of my blog, I'm going to ask a question here that others have been raising. Has the emphasis on the blood of Jesus rather than the life, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus actually led to a lot of Vampire Christians (just a little bite of Jesus' blood gets you into eternity)? 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Knowing (The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman)

Chaos thrives in a world of masks, but knowing one's identity brings power to break through that chaos. The Masked City, book number two in The Invisible Library series has the backbone of an excellent story; however, I struggled to get through the opening chapters -- chapters which fill in much for someone who has not read book number one or has not read it in a long time. I had rushed from book one to reading book two, and my mind was twiddling its synapses impatient to get into the new part of the story.

Sadly one of my favorite characters was not exactly missing in book two but had very little interaction in the book. That knocked my rating down for this book. I did not, however, stop me from bookmarking some favorite pages or stop me from wanting to read the next book in the series.

I continue to enjoy running into allusions to other literary works and authors. I've bookmarked an historical reference (also found in a famous play) as well as a reference to Murasaki, an author whose works I hope to get around to reading. Also, Cogman continues to grow Irene in her sense of identity, but I was disappointed in one particular rescue made in the book. With these disappointments, I want to give the book a middling rating -- a 3. Then, Cogman writes in a discussion between Lady Guantes and Irene. Irene is questioning Lady G on the benefits of Venice (this alternate Venice) for humans. Lady G claims the humans are happy. Irene claims, "The moment one of your kind interacts with them, the humans lose their volition, their freedom. Their life. In your world, the humans are just background characters."

To which Lady G replies, "But such happy background characters..." There's more and all worthy of discussion, and, if you've read my reviews before, you know how much I love discussion worthy books. UP goes the rating to 4 stars.

For now, I'll skip over the family ties and spiritual formation ties...oh, wait. I did think of something that would be intriguing: where would the various characters fit in the Enneagram? 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Reading 3.0 (The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman)

I could stick with rating this book with a range of 4-5, but 'The Invisible Library' was clearly a 5 star book for me.

This book was displayed with librarian favorites at my local library. It's listed as a science fiction book (not my normal reading genre although it is often one of my favorite genres in television series or movies). I was intriguingly lost rather than hopelessly lost at the beginning. Some readers don't like that feeling of being dropped into the middle of something and being overwhelmed (if you are one of them, this is not the book for you). If it had dealt with a subject unfamiliar to me, then maybe I would feel the same way, too; however, this was about books and libraries and dragons and alternate worlds, oh my! The author knows Tolkien and Sherlock and coding and gaming and books.

The protagonist Irene is a strong female character, and I'm fascinated with THE language of the THE Library. Maybe I was "glamoured" (have to read the book to know the expression), and maybe if I was more familiar with science fiction, I would not have been so enamored with the book, but I was, so much so, I rushed out and picked up the second book in the series. Book one can stand alone. I haven't finished the second book so I can't tell yet whether I will have wished I had read just the one. Since first writing this, I have finished the second book, and that review will follow this one.

πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’• Family-wise, I keep coming back to the beauty of libraries. You don't have to be rich to use the library unless you are prone to overdue or lost books; however, our library system has recently stopped overdue fines! I feel a little guilty (wondering how am I going to support the library now), but I am hoping that getting rid of library fines goes well for the system! This novel also points out the power of language and that is a narrative from which every family can benefit.

---No matter what I read, I am one body in the physical world, one mind and heart in the story, and one spirit and soul indwelt by God (well, all of me is indwelt by Christ as in Christ, I live and move and have my being) -- hopefully you understand that I am saying that I sense God moments. And, there is a moment in this book when Irene understands how to beat back the enemy by claiming her identity. I won't say more than that in the interest of not spoiling the story for other readers.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Ageproofing (Age-Proof by Chatzky, Roizen, and Spiker)

Were these types of books out there when I was younger and I just ignored them? Maybe. Then, again, when I was younger, families thought they were feeding their children healthy food if they could afford the new boxed cereals, commercially canned fruits and vegetables (loaded with sugar and salt), and a commercial loaf of bread that could be molded into a marshmallow (with same type of texture).

A bit of a different picture this post. I actually don't know what connection I was making between these three! I may have been showing a family member how I can read three books at the same time. I started AgeProof (the book on the bottom of the picture) on January 1 and finished it on February 9. The book is meant to be worked through not raced through. The subtitle is "Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip." Jean Chatzky provides the financial information, Michael F. Roizen, MD provides the health information, and Ted Spiker writes it in a way so that the reader is not bored to death. The format is easy to work with and humorous as Spiker "spikes" (I had to) the information with quips from the two experts. The chapters alternate between finance and health (with connections to each other interwoven).

I have not read any of these authors other works so it was not a rehash for me. I did know much of the information, but it was nice to see it in writing with the background research written in common vocabulary and not medical or financial jargon.

Reviews are all over the place with this book -- the first that I've seen that happen on a site like Goodreads. The fluctuations in ratings seem to come from whether the reader gained much from the book or little, and that makes sense. If you already know the information, then the book will be boring or shallow. If the reader doesn't want to hear that Americans need to eat healthier, then that reader is going to think the doctor is pompous. Was it totally new to me? No, but did I find useful information or encouragement? Yes. Do I think the book is worth working through, if only as a checkup if you already know everything? Yes. Do I already believe in healthy eating and living healthy financially as well? Yes. My rating range: 3-5.

πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’• In our family, we tend to make wise eating choices and we ended up eventually making wise financial choices, but, oh how we wish we had made those wise financial choices from the moment we married! I like how this book encourages everyone that it is never too late and even has sections for the different stages of life. My children are getting this book as a gift (and now I will find out which ones read my blog...ha).

--- It may seem strange to think that I am including my spiritual formation section in a review of a finance and health book; however, these authors have wise words about forming habits and making changes by small steps. Also, when one is wanting to change, change happens best when one replaces an unhealthy or unwise habit with a better choice rather than simply to stop the bad habit. For example, if a person wants to stop buying sugar laden lattes everyday (hard on the finances and the gut), then replace it with a smaller plain latte (less money and less sugar but still caffeine) and a small piece of extra dark chocolate.

With Christ-following spiritual formation, the replacement for gossip or lack of kindness or (fill in the blank) is knowing Christ. Not knowing about Jesus, but knowing Jesus daily. In order to do so, one way to make time for knowing Jesus and stopping the gossip or the unkindness might be to practice small steps of silence  or maybe it will be to start small steps of journaling or maybe singing grateful songs. I'll revisit these thoughts in later blogs. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Surviving (The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah)

When it comes to getting a beautiful book cover (and end sheets with beautiful gold embossing), it helps to be a well-known bestselling author like Kristin Hannah.

I would give the book a rating range of 4-5 stars even without the beautiful cover. Five stars because Hannah's writing continues to be excellent (and she knows how to keep her verb tense consistent -- lack of which drives me crazy as you know if you read my last review of another author's book), and the story itself is mesmerizing even more so, for me, when I found out that Hannah has lived in Alaska (and I found the link to her life embedded within the story). Four stars because I don't know that I will read the book again, and I have no bookmarks in the book. Bookmarks show me that I found a thought that I want to come back to again and again, usually something philosophical or theological or thought-provoking.

My response to other reviews of this book:
The main antagonist deals with some issues that will annoy, frustrate, irritate, or anger some military families. Some of those reviews have a point. Hannah's explanations might have been a bit too pat and convenient. For one of my family members, characters putting up with abuse frustrates him and makes him stop reading. Yes, here is your forewarning: there is abuse in this story.

Some felt the ending was abrupt and again, conveniently romantic. After the tension of surviving in the country itself and surviving the situations in the book, a more uplifting ending was fine with me. Resolutions generally are short.

I can tell you right away, no thinking about it, I would not survive living in Alaska. I admire those who do. I enjoyed the story; I appreciated the characters. I was as frustrated with some of them as my family member would have been (but I kept reading). Also, I felt Hannah kept the story based in reality.

πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’• Family -- the good, bad, and ugly are included in this book. From my own personal experience, I am not good at teaching survival skills (see above -- I would not survive). My preparation for sending children off to college was to make sure that they had tasted baked goods such as Twinkies and Ding Dongs (food we normally did not eat). In situations where teaching children to survive is needed, I am not the one.

--- Ask me about surviving spiritually, and I want to talk about not just surviving but growing and thriving. The "great alone" lower case, not the story of the book, can be beneficial when it is silence, solitude, and time between one and one's Creator. But, it can also be gut-wrenching when it is alone and lonely.

The narrative of 'The Great Alone' is set in a vast lonely place; however, community shines throughout the story. As my own family was discussing so many sorrows hitting at once, the common saying, "God never gives you more than you can handle" tends to come to mind. Actually,  the Bible verses people base the above saying on doesn't refer to tragic suffering. Sometimes we do get more than we can handle...alone. We need help, from God, from others.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Reading 2.0 (I'd Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel)

My reading of this book I'd Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel came about because of happy coincidental timing of two reading challenges ("a book about reading" on the 2019 Reshelving Alexandria Reading Challenge), (2019 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge which led me to her blog), and the book itself offered at half price from two different vendors.

At first glance, I felt the special offer price was the only price I would ever pay for a book this small; however, that was before I actually read the book. It would make a great gift book which was another reason I thought it should be under $10 until I looked at the prices of the gift books on my shelves, and I realized $10 and more is not an unusual price for a gift book.

So, pricing aside, I went from a range of 3 stars (I like this book) to 4 stars (I really like this book).  I'm glad I bought it, and my "Want to Read" list of books grew especially since I discovered via Goodreads' book compatibility analysis that I have a 90% book compatibility with Anne Bogel, so I am likely to enjoy the books she mentions in this book.

The opening chapters were fine. I felt like I could read those same chapters on her blog, but, as I continued reading, her chapters (really, each stand alone pieces in themselves rather than connected chapters -- "charming essays" one reviewer called them) held some deeper thoughts (a quality I like). Interestingly, a reader who gave the book a rating of 3.5 liked the opening chapters and not the last chapters. Differences in enjoyment for various chapters is probably fairly common in a book of essays. My guess is that any voracious reader would enjoy this book as a gift (and at 156 pages, it is little in size, not in number of pages).

πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’• It's definitely a great book for parents who are short of times to read (because the chapters are short and complete within themselves) and who want to raise children who read.

----Those interested in spiritual transformation, I loved the sighting of the influence of Dallas Willard on pages 27-28. 

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Siblings 2.0 ('The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag' by Alan Bradley AND 'The Immortalists' by Chloe Benjamin)

I am writing about these two books in one post because of two common factors: I started out disliking both of them, and siblings are involved in both. Other than that, the differences between the two books will leave some of my friends open-mouthed and amazed that I paired up the two. I'm not sure I came to truly like either of them, but I did move both to a range of interest beyond one star, "I hate the book" rating.

I started reading the second book of Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce series, 'The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag' on the third day of January (hence the holiday mug in the picture), and didn't finish it until the end of January, dragging my eyeballs all along the way. I wasn't overflowing with love for the first book in the series; however, it grew on me enough to consider reading books 2-4 in order to fulfill "three books by the same author" on the 2019 Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge.

However, protagonist Flavia's love of poison and the treatment of the three sisters toward each other annoyed me from the beginning of the book. Also, unlike the first book, I didn't like the mystery to be solved. Still I kept on for reasons I don't even know. Possibly it is because I didn't realize until I wrote up above "three books by the same author" that the challenge wasn't to read "three books in a series by the same author". Since I could not think of another series, I keep plodding along. Then, I reached the point where a character I do like entered the story: Inspector Hewitt. Unfortunately, he is not in this particular story often. I also like the author's writing skills, excellent vocabulary, and wonderful allusions to other literary works. Sometimes Bradley even has a witty or thought-provoking quote such as this: "...I have learned that under certain circumstances, a fib is not only permissible, but can even be an act of perfect grace" (268).

Then, Bradley, does something at the end that makes me say to myself: "Drat, he did it again! He offers a controversial statement by the pre-teen narrator that causes me to want to discuss this book and this thought!" I shall give a portion of that statement, only a portion so as not to spoil any plots (which I never see coming because mysteries are not my "go-to" genre): "We were puppets, all of us, set in action upon the stage by God -- or Fate -- or Chemistry, call it what you will..." (354).

Bradley's protagonist also highlights a difference between his book and 'The Immortalists'. Flavia remarks upon the undertaker's use of the phrase "final journey" and several pages prior means to ask Dogger (another favorite character) what it meant when Emma Bovary "gave herself up to him" (281). My star range for this book: 2-3 stars and the possibility that I might (emphasis on "might") try the next book in the series.

My star range for Chloe Benjamin's 'The Immortalists' is 2-4 stars -- a whole lot of two stars, a handful of 3 stars and barely squeaking in there, 4 stars for this book that includes much to discuss. No mild "final journey" or "gave herself up to him" phrases in this book. It's graphic and detailed even in a sixteen-year-old's careless, dangerous (the author's words) sex. I knew from the first page description of a thirteen-year-old's body that I was going to dislike this book. Why did I keep on reading? Because my grown daughter and I were reading the book at the same time (and she gave me  the book). So, I read on even though, after the detailed section stopped, the lack of consistent verb tense drove me almost crazy!

Here's my issue with this book: I felt as if the publisher knew this was going to be a popular book (read "a book that would sell a lot of copies") and so the editors did not send it back for 13, 16, 20 revisions (the number of revisions I've heard other authors mention). They wanted to get this book to market.

I don't know what book people are talking about when they say this is a "joyous" book; it is a sad book, a painful book, a grieving book, and I only bumped my rating up into the 3-4 star range because sad books are also often discussion worthy books.

The "big idea" issue I see in this book revolves around knowing one's future. Research shows us that when we're young, our older selves don't connect in our minds as a part of who we are, yet, knowing the future may not be the best for our present selves either.

The other connected issue involves the lengths we go to extend our lives. I won't say more as it could be a plot spoiler. And, an issue that returns again and again: lack of communication. Lack of communication between the siblings in this book hurts.

The pain is in reading through this time period of the AIDS epidemic (so many lives lost), of a time when a female magician was a novelty like a "pink volcano" in Vegas (when men had more value than women), a time when waivers were needed to send young men into war, and bringing us up to current times: what kind of research do we do to extend our lives (and what if what we learn actually takes the joy out of living?)

Quotes worth discussing:

"She understands, too, the loneliness of parenting, which is the loneliness of memory -- to know that she connects a future unknowable to her parents with a past unknowable to her child" (134).

"In time was their culture. In time, not in space, was their home" (139).

"That was the problem with God: he didn't hold up to a critical analysis" (179).

"As a species, God might be the greatest gift we've ever given ourselves. The gift of sanity" (180).

"But perhaps God was nothing like the dreadful, lurid fascination that brought him to the fortune teller...For Saul, God had meant order and tradition, culture and history. Daniel still believed in choice, but perhaps that did not foreclose belief in God..." (181).

I'll stop here. In the first half of the book, I have no highlighting bookmarks; in the second half, I have bookmarks every five pages or so.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Truthing (Golden State by Ben H. Winters)

I started to use "Lying 2.0" as part of my post title because I thought "truthing" was not a word; however, possibly it is a rare word used in the Late Middle English period. Some would say that "truthing" is rarely used now as well. But, I digress. Or, do I? The story of Golden State by Ben H. Winters revolves around telling the truth and any digression from the truth (telling a lie) is a punishable crime. The picture below pairs water with the book as the setting is California, the golden state, and, until recently, a state in drought.

This dystopian novel (a favorite genre of mine as my daughter, who read it with me, accurately claims) feels like a modern day twist on Fahrenheit 451. Just as Fahrenheit 451 foresaw big screen televisions, reality shows, and bluetooth earbuds ("seashells" I think Bradbury called them), I have to wonder if Winters is foreseeing a time where our desire to know the truth based on webcams and instant replay, etc., actually imprisons us in some false notion of truth.

Discussion groups will have no problem finding points to discuss especially centered around "What is truth?" I have to confess while reading this book I went to coffee with a dear friend and we forgot to take a picture. What an amazing thought that two people would go to coffee and not take a picture! This little sentence crossed my mind: "Did we truly meet up for coffee if we did not record the occasion in a photo?" The whole thought is laughable, and yet...

I'm tending to give books a ratings "range" these days, and the range for this one is 3-4 stars. Four stars because I do like dystopian novels, and this one does have a story, even a mystery to solve. (I didn't see the answer coming, but then I never do.) Three stars because the story flounders at the end; however, I think Winters has a sequel planned (otherwise, the ending stinks, and I am left wondering what happens to some particular characters I grew fond of).

πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’• Not really a family friendly book, but great ideas in here for adults to discuss with the younger generation.

Spiritual formation -- I'm wondering if a practice that might lend itself to discovery would be to go for a certain period of time without taking any "selfies". To remember something by way of art or conversation. Or, to compare pictures taken, art drawn, memories and discuss how each member of a family sees and perceives an event or even "coffee time."

Thursday, January 31, 2019

I Resolved Not to Make Resolutions

I have not made New Year's Resolutions for many years; however, this year on a whim and because my daughter did it first and showed me her list, I made a 20 Before 2020 List.

This is mine, not hers. We have a few in common if you adjust them slightly. She wants to read 26 books; for a second year in a row, I am attempting 52 books read in 52 weeks. She's going to take a new class and go to an art exhibit; I'm going to try and take an art class. I stole #4 from her: "12 Purges -- 1/month.

It is the last day of January, and I somewhat started a purge...sort of...kind of...okay, well, maybe not. Yet, the difference between a resolution and a (whatever this is...a to do list by a certain time...20 Actions Before 2020) makes itself most clear when I fail.

When I fail a resolution, I fail. End of story. End of resolution. Try again next year. When I fail at this list, I don't think of myself as failing. One, it was made up in fun and whimsy and a measure of reality. Two, when I failed at some of these, I actually succeeded at something better. That silly number 9 about using bookmarks? I learned not to use bills and checks, and I learned that old envelopes and library receipts (or coffee receipts) and napkins can be torn to mark special pages. Therefore, fancy bookmarks are not always the best choice for me to mark a page.

My 20 Before 2020 list is an opportunity to ask myself "What works?" and "What didn't work and why?" Or, "What didn't work, but worked out even better?" On one hand, I failed miserably on #12 -- tech free, utility free day / month. On the other hand, I succeeded because I kept trying each day to fulfill number 12 and, by the end of the month, I had more moments of turning out lights, of making decisions to not use technology or appliances. I became more aware and more conscious of my actions.

A third reason I don't feel like a failure: Many of these involve one action to be completed by the end of the year. One month has finished, but I have eleven more to go!

(P.S. For those wondering about "deeper" actions: I do have additions, but that's a whole other post, and who is to say that numbers 1-12 aren't deep?) 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Transitioning ('The War Bride's Scrapbook' by Caroline Preston and 'Jane and Prudence' by Barbara Pym)

I started to use "Matchmaking" as a post title; however, the war was the "matchmaker" in the one book and matchmaking isn't such a draw anymore. On a whim I grabbed The War Bride's Scrapbook off of the new library books shelf. If I couldn't find something better, the cover would meet a reading book challenge of "book you chose for the cover" (Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge).

(I reviewed the middle book Proof in my previous post.)

The War Bride's Scrapbook was also my third book read in 2019 (3/52). I read it fairly quickly, four days, and not because it is a novel in pictures. While not a typical novel, author Preston does actually give us the story of Lila Jerome who elopes after a few weeks of knowing Perry Weld who is about to ship out to the European front. I found the clippings of vintage postcards, magazine articles (with advice that borders on hilarious to us nowadays), newspaper clippings (sad), and photographs to be enlightening -- an excellent way for an adult to learn more about WWII and life during that time. Not exactly high school textbook material (who would have thought grandma and great grandma -- and great, great grandma --  thought that way about sex in the 1940s). It was an enjoyable book and in that respect I would give it 4 stars, but I usually reserve 4 stars for something I would buy at least at thrift store prices. The more I think about it, I might buy this book as a gift, so I'll leave it at 4 stars. It's worth checking out from the library and if it was a bit more general audience content in the bedroom, I would definitely buy it for a high school history/government class. 

I intentionally ordered from the library Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym (1953) because it was a book written before I was born; I saw it on a Goodreads list; and Pym is an author I did not know (with a book cover that looks Austen-ish). Interestingly, Shirley Hazzard (apparently an author I should know but I don't), is quoted on the cover as saying, "Her books will last." I had never heard of Pym before so she did not make the 50 years necessary to become a "classic." Although, who knows, maybe she's going to make a posthumous comeback. This novel reads so much like an Austen type of novel, but has modern qualities, that I was baffled by the time frame at first. It is indeed a modern (modern for Pym and 1953) novel. Other reviewers claim Pym's novel has the feel of Wodehouse, but I can't verify that as I have not read Wodehouse (I know, let the shaming begin); however, I can agree that it has the feel of Austen (Pym is a bit more gently edgy, a bit more thought provoking in not just relationships but also church hierarchy and social mores for men and women), and the feel of Trollope (but not so long and drawn out) and the feel of Gaskell (but not so short). Stars, oh yes, rating with stars. This is one of those books, I would encourage people to check out of the library and keep checking out of the library so that it doesn't get discarded. I don't think I really need to buy it (which means 3 stars: I like it, but I don't want to buy it); however, I think the book is worth keeping around. Maybe I could say that I would buy it as a gift, not necessarily for my children (so, my children, don't start groaning about mom's next Christmas gift to you), but my literary women friends, if I had unlimited book funds, yes, I would buy it for them. 

Book Discussion Group? -- Definitely for both of these books. 
Transitioning? -- For the first, transitioning through the war years and the aftermath, transitioning in married life, transitioning in the role of women in culture. For the second, transitioning into modern life and also transitioning in the role of women in culture. 

Monday, January 28, 2019

Racing (Proof by Dick Francis)

"Racing" in this title refers to the world of horse racing in the book, but it can also refer to me racing to catch up with posting about what I have been reading. I have never stopped reading (even if it meant reading cereal boxes during my childrearing years); however, writing (as I recently read) quickly turns into a long and boring practice (which...cough...often spills over into this blog). Therefore, let me race through this review.

My local library book group periodically mentions Dick Francis, yet I never picked up any of his books until this year when I was looking for a book written in 1984. Of course, I looked up the 1984 booklist on Goodreads and saw this one Proof by Dick Francis. Mysteries, detective work, etc. don't usually appeal to me -- too much blood and guts, and I'm horrible at solving the mystery.

I did not solve the mystery (before it was revealed) in Proof either; however, the story of whiskey and wine being stolen, the additional background of horse racing, and, more importantly, an actual mystery written with more character development than blood and guts, kept me much so that I was disappointed to find out that Francis had not continued writing books about these characters. They would be perfect for a television series (since I can't read more about them in books). This book was #2 in the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, and it was going to be my book outside my genre comfort zone on the 2019 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. Since then I have found another book farther outside my comfort zone. Proof is a mellow, enjoyable read. I give it 4 stars which equals "Really good. I am returning it to the library, but I did recommend it to someone who bought the ebook version (for cheap), and if I saw it (not ebook) at a thrift store price, I would buy it." Interesting side note: the pages in this hardbound copy are super thick. I like quality paper, but these were almost too thick.

πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’• Family section: I can't reveal all without including a plot spoiler, but Proof includes the protagonist's struggle with living up to his father. The conclusion is much better (thought-provoking) than one expects in a mystery novel. We all tend to have someone we try to whom we try to measure up, and sometimes we discover that that person had those very same feelings.

--- Thought-provoking spiritual formation quote: "To err was human, to be easily forgiven was to be sentimentally set free to err again. To be repeatedly forgiven destroyed the soul" (158). 

Friday, January 04, 2019

Lying (Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty)

My first book read in 2019, Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, fulfills both book 1 read in week 1 of the 52 Books Read in 52 Weeks Challenge and one of the challenges on the 2019 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge list: "a book in the backlist of a favorite author".  I don't know that Liane Moriarty fully qualifies as a favorite author as I have only read one other book of hers, Nine Perfect StrangersFind that review here. However, one of the libraries in our county-wide system discarded their large print version of Big Little Lies so I snatched it up for a mere couple of dollars. Moriarty wrote it before Nine Perfect Strangers so I was set to meet the backlist challenge.

Note: I had to look up to see what a backlist is (it's a list of books an author has written before the one you are currently reading, and it is usually at the front of the current book). I thought maybe it was other book titles by other authors that the author one is reading mentions within his or her book, if that makes sense.

I was prepared for a well-written story as most reviewers of Nine Perfect Strangers felt it did not match the greatness of this book Big Little Lies. It was excellent, four stars excellent; however, I can't write that it was better than Nine Perfect Strangers. The books are different from one another.

I wasn't quite prepared for the seriousness of Big Little Lies. Moriarty's humor and satire come through but there are some deep issues dealing with abuse in Big Little Lies. CAVEAT: the situations could spark emotions in readers who have had to deal with these issues although I also hope that if someone is going through the same issues that this might encourage them to seek help.

I can imagine that someone who reads Big Little Lies first and then follows up with Moriarty's next book might have expected something just as serious as they read Nine Perfect Strangers, but Moriarty mixed it up a bit. Her satirical take on modern life is in both books, but is more prevalent in the later book. It will all boil down to a matter of taste. I liked both books. I gave away Nine Perfect Strangers to my son because I thought he would enjoy the health spa improvement satire in it, but I don't see me giving him Big Little Lies because Moriarty gets more into the heads of her female characters in this book. Not that males can't read a book heavy with female characters. Heavens! Females have read books heavy in male characters for years!

Big Little Lies would make a great book discussion group read (there's even a so-called book discussion group in the story although mostly they gossip). CAVEAT: Moriarty occasionally drops the "F" word and other like terms. When this happens I tend to remember something I read 20 or more years ago. An Australian writer (like Moriarty but not Moriarty) stated that Americans had such clean speech but horrible morals whereas research showed Australians with high morals and colorful speech.

I can't go into much more without revealing plot spoilers. Yes, there is a mystery to be solved and I enjoyed how Moriarty set up the book. For my friends who hate ambiguous endings, you will like this book because it is not ambiguous. In spite of some fairly shallow conversations, the people are complex. I read 675 pages in three days, but it was large print. Still it's not a small book and it is easy to stay interested in the story and read it quickly.

---My real life section of the blog as it relates to this book. The children. The children see and they do what mom and dad model. It can be cute, but it can also be horrible when it deals with these situations. Our family did not, but no one gets off free of missing the mark in this book. Gossip and pettiness is framed humorously, but those "big little lies" come back to haunt you. 

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Wrap Up of 52 Books in 52 Weeks

As a first timer last year in the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, I did not realize that there was a end-of-the-year wrap up until I saw a friend's post. Now that I know, here is mine (complete with a picture of my many bookmarks and a gift mug from a friend)!

Did you reach your reading goal or did you decide to just meander about and follow  rabbit trails and end up getting lost in the enjoyment of reading?  

I didn't have any goal other than to reach 52 books in the year. It turns out that I easily read 52 books in less than 52 weeks; however, reviewing them and writing about them was more challenging. It was also disheartening when Google changed up their algorithms in October so that I had less folks reading the blog. Not that I write to gain lots of readers, but it helps to have some readers. I was encouraged and content to have 70-100 and did not need more. A change of algorithms meant less exposure, and I'm not interested in adding ads. So, there you have it: if you read my blog minus the ads, thank you!

Where did your armchair travels take you?  Which countries and time periods did you journey through? 

France, Burundi, South Africa (twice), UK (twice), Mexico, and Russia were the countries I "traveled" to outside of my own which made up the majority of the rest of the books when they were not non-fiction or fantasy.  

Which books stayed with you the longest?  Did you set any aside to read again at some point and savor the story all over again?

I'll be dipping back into a number of non-fiction books: Joyful Journey; the Barefoot/Shoes series by Sharon Garlough Brown (actually fiction involving non-fiction...hard to explain); The End of Alzheimer's; Braving the Wilderness; Becoming Dallas Willard; The Crossroads of Should and Must; Blue Zones Solution; The Plant Paradox; Spiritual Direction; 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do; The World According to Mr. Rogers; The Art of Listening in a Healing Way; Leadership and Self-Deception; Donald Hall's two books; maybe Soul Keeping. So, that looks like about all of my non-fiction books. 

This made me realize I read a LOT of non-fiction this past year, and I never used to read any non-fiction (except textbooks forced upon me by teachers). The one fiction book I would re-read would be The Gentleman in Moscow.  Surprisingly, a book that I only gave 3 stars to kept coming back to mind: Calypso (also non-fiction). I was mad at Sedaris over the turtles. I probably needed to give his book 4 stars if it was going to keep coming back to my mind like that (and not because of the turtles). The non-fiction books definitely made an impact and bits and pieces have stayed with me. Goodness, only 16 of my 54 books were true fiction. Add 6 more that were fictionalized true stories, and that is still less than half. 

Did you discover any new to you authors or genres? 

Let's look at this in a different way: the only author I was familiar with was Gary Moon who wrote Becoming Dallas Willard. Every single other author was new to me! Wow. 

Which books intrigued or entertained, made you laugh, cry, dance or sing?

Again, I need to look at that question in the opposite direction. Which book did NOT make me feel any of those things listed? I can't recall what Evensong was about, and the Shelf Life I recall as mostly feeling like authors being forced to write a story which included a book he or she had read and I didn't like any of the stories until a couple at the end. 

Share your favorite titles, covers, quotes and of course, your reading lists. 

Forgive me if I don't list all the books here. Scroll down through my blog list on the right and all the book titles are listed in the titles of each blog post reviewing each book.