Sunday, January 11, 2009

2008 Reads
I enjoyed most of them. My favorites are in Blue. Highly Recommended.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

A Good and Happy Child by Justin Evans

Patron Saint of Liars By Ann Patchett

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Second Glance by Jodi Picoult

The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst

Reading Lolieta in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve

Facing the Wind: A True Story of Tragedy and Reconciliation by Julie Salamon

Saint Maybe by Ann Tyler

The Pact by Jodi Picoult

Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell

The Mistresses Daughter by AM Homes

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

Atonement by Ian McEwan

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Me and Emma by Elizabeth Flock

Promise Not to Tell by Jennifer McMahon

Mercy by Jodi Picoult

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott

Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore

The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory

The Shack by William P. Young

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

The Dive from Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

Schuyler's Monster by Robert Rummel-Hudson

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Messenger by Lois Lowry

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers

And Echo in the Darkness by Francine Rivers

As Sure as the Dawn by Francine Rivers

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by Francine Rivers

The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald D. Davis

Sold Patricia McCormick

Kira Kira Cynthia Kadohata

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I am thankful for...

A faith that is certain.

A husband that always provides, who loves me and encourages me and works so hard to keep his promises.

My precious children and how it feels when they climb into my lap even when they are too big and they have to fold in two to fit.

A home that is warm and cozy and a place I can unwind even when it isn't as clean as I would like it to be.

A job working with children, playing, laughing and doing what I can to help our family financially.

The written word that I love so well.

Friends that I can call anytime, that have been there for the good, and the bad. The ones I think of and they make me smile.

All the little luxuries in life like hot chocolate, cozy socks, a fire in the fireplace, and dinner warm in the kitchen.

My family that I am blessed with, my mom who is my best friend, my nana that hugs me a little tighter, a little longer to remind me that we are connected forever in our hearts, my cousins that I can laugh with until I feel my lungs will explode, my dad and my uncle's deep voices and contagious laughter, my aunt's sweet face, my cousins babies that I hope will know how special our family is.

My freedom in this country. It is astounding. Truly.

This year, I give thanks. There are too many things to name, and for that I am thankful.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Shack & Laminin

My newly formed book club that I love just finished the Shack. We met for pizza at Campisi's in Southlake Town Square. The food was soooo yummy and I had the best time sipping wine and talking about our book.

A borrowed synopsis of the book:

William Young wrote The Shack for his children and did not actually intend to publish it. Two of his friends, Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings, read the novel and were so moved by it that they started a company to publish the book. It has steadily increased in popularity and has peaked as high as #5 on Amazon’s bestseller list.

At the beginning of the novel we meet a man named Mackenzie Phillips (Mack), a man with a disturbing and sad past. After running away from an abusive father and living a wandering, solitary life, he is now married with three wonderful kids. His life is stable, happy, and fulfilled. The problems that haunted his past are distant memories. Then one day on a camping trip with his children the unthinkable happens: his youngest daughter, Missy, is kidnapped and later found murdered. The ensuing months surpass any pain Mack has felt before. He is plagued with guilt and self-blame. He slowly begins to rebuild the life he had with his family before Missy died, but he is a shell of the man he once was. Through his mourning he becomes acutely aware of the lack of faith he has in God. His wife, he freely admits, has faith that he envies, but his relationship with God has never been like hers. She calls God “Papa”; he cannot imagine feeling that intimate with God.

One day he receives a postcard from God inviting him to meet him at a shack in the woods, the very place his daughter was killed years before, and Mack accepts. The rest of the novel is the record of Mack’s conversation with God at the shack. God does not fit the conceptions Mack has held in his mind for so long. He is surprised, refreshed, and the wounds and doubts, which he calls The Great Sadness, that have plagued him since Missy’s murder are healed and so is his relationship with God.

Just a few of the topics we discussed:

  • The authority of the Trinity. In the book, the fictional characters of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit explain to Mack that they are all equal. They tell Mack that there is no hierarchy to the Trinity, no one person submits to another, they all exist in perfect love for one another. We know that they are all one, so it would make sense they are all equal since God is one person. However in the biblical picture, love and submission are not exclusive, but simultaneously upheld in both the Trinity and human relationships. Consider Jesus’ prayer to his Father in the Garden, “Not my will, but yours be done (Luke 22:42)” and elsewhere, “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing (John 5:19).” Likewise speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus says, “He will glorify me…” (John 16:14). Those are clear statements of voluntary submission within the context of a loving relationship, so this was interesting and fascinating to me to discuss.

  • Mack feels his daughter's murder is unforgivable. Through his conversations with God, Mack learns this is something he must do. What things would we consider unforgivable? How can we judge what is unforgivable when God forgives anything when we seek him for forgiveness?

  • Did the fact that God was represented as a woman bother us? We unanimously decided no. We all said that it was strange at first, but it is a fictional story and God had to appear to Mack as a woman because of the failed relationship he had with his father. He had a hard time viewing God as a father because of the shortcomings of his own father.

  • On page 134 Mack and Sarayu (the Holy Spirit) have a discussion about the things we consider to be good and evil. Through this conversation Mack begins to understand that his idea of what is good or bad is subjective, depending on whether it is good or bad to him personally, based on how it affects him. Sarayu explains that all things God can make good. This is very difficult concept for Mack to understand after losing his daughter to n unthinkable crime. Is this true in our own lives? Do we rely on God's goodness when bad things happen to us or people we love? And how subjective are we about what is bad or good...

  • In Chapter 12, Jesus and Mack walk across the lake on the water. When they are ready to head back, Mack eager to return, begins to walk out into the lake. He looks to the far side and each step he takes he finds he is standing deeper in the water. He glances back at Jesus and knows he has nothing to worry about. With each following step he rises on the water until he is walking on the water. How many times in our lives do we plunge ahead with life choices or things we want to do of our own accord only to glance back to make sure Jesus is still there? Do we do everything with him in mind or do we sometimes act so eager that we try to do things on our own and only look back when we realize we are in trouble?

All in all, it was a great book for discussion and we had a lot of fun sharing our favorite parts of the book with one another. We all discussed there were things we didn't agree with and things we loved. But the most important thing is this; this book is a work of fiction. Only the Bible is the inherent word of God. So we enjoyed it for what it was; a story.

During our discussion, the topic of Laminin came up and well as fractals. They both have to do with God's awesome and amazing design and purpose being revealed in nature. Both are amazing.

This video about Laminin is INCREDIBLE! Check it out!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Books, Books, & More Books

Facing the Wind: A True Story of Tragedy and Reconciliation by Julie Salamon

This was one of those that I just tripped upon while browsing Amazon. It was not a book I would normally read, as it was a true crime story. But this one was different as it involved a man brutally and methodically killing his wife and 3 children, and after years in an mental institution was released and remarried and began a new family. I was absolutely dumbfounded as how our judicial system could allow this to happen. So my curiosity was piqued and I dove in. I am not sure I would read this category again, but I am not sorry I added this book to my list. It was like entering another world and every moment being ready to return to your own, but a little wiser through the journey.

The Weight of Water by Anita Shrive. Here is all I have to say about this book; Do you ever have someone, a friend (that you trust), perhaps, that gives you a book and says, "This is book is SO great, you HAVE to read it?" Then you do, of course, your friend gave it to you! But afterwards you want to beat your friend senseless with the book while screaming, "Why have you wasted my time?" but you still like your friend, so you don't? :)

This book had a convoluted plot, the characters were two dimensional and hard to really feel sorry for, and the writing had terrible prose that the author clearly thinks is poetic. This is not to mention the contrived and much to neatly wrapped up ending. I would tell you more about the plot, but it's not worth it. I should have known when I read that it was about a murder on "Smuttynose Island."

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers - Mary Roach Another book mentioned in conversation that was too good to pass by, after hearing from one of my husbands friends about it I checked it out at the Library. Completely not my norm, but this book managed to somehow be completely entertaining, witty and informative. I am not a gore lover, but this book manages to not be gory. Some of the information is not for the light hearted, but Mary Roach easily delivers a book that is conversational and fun, and you will find after the end that you know more than you ever thought possible about the curious lives of human cadavers-from plastic surgery, Crucifixion, and forensics to organ donation and crash test dummies.

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books - Azar Nafisi I have to admit, I stumbled across this book in one of my thrift store haunts and have stopped reading in mid-through so that I can read some of the books in the book. Confused? Off of Amazon-

"In 1995, after resigning from her job as a professor at a university in Tehran due to repressive policies, Azar Nafisi invited seven of her best female students to attend a weekly study of great Western literature in her home. Since the books they read were officially banned by the government, the women were forced to meet in secret, often sharing photocopied pages of the illegal novels. For two years they met to talk, share, and "shed their mandatory veils and robes and burst into color." Though most of the women were shy and intimidated at first, they soon became emboldened by the forum and used the meetings as a springboard for debating the social, cultural, and political realities of living under strict Islamic rule. They discussed their harassment at the hands of "morality guards," the daily indignities of living under the Ayatollah Khomeini's regime, the effects of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, love, marriage, and life in general, giving readers a rare inside look at revolutionary Iran. The books were always the primary focus, however, and they became "essential to our lives: they were not a luxury but a necessity," she writes.

Threaded into the memoir are trenchant discussions of the work of Vladimir Nabokov, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Austen, and other authors who provided the women with examples of those who successfully asserted their autonomy despite great odds."

I can never pass up an opportunity to look at life from the perspective of a woman or group of women close to my own age living in such a separate reality from my own. I hope to finish this book and compare notes with these women and perhaps gain some insight. Not to mention I am hopelessly drawn to books that refer to my two fav authors Jane Austen and F. Scott Fitzgerald. More to come on this one...

The Dogs of Babel - Carolyn Parkhurst Strange, fascinating and worth the read. Paul Iverson one day comes home to find his wife Lexy has died; she has fallen out of the apple tree in their backyard. After the tragedy, Paul a linguistics professor, becomes obsessed with teaching their dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Lorelei (the sole witness to the tragedy) to speak so he can find out the truth about Lexy's death. Paul finds himself on a journey of self discovery as he also slowly puts the pieces of his wife's life, and death together. Recommended book, great and fast read.

The Shadow Of The Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon You know how people say, "If you read one book this year, make it this one!"? Well, seriously, make it this one. This book has it all; a mystery, love, scandal, tragedy, adventure, everything you could ever want wrapped up into one fascinating story and set against the lovely backdrop of Barcelona, Spain. This book "had me at hello" :) when it opened with young Daniel Sempere's kind hearted father introducing him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a secret library where books "no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time" reside. Each person who visits may take one book, so that life may be given back to that book, and when Daniel sees The Shadow of the Wind, he knows it "had been waiting for me there for years, probably since before I was born." Daniel takes home his book and reads it in a night. He is enchanted by the story and sets out to find more books by the author, Julian Carax only to discover that someone is finding and burning every book every written by Carax. Thus the investigation is born. A book about books. My kind of book. Ha! It was one of those reads that I wished I could unread so that I could read it again. Truly a gem for me. Highly recommended.

P.S. Referred to me by the same friend that gave me Weight of Water. Absolution granted.

The Lake of Dead Languages - Carol Goodman This book might have been somewhat worthwhile had I not previously read The Secret History of which this book is a total knock off. It bugged me all the way through. You can only read so many books about Latin snobs and Greek mythology and authors that attempt to make it appear sophisticated and grandiose that a bunch a teenage girls are attempting to learn it, but I didn't buy it.

The plot goes something like; whiny discontent woman leaves her husband that she never really liked (but doesn't make it clear as to why exactly) and takes her daughter and returns to the private girl's school of her youth to teach Latin. During her time at this school some deep dark scandalous incident happened involving her and her two roommates. Upon her return to the school, she begins to find someone is leaving her messages through her old journal which was lost the year she left the school. So someone now knows her secret and she embarks on a clandestine mission to find out who. The first story is slowly revealed as the second and current story plays out which is at times painstakingly slow. Ending can be foreseen by anyone with the tiniest bit of insight. Not to mention (possible spoiler!) I am DONE with reading books that include incest. Enough already! The Secret History, The Weight of Water, Middlesex, this book, geez. It's not mysterious. It's just gross!

Second Glance - Jodi Picoult
From Amazon-"Ghosts and ghost hunters collide in this compelling tale of the paranormal set in Vermont's green mountains. When the patriarch of the Abenaki Indian tribe that was nearly eradicated by that state's eugenics project in the 1930s encounters Ross Wakeman, the miraculous survivor of several attempted suicides who wants nothing more than to be reunited with the woman he loved and lost, they set in motion a chain of events that will unravel an ancient murder and lead to a second chance at life and love for the victim's descendants."

I couldn't dislike a Jodi Picoult novel if I tried. She is just an amazing author. This was definitely not my favorite Picoult, I was a bit surprised at the direction she went with the ghost hunting. But as usual, she had me thinking many weeks beyond the book about ethics. And the information about the America Eugenics project was mind blowing.

Up next:

A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini

Patron Saint of Liars-Ann Patchett

The Road-Cormac McCarthy

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Good and Happy Child Book Review

I have a friend at work who is a fellow book lover and we swap and trade books constantly. She found this book as a pre-published copy and loved it, so passed it to me.

I read it very quickly, only taking a few days. The plot was enticing and it cited "The Secret History" as a book similar in its power for gripping the reader in suspense. I just read "The Secret History" before Christmas and it did do a number on me.....chilling and completely unnerving. So I dove into A Good and Happy Child.

The story chronicles a boy's life after his father's mysterious death. Eleven year old George is awkward and chubby and has difficulty making friends at school. To make matters worse, his mother is a feminist and activist that doesn't appear to mesh well in the small town they live in. As George tries to cope with his father's death and his and his mother's grief, he becomes plagued by a "friend" that appears to him in his dreams. George fears that he is going crazy and is miserable and lonely until the voices he is evading spirals out of control causing a bizarre accident that leads to psychiatric treatment. The real thrill of the story is this; is it a demon or mental illness? Or both? The story leaves you reeling with your own questions and thoughts; which would be worse? What do you believe? And if you simply believe it, does that make it true?

A thought provoking and thrilling read by a talented author.