In my favorite poem by Robert Frost, Nothing Gold Can Stay, he reminds us that like the seasons of nature, life is one season melting into another, and quickly fading away. This is my attempt to document each season in my life and my family.

Books, Books, Books

Filed under: 100 Books,Me,Reading — Rachel at 2:38 pm on Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I have been reading tons of books lately, and I thought I would share what I’ve read. I like keeping track of what I’ve read, and this blog is a great place to do that. I set the goal to read 100 books this year, and, right now, my goal is 14% complete.

I have read:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou

Gold by Chris Cleave

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

Glimmer Train Stories #90

I’ll Take  You There by Joyce Carol Oates

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair by Anne Lamott

Tin House: Tribes

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

Several people have said to me that they don’t know how I read so many books. First of all, I love to read. Love, love, love it. Secondly, I’m a very fast reader. Having a Kindle app on my phone, though, is probably the real reason I read so many books. I always have my phone on me, so I can tap up my book anytime I have a few minutes to read. Whether I’m sitting in the car line, waiting at a kid’s ball practice, or just have free time, it’s easy to spend the time reading instead of doing nothing. I don’t watch a lot of t.v., so I read instead. I also tend to read on my phone in bed at night after Matt goes to sleep.  When I’m doing chores or straightening my hair, I listen to an audio version of a book on my phone. This takes about five times as long to get through a book than if I was reading it myself, but it makes chores a lot more enjoyable. When people say they don’t have time to read, I just don’t believe them.

The book that I enjoyed most of the fourteen I’ve read so far this year is “Prodigal Summer” by Barbara Kingsolver. I loved everything about this book, and I was genuinely sad when it ended. It was a long book, but not nearly long enough. I wanted to know so much more. Since then, I read “The Bean Trees”, also by Kingsolver, and I am currently reading “Pigs in Heaven”, also written by her. I’m on a Barbara Kingsolver binge, and I will happily read everything she has ever written if they are all as enjoyable as what I’ve read so far. I have a copy of “The Poisonwood Bible”, but I’ve been waiting for it to be available in Kindle edition from my library because it’s so much easier for me to read a Kindle book lately, because of the aforementioned reasons.

I also really enjoyed “Gold” by Chris Cleave (author of “Little Bee”) and “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman.

One of the things I love about reading fiction is the way I can absorb new information about subjects I never would have thought to be interested in before. The discussion of ecology and predators and insects in “Prodigal Summer” was captivating, and I learned so much about the history of the Dominican Republic in “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz. I’m most likely not going to read a book dedicated to any of those topics (well, maybe I would read a book about ecology), but, if you wrap it up in fiction, I will swallow it whole.

What is the best book you have read recently?

 

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Filed under: 100 Books,Contest,General,Videos — Rachel at 8:31 pm on Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I have the winner of the Book Giveaway! I made a little video of the drawing process.

Congratulations, Joy Boyer, you won a book! Contact me over email, facebook, or through the “contact me” link on the blog to let me know your address and which book you would like.

Thanks, everyone, for leaving a comment. I may do another giveaway very soon, so stay tuned!

In Celebration of Books: A Giveaway

Filed under: 100 Books,General,Great Reads,Reading — Rachel at 3:27 pm on Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Last year was a breathtaking voyage of words for me. I read 72 books just for the pleasure of reading them, and I enjoyed myself immensely. I have read 29 novels, 14 memoirs, 13 theology books, 3 biographies, and the remaining 13 were various topical, non-fiction books.

My favorite novels? “The Help”, “Little Bee”, “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”, “Lolita”, “Stern Men”, and “The Gravedigger’s Daughter”

My favorite memoirs? “Eat, Pray, Love” “Higher Ground” and “Committed”

My favorite theology? “Adopted for Life”, “The Canon of Scripture” and “A Feminist Introduction to Paul”

I thought about trying again in 2012 to read 100 books, but I decided against it. I want to focus on writing words instead of reading massive amounts of them. Oh, I’ll still read lots. I always have and I always will. Just not at such a breakneck rate. If it weren’t for taking five classes during the spring semester, I think I might have actually read 100 books. I guess I’ll never know.

To celebrate 72 books read and an infinite selection of wonderful books ahead of me, I’m having a giveaway. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post telling me the title of your favorite book, and I’ll put your name in the hat. Additionally, if you read any of the books I reviewed after I reviewed it, tell me the title (titles if you read more than one) and I will put your name in again.

What’s the prize? A book, of course! What else? If you win, you can choose between any of the books that I reviewed that I actually own a hard copy of. Obviously, I can’t give away Kindle books or library books. Here is a picture of some of the books that are up for grabs. If you want to read one that isn’t here (these were just the books I had handy), let me know and it’s yours if I have it. Also, if you are the winner and you read a book that I reviewed, I will send you two books of your choice.

Ok? Ok.

Even if you aren’t particularly thrilled with this giveaway, please leave a comment. I’d really love to know who’s reading. It’s extra motivation for a year of more frequent blogging.

That is the end of the part of the post about the giveaway. Feel free to stop reading now. For those who are interested, though, I’m posting a numerical list of the titles of all the books I read this year.

~~

1. Radical by David Platt

2. The Darkest Child: A Novel by Delores Phillips

3. Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue

4. Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

5. Little Bee by Chris Cleave

6. Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches by Russell D. Moore

7. Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos

8. The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us Through the Events of Our Lives by Ravi Zacharias

9. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

10. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

11. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

12. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

13. Spiritual Parenting: An Awakening for Today’s Families by Michelle Anthony.

14. Gray Matter by David Levy and Joel Kilpatrick

15. A Taste of Heaven by R.C. Sproul

16. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

17. Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus by D.A. Carson

18. Same Kind of Different as Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together by Ron Hall & Denver Moore with Lynn Vincent

19. Stupid History: Tales of Stupidity, Strangeness and Mythconceptions Throughout The Ages by Leland Gregory

20. I Quit: Stop Thinking Everything is Fine and Change Your Life by Geri Scazzero

21. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbary

22. Naomi and Her Daughters by Walter Wangerin Jr.

23. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

26. The Gravedigger’s Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates

27. What Is The Gospel? By Greg Gilbert

28. Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola & George Barna

29. The Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation by Thom S. Rainer & Jess Rainer

30. A Feminist Introduction to Paul by Sandra Hack Polaski

31. The Canon of Scripture by F. F. Bruce

32. Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper

33. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

34. Affirming the Apostles Creed by J. I. Packer

35. Churched: One Kid’s Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess by Matthew Paul Turner

36. The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson

37. Souvenirs of Solitude: Finding Rest in Abba’s Embrace by Brendan Manning

38. Ya-Ya’s in Bloom by Rebecca Wells

39. Another Place at the Table by Kathy Harrison

40. One Small Boat: The Story of a Little Girl, Lost Then Found by Kathy Harrison

41. Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ by Russell Moore

42. Lucky: A Memoir by Alice Sebold

43. Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris

44. The Little Known by Janice Daugharty

45. Hope for the Separated: Wounded Marriages Can Be Healed by Gary Chapman

47. Unplanned by Abby Johnson

49. Missing Mom by Joyce Carol Oates

51. Higher Ground: A Memoir of Salvation Found Then Lost by Carolyn S. Briggs

52. Committed: A Love Story by Elizabeth Gilbert

53. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search For Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert

54. St. Francis of Assisi by G. K. Chesterton

55. Living Close to God: When You’re Not Good At It by Gene Edwards

56. In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life by Sinclair Ferguson

57. A Fair Maiden by Joyce Carol Oates

58. The Land of Elyon #1: The Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carman

59. Beasts by Joyce Carol Oates

60. A Mended and Broken Heart: The Life and Love of St. Francis of Assisi by Wendy Murray

61. Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates

62. The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi by Brother Ugolino

63. The Land Between: Finding God in Difficult Transitions by Jeff Manion

64. The Land of Elyon Book #2: Beyond the Valley of Thorns by Patrick Carman

65. Stern Men by Elizabeth Gilbert

66. The Pearl by John Steinbeck

67. Zombie: A Novel by Joyce Carol Oates

68. My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather

69. First Love by Joyce Carol Oates

70. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

71. The View From a Monastery by Brother Benet Tvedten

72. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Book 72

Filed under: 100 Books — Rachel at 4:55 pm on Monday, December 26, 2011

I have finished the seventy-second book in my Epic 100 Book Attempt of 2011!

The Help by Kathryn Stockett was an absolutely wonderful book. I had already seen the movie, but I hadn’t read the book. Generally speaking, I almost never like the movie version of a book that I’ve read. With “The Help”, however, the movie was pretty close to the book, and so it was like everything was the same but I got more story for my money with the book.

“The Help” is a story about the black women who were employed as household help by the white women of Jackson, Mississippi. In particular, the book focuses on the characters of Abilene, Minny, and Skeeter. Abilene and Minny are maids, and Skeeter is the privileged, white daughter of a Jackson cotton farmer. Basically, Skeeter’s eyes are opened to what the maids go through working for the white women, and she decides to, in her efforts to become a writer, interview them in secret and anonymously publish a book about their experiences working for white women.

“The Help” is a fantastic novel from both a literary and a sociological standpoint. Every part of it intrigued me. The characters’ multiple relationships were fascinating to me. The civil rights issues were brilliantly brought to light for people like me…who were born too late to truly appreciate the struggle for basic human rights that happened during the Civil Rights Movement in America. I know that this is a work of fiction, but you truly care about what happens to the characters. When they are slighted, you, as a reader, are so involved in their plight that you truly feel the sting of the myriad indignities that they suffered daily.

As an aside, I found it interesting how reading “The Help” has colored the way I feel about things. Chris and I went to a comedy show the other night, and one of the comedians was a black man. He made several jokes about black people that offended me. They weren’t dirty or anything, but just stereotypical. The really offensive part to me was that it was a black man performing to a room full of white people and making disparaging remarks about all black men as a whole. I was sitting there thinking, “This isn’t funny. Some of the men and women in the civil rights movement gave their lives for the cause. So that this guy could peddle his unilateral attempts at comedy for a few laughs?” It just didn’t sit right with me. I guess if a novel can affect the way I think in my day to day life, that is a mark of a good novel.

I have one disclaimer about some of the book’s content.

**Spoiler Alert**

~
There is a really graphic miscarriage description in the book. As a woman who has suffered a miscarriage, it was hard for me to read. It brought back a whole wave of emotion that I haven’t felt in a long time. I just wanted to include the information in this review so that someone who is not ready or willing to go there emotionally isn’t blindsided. It has been over three years since I miscarried my baby, but it can still bring up a lot of emotions, apparently. That’s all. Just a heads up.

I highly recommend this brilliantly written book. Five stars!

Book 71

Filed under: 100 Books — Rachel at 10:39 am on Saturday, December 17, 2011

I have finished the seventy-first book in my Epic 100 Book Attempt of 2011!

The View From a Monastery by Brother Benet Tvedten is an interesting, easy to read book written by a monk about his experiences living as a Benedictine monk in the Blue Cloud Abbey in South Dakota.

Brother Benet writes short topical chapters about different aspects of life in the monastery, such as work, prayer, dogs, etc., and also short vignettes of some of the Benedictine brothers that he has known and lived with. He gives a little bit of his own personal history and tells how he decided to become a monk. He sheds a lot of light on what being a monk actually looks like, as opposed to what people on the outside assume that it does.

I didn’t see a very strong theme or idea that threaded through the chapters, tying them all together. Instead, I see this book as kind of a collage…lots of individual snapshots that give a good idea of the big picture of living in the Blue Cloud Abbey. I enjoyed it.

Book 70

Filed under: 100 Books — Rachel at 11:20 pm on Thursday, December 15, 2011

I have finished the seventieth book in my Epic 100 Book Attempt of 2011!

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov was an intriguing book. I checked this book out because I am intending to read one called “Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir” and I thought I should read the book mentioned in the title before reading it. Seems like I’ll understand it better. Or something.

I had only the barest of knowledge about what “Lolita” was about. I knew it involved a man who was obsessed with and inappropriately, sexually involved with a young girl. And so it was. The book is written from the point of view of the man…Humbert Humbert…and it is obvious that he is writing his memoir from prison. While it reads very much like a true account, it is, in fact, a novel…a work of complete fiction. Humbert fell in love with a twelve year old girl when he was thirteen, but his amorous advances were thwarted by the adults in their lives. The girl died of an illness, and Humbert never got over his love for her. Instead, he found himself continuing to be attracted to girls the age of his deceased first love while he increased in years. He never acted on these attractions until he met twelve-year-old Dolores “Lo” Haze and began rooming in the house where she lived with her mother. He goes to great matrimonial lengths to keep “his Lolita” in his life. After a terrible accident ends her mother’s life, Humbert manages to take Lo and hit the road with her.

I had some reservations about the book, but I found it much less salacious than I assumed. The only sexual event that was described was one in which Lo was not even aware of the sexual activity on Humbert’s part. It was also written in such a way that only someone well acquainted with the English language would really understand what was going on. Nabokov writes brilliantly, and I adore his use of language. “Lolita” is definitely not some titillating erotic story. It is finely crafted literature and an intriguing, if somewhat appalling at times, story.

One thing I really loved about the book was how, in the end, after Humbert had lost everything he so badly wanted, he let himself see how he had robbed Lo of her childhood. He was brokenhearted when he finally admitted that, despite the love he felt for the girl, he had deeply wronged her in a way that he could never redeem.

I really liked this book, despite the controversial topic at its heart. I’m glad I read it.

Book 69

Filed under: 100 Books — Rachel at 9:53 pm on Monday, December 12, 2011

I have finished the sixty-ninth book in my Epic 100 Book Attempt of 2011!

First Love by Joyce Carol Oates is a very short book. I read it start to finish in about two hours. I’m not really sure if I liked it. I hate when I don’t know if I liked it or not.

This story follows eleven year old Josie who has, along with her mother, moved into an old house with her matronly great aunt and her twenty-something, seminarian grandson, Jared Jr. As Josie’s mother neglects her and spends less and less time with her, her predatory cousin, Jared Jr., begins asserting his will upon Josie. His acts against her get more and more extreme until Josie finally listens to her own voice and reacts against her abuser.

I have been a big Oates fan over the last few months, but some of these books I’ve been picking up at the library are just dreadfully dark. I know one thing for sure. I would hate to ever see inside the mind of Joyce Carol Oates. I’m quite sure it would be terrifying.

Book 68

Filed under: 100 Books — Rachel at 7:08 pm on Monday, December 12, 2011

I have finished the sixty-eighth book in my Epic 100 Book Attempt of 2011!

My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather was a bit of a unicorn chaser after the last book I read. The simple beauty of Cather’s writing was very refreshing after the coarse, gruesome story I had just read. I love Cather’s work. Her book, “My Antonia”, is one of my favorite books of all time.

“My Mortal Enemy” is about Myra Driscoll, as seen through the eyes of her young niece, Nellie. Myra turned her back on a life of wealth and ease to run off with the young man she was in love with when she was a young woman. This act had made a heroine out of her, and people talked of the day she sneaked out of her uncle’s house to elope. The first half of this short book is about Nellie hearing of, meeting, and then traveling to stay with her Aunt Myra. The second half of the book finds Nellie grown, and, by chance, living in the same apartment building as her aunt and uncle. Myra is dying, and Nellie spends the last months of Myra’s life ministering to her and learning about her.

This book has a poignant and touching ending that I just loved. We are all our own mortal enemies, after all.

Book 67

Filed under: 100 Books — Rachel at 3:06 pm on Sunday, December 11, 2011

I have finished the sixty-seventh book in my Epic 100 Book Attempt of 2011!

Zombie: A Novel by Joyce Carol Oates

From the book description on Amazon:

Meet Quentin P.

He is a problem for his professor father and his loving mother, though of course they do not believe the charge (sexual molestation of a minor) that got him in that bit of trouble.

He is a challenge for his court-appointed psychiatrist, who nonetheless is encouraged by the increasingly affirmative quality of his dreams and his openness in discussing them.

He is a thoroughly sweet young man for his wealthy grandmother, who gives him more and more, and can deny him less and less.

He is the most believable and thoroughly terrifying sexual psychopath and killer ever to be brought to life in fiction, as Joyce Carol Oates achieves her boldest and most brilliant triumph yet—a dazzling work of art that extends the borders of the novel into the darkest heart of truth.

If you have been reading my book reviews, you know that I am a big fan of Joyce Carol Oates. I love her writing style, and her stories are captivating. Oates’ books tend to be a little bit on the dark side, but they are just so brilliantly written that I love them anyway…even when they grate against my more delicate sensibilities. That said, “Zombie” was just too much for me. The writing was good as always. The story was terrifyingly grotesque, but, much like a horrible traffic accident, you just can’t seem to look away. The premise of the story is that Quentin, a psychopath, becomes obsessed with the idea of creating a zombie to do his bidding (sexually and otherwise). He murders several people in his botched attempts at lobotomies. The second half of the book centers around Quentin’s obsession with a teenage boy whom he chooses to be his zombie. After he makes that choice, the rest of the book was almost too horrible to read.

I did read it, though, and it left me feeling totally disgusted. At the same time, if Oates’ goal was to have an average, decent, compassionate human being be able to understand what goes on in the mind of the most depraved of our species…well, then, she has succeeded. Recognizing that shared spark of humanity in even the most deviant of men is something that is most unwelcome. However, in Oates’ character, it was just the tiniest of sparks. He was truly abhorrent.

So, unless you are wanting to be shocked, grossed out, and acquainted with the thoughts of a deranged man, I don’t recommend this book. Good writing…but the subject matter was just too much for me.

Book 66

Filed under: 100 Books — Rachel at 3:53 pm on Saturday, December 10, 2011

I have finished the sixty-sixth book in my Epic 100 Book Attempt of 2011!

The Pearl by John Steinbeck is a short book that I read for the first time several years ago. I picked it up again last night, and read it start to finish. It is such a good book. I love Steinbeck’s writing, and “The Pearl” is one of my favorites. In it, we follow Kino, his wife, Juana, and their baby, Coyotito, through a jubilant and, subsequently, harrowing few days. Kino and Juana, simple fishing people on their island, are happy with their little family, but, in the first couple of pages of the book, Coyotito is suddenly gravely ill and they are in need of money to pay a doctor. Kino goes diving for pearls and finds “The Pearl of the World”. Suddenly, he has the means to make all of his dreams come true. Unfortunately for him, the world is full of selfish, malicious people who always want to take what you have away.

This short book is very poignant, and has a heart-wrenching ending. I highly recommend it.

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