Friday, December 29, 2017

Best Books of 2017

I love this annual post. It's so fun to look back and reflect on the best books I read over the course of the year. You can find the 2012201320142015, and 2016 versions in the archives (or by following the links). I know some of you have been reading since the very beginning and I hope you enjoy this yearly tradition as much as I do.

If you're interested in this kind of post, I would also encourage you to go back and read the post I did for a Top Ten Tuesday mid-way through the year. I listed my ten favorite books of the year thus far and I used Meryl Streep gifs to represent them all. It's awesome. I also did a great post in August when I finished the 100 Best Novels challenge about my favorite books from that.

A note of procedure, I only ever select new reads for this post. I love rereading books and I have done more of it in the past couple years, but so often I reread books because I love them. It doesn't feel fair to include them in these "awards" because they've already made enough of an impression on me to be reread.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Crown - Robert Lacey

The Crown
Title: The Crown: The Official Companion, Volume 1: Elizabeth II, Winston Churchill, and the Making of a Young Queen
Author: Robert Lacey
Publication Date: 10/17/2017
Pages: 322
Genre: Biography / Historical / Royals / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
Date Completed: 12/15/17

Summary: Going episode by episode, this book covers the history, writing decisions, and production behind each episode of Netflix's hit drama, The Crown.

What I Thought: When Netflix announced they would be creating a drama based on the life of Queen Elizabeth II, I was so excited. As you well know, I am a huge fan of the British royal family. If you've watched the show, you know the production values are huge, the costumes are gorgeous, and the acting is absolutely top notch. It's received well deserved recognition.

I really enjoyed the first season of the show. The Fug Girls raised some very legitimate concerns in their recaps of the show, mainly that for a show about one of the most powerful women in the world, there's an awfully large focus on the men in the story. It's something I'm hoping they rectify in future seasons, although the promotions I've seen for the second season (which just came out!) do not have me optimistic on that front.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Last year, in my Christmas post, I mused that, even in the darkest world, there is hope and love. 2017 has been evidence of that for me. This has been a long, hard year for us in a plethora of ways. And yet, I am much more hopeful than I was a year ago.

It's a beautiful thing to feel this time of year. I'm sure the days leading up to that first Christmas did not feel very hopeful. Personal upheaval and political oppression were certainly at the forefront of Mary's mind as she traveled to Bethlehem with Joseph. I imagine she cursed the Romans a few times under her breath as she rode a donkey across the country at nine months pregnant just to be counted in a census. And I have no doubt they had some thoughts when they got to town and found no rooms available. Had they had to make too many bathroom stops for the pregnant lady? Or maybe one of them was chronically late and they didn't leave Nazareth when they planned. Whatever the reason, they must have felt exhausted and at the end of their rope.

And then....

Hope. Joy. Life.

The world didn't see it that night. Jesus did not come as a political victor or a military warrior. The biggest change began in the most humble of places. That's the hope I'm leaning on this year. Change is coming from quiet conversations, silent acts of kindness, the daily grind of hard work toward equality. Change starts small because it starts with a change in each of us and what we prioritize. Even the world-altering change Jesus brings begins in individual hearts and lives.

I hope that this Christmas you find hope in the small change.

I hope you feel safe and valued.

I hope the hurt in your heart, whatever it is, feels smaller than the love.

I hope this coming year is life-giving and shapes you into an even better version of yourself.

And, I hope you can find time and space for books at some point this season.

Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Upstairs at the White House - J. B. West

Upstairs at the White House
Title: Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies
Author: J. B. West
Publication Date: 1973
Pages: 381
Genre: Historical / Memoir / Political / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I love presidential history.
Date Completed: 12/11/17

Summary: West worked at the White House for twenty-five years. He reflects on his time serving some of our most memorable first families. 

What I Thought: I've loved reading presidential history, specifically first family history, since I was in elementary school. I think it feeds the same part of me that loves the royals. It's not just celebrity culture; there's a layer of historical import that gives it that added interesting bonus for me. 

J. B. West's memoir is well known among people like me who are into this stuff. Really, I'm not sure why it took me so long to pick it up. His career at the White House spanned from the Franklin Roosevelt presidency to the first weeks of Richard Nixon's. He saw some momentous times and interacted regularly with some of American history's most fascinating players.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The 39 Clues - Books 5 & 6

The 39 Clues: The Black Circle
Title: The 39 Clues: The Black Circle
Author: Patrick Carman
Publication Date: 8/11/2009
Pages: 168
Date Completed: 11/16/17

Title: The 39 Clues: In Too Deep
Author: Jude Watson
Publication Date: 11/3/2009
Pages: 206
Date Completed: 11/26/17

Summary: The Cahill hunt for clues continues through Russia and the Pacific.

The 39 Clues: In Too Deep
What I Thought: Part of me finds it baffling that we are still reading this series. It's just so....bad? That's not the right word. Ridiculous. That's the word. These books are no masterpiece literary works. And, yet, they are so fun and crazy. They are short and make for perfect road trip books for us. Sometimes we get weighed down with long books and we never end up finishing them. These audiobooks are only about four hours each, so that's much more manageable for us and still leaves us plenty of time for podcasts. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Fierce Kingdom - Gin Phillips

Fierce Kingdom
Title: Fierce Kingdom
Author: Gin Phillips
Publication Date: 7/25/2017
Pages: 288
Genre: Thriller / Fiction
How I Found It: I can't remember.
Date Completed: 11/25/17

Summary: A mother and her young son find themselves trapped in the zoo, trying to avoid becoming victims of a mass shooting.

What I Thought: I read this book in a day. It's not long and it goes quickly. It's hard to put down at points. You just want to know the characters' fates. 

To me, this is a perfect book to pick up if you want a quick thrill and aren't as worried about character development or a perfect plot. It's not perfectly crafted, but it's does it's job. 

I was a little disappointed by the lack of animals in this book. I know that sounds weird, but it takes place in a zoo. It seemed like there should have been more presence of the animals and their keepers. Most of the book felt like our characters were running around a basically abandoned zoo and that did not ring true to me. This really could have been the story of a mass shooting just about anywhere (ugh...I hate that these events are so frequent they seem commonplace) and I wanted more of the zoo-specific element.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Three - Sarah Lotz

The Three
Title: The Three
Author: Sarah Lotz
Publication Date: 5/20/2014
Pages: 471
How I Found It: Unabridged Chick reviewed it a few months back.
Date Completed: 11/25/17

Summary: Four commercial airlines crash on the same fateful day. In three of the crashes, a young child miraculously survives. The premise of the book is a reporter investigating the events and what followed. 

What I Thought: I picked up this book because one of my favorite fellow book bloggers, Unabridged Chick, reviewed it a while ago. I was looking for something creepy to read around Halloween. While I didn't get this around the holiday, it still made for a creepy read over Thanksgiving. She has a fabulous review of the book, so you should definitely go read that (link above). 

I started this with Kevin as an audiobook. He lost interest really quickly and we switched to another option. I was intrigued, though; enough to keep reading the ebook version. Having experienced both formats to an extent, I definitely think the print version worked better for this book. The audiobook dragged, something Unabridged Chick warned. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

November 2017 Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on my reading goals, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

November News 

It's been a busy month. As we near the end of the semester, it always feels as though everything is happening at once and it all needs my immediate attention. I am so ready to be done for the semester. Just another week and a half to go! Of course, I already have a long list of things I want to accomplish over the break. What kind of person plans out and schedules their relaxation activities? Me. That's who.

As predicted, November proved too crazy to really do much NaNoWriMo work. I did pretty well for the first ten days or so. I didn't have a concrete idea, so I dug out the very first manuscript I ever wrote as an pre-teen and attempted to rework that. I actually got pretty excited about it; it's surprisingly not terrrible. Well, it's terribly written, but the bones of the thing are decent. Half way through the month, however, Kevin snagged me a temporary part-time job in his office reading applications. They only need extra help for a few weeks this time of year, but it's basically as many hours as I want for that time. So, I dropped NaNoWriMo and starting reading applications in every spare moment. I decided, though, to make a 2018 goal to write consistently. I'd like to finish 2018 having written the equivalent of 500 words per day. That's 182,500 words. If I can stick to it, I should be able to work through several projects and ideas I've had for ages.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

What Happened - Hillary Rodham Clinton

What Happened
Title: What Happened
Author: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Publication Date: 9/12/17
Pages: 512
Genre: Memoir / Political / Nonfiction
How I Found It: Duh. 
Date Completed: 11/24/17

Summary: Clinton reflects on the 2016 campaign and what led to its surprisingly outcome.

What I Thought: I planned to post this review yesterday, but, ultimately, decided I needed another day to think about what I wanted to write. In our fraught political times, writing anything about Clinton feels like stepping into a minefield. She is a polarizing figure and I know nearly everyone has some sort of strong opinion about her and her place in our political zeitgeist. However you feel, though, you must admit she is an influential and historic figure. She has blazed a trail for women in our country and taken a beating along the way - some of which she brought on herself. 

I don't want to dive too deeply into my own thoughts on Clinton, but I do think we have lost our nuance in talking about her. She is imperfect, of course. She has made mistakes and they have played out on the national and international stage. She has made powerful friends and enemies. She also has had an incredible career and advanced a lot of important work. We have to stop seeing her as exclusively evil or exclusively good. She is complex, as are we all. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

One Thousand Gifts - Ann Voskamp

One Thousand Gifts
Happy Thanksgiving!! I hope this day finds you with people you love, eating good food, staying warm, and filling your heart with gratitude. In a only slightly contrived coincidence, today's book is all about practicing gratitude on a daily basis. 

Title: One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
Author: Ann Voskamp
Publication Date: 1/26/2011
Pages: 232
Genre: Faith / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I've heard several people recommend it. 
Date Completed: 11/16/17

Summary: After facing some challenging circumstances in her life, Voskamp set out of on a mission to document one thousand gifts in her life. They range from simple to profound. Along the way, the challenge became a way of life. 

What I Thought: Voskamp's writing style was not what I was expecting at all. It is so beautiful and lyrical. She weaves stories in and out of her prose focusing more on the emotional experience of each moment than the plot details. As I was not expecting it, this approach took me a bit to adjust to, but I could not help loving it from the start. You must read expecting poetry, not straight-forward prose.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

10 Books I'm Thankful For

Every once in a while, I like to jump in and join The Broke and the Bookish family for Top Ten Tuesday (these are the same friends that do #TBTBSanta in December!). It's an opportunity for book bloggers around the Internet to talk about the same thing once a week. It's a fun way to connect and also to talk books with you Read.Write.Repeat. readers. Please jump in with your additions to my Top Ten list!

10 Books I'm Thankful For

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I know that's a controversial stance, but I'm holding to it. I love Christmas, but there just seems to be more stress around that holiday. Thanksgiving is much more relaxing. Although, I'm likely making the full meal this year again, so maybe relaxing isn't the right word. I enjoy the challenge, though, so don't take that as a complaint. 

I also just love the emphasis on gratitude. I believe strongly that increased gratitude in our lives leads to increased joy. While we should be practicing gratitude year round, it's nice to have a calendar catalyst, a time to purposefully contemplate the blessings and privileges we have. 

Among a litany of other blessings, I'm very thankful for books and the role they play in my life. There are so many people around the world who will never have access to the information and adventures that I do through literature. The ability to read and unlimited access to books are privileges so easy to take for granted. Also, I can't write this post and not acknowledge how incredibly thankful I am for family and teachers who encouraged me to read voraciously and made sure I had plenty of material to work with. 

I love this week's Top Ten Tuesday challenge because I've never really thought through what specific books I'm thankful for. This was a fun exercise! This certainly isn't an exhaustive list, but here are some books for which I'm especially thankful, in no particular order. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Origin - Dan Brown

Title: Origin
Author: Dan Brown
Publication Date: 10/3/17
Pages: 482
Genre: Thriller / Fiction
How I Found It: I've read all of the Robert Langdon series.
Date Completed: 11/1/17

Summary: Robert Langdon once again finds himself entangled in a dangerous race against the clock. This time, he's out to avenge a friend and reveal research about the origin and destiny of humanity. 

What I Thought: Anyone familiar with Dan Brown's work knows he's waded into his share of controversial topics. Ever since The Da Vinci Code, people expect him to be edgy and world-shaking. I have been an avid reader of his work since about that time and I do really enjoy his books. A few thoughts, though...

First, Dan Brown is not a great writer. He has an awesome ability to research, a great ability to weave together a thrilling story, and a decent imagination. All of those are fabulous qualities, but they don't always correlate to a high-level skill with the English language. I, and likely most of his audience, come to him for something other than Faulkner-esque prose. Still, I'd love to see his story-telling ability combined with the linguistic and character mastery J. K. Rowling brings to the Cormoran Strike series

Second, ever since Da Vinci, I think he feels the need to really lean into controversy. It's his niche. I get that. But, honestly, I found this to be his least controversial book. I know everyone was out there hyping it up as his most controversial since Da Vinci, but it's just not. It does directly tackle the age-old "conflict" of science vs. religion and try to play off of that, but it's end game was just not that controversial. Ok, I'm gonna use some spoilers here...

Seriously. Spoilers. Beware. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Big Little Lies - Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies
Title: Big Little Lies
Author: Liane Moriarty
Publication Date: 7/29/2014
Pages: 460
Genre: Thriller / Fiction
How I Found It: I heard a lot about the Emmy-winning miniseries based on the book.
Date Completed: 10/30/17

Summary: Little people, little problems. Hardly the case when it comes to a group of Australian kindergartens and, more importantly, their parents. School and family drama leads to murder at a school parents' event. 

What I Thought: Wow. I don't know why I was not expecting anything amazing when I picked this up. I've been dying to watch the miniseries because I love both Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, who star in it, but I knew I wanted to read the book first. Kidman spoke highly of it while accepting her Emmy and that clinched it for me.

Yet, I was expecting chick lit. I don't like chick lit that much. I don't read much of it for a reason.

Shame on me. I should have known better. First of all, chick lit can be deep and powerful and important. But, also, just because this is a story mainly about three women does not by any means mean it is a story for only women. This is a story about parenthood, marriage, friendship, bullying, domestic violence, and more. This is a story for everyone. I'm going to put it on my list for Kevin to read and I think he'll really enjoy it despite overarching lens of "mommy perspective." After all, I read stuff written from and about the perspective of men all the time and enjoy it. Why do we get it in our heads it can't go the other way? Even those of us who are most ardently against gender bias fall victim to its pervasive presence in our culture. Consider me repentant and self-scolded. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Forever Chic - Tish Jett

Forever Chic
Title: Forever Chic: Frenchwomen's Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style, and Substance
Author: Tish Jett
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 240
Genre: Self-Help / Nonfiction
How I Found It: It's been on my TBR list forever.
Date Completed: 10/28/17

Summary: French women seem to possess some undefinable, elusive quality which keeps them eternally chic. Jett sets out to uncover their secrets and make them accessible to her readers. 

What I Thought: When I started this book, I did not realize it was targeting mainly toward "women of a certain age," as Jett calls them. I turned 30 this year, so I don't think I fall in Jett's idea of that category yet. I contemplated putting it down early on because of that, but I figured there would likely be some valuable tips for me even now. 

Jett covers a variety of categories: skin care, makeup, hair styles, fashion, diet, and more. She is an American ex-pat who married a Frenchman and has consequentially lived in the country for many years. Her research for this book seemed to largely consist of conversations with her French friends and observation of the women around her. Some chapters were certainly more interesting and practical for me than others.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Kind Worth Killing - Peter Swanson

The Kind Worth Killing
Title: The Kind Worth Killing
Author: Peter Swanson
Publication Date: 2/3/2015
Pages: 320
Genre: Thriller / Fiction
How I Found It: Young House Love talked about it on their site and their podcast.
Date Completed: 10/25/17

Summary: Lily and Ted meet on a transatlantic flight. Ted has just discovered his wife, Miranda, is having an affair. Lily offers to help Ted kill Miranda. He accepts. 

What I Thought: There have been so, so many books hailed as the next Gone Girl. Few live up the to the hype. This one comes as close as I've seen.

Kevin and I listened to it the weekend before Halloween as we drove to Savannah to celebrate our 5th anniversary. Listening to a book about marital infidelity and murder is probably not a super fabulous way to mark a celebration of years of love, but, hey, we enjoyed continually asking the other person if they were planning on murder being a part of the trip. We're fun like that.

I was really impressed with Swanson's execution (no pun intended) of the plot. He keeps you guessing and is totally willing to expectedly turn the tables on the reader. For the whole first part, I did keep saying to Kevin, "This is going too smoothly. A big twist has to be coming." I was right. And it was a great twist. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Welcome Home Diner - Peggy Lampman

The Welcome Home Diner
Hey! Thanks for reading my blog! Make sure you make it to the end of this post, because I'm giving away a copy of this book courtesy of TLC Book Tours!

Title: The Welcome Home Diner
Author: Peggy Lampman
Publication Date: 10/10/2017
Pages: 352
Genre: Chick Lit / Food / Fiction
How I Found It: TLC Book Tours
Date Completed: 10/7/17

Summary: Two cousins start a diner in Detroit with the hopes of invigorating the local community and economy. They end up facing both internal and external obstacles on the way to their goal. 

What I Thought: This was a sweet little book. Even though Lampman deals with some heavy topics (gentrification, race, sex trafficking), she does so in a way that still feels friendly and relatable. Those issues are pieces of the puzzle but the book is not really about them. Rather, it's about relationships: family relationships, friendships, romantic relationships, workplace relationships, and community relationships. 

I always love when the theme of food is so closely intertwined with a plot. Here, it is inescapable, as the central location of the story is a diner and one of the main characters is the chef. Though I would not classify this as a food-centric book, there are wonderful descriptive morsels (no pun intended) throughout the story that will leave wishing the Welcome Home Diner was around the corner. Thankfully, Lampman does have some recipes in the back of the book if you find yourself craving one of those Heartbreaker cookies. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Title: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Author: Karen Joy Fowler
Publication Date: 5/30/2013
Pages: 321
How I Found It: From this list of books with unreliable narrators
Date Completed: 10/24/17

Summary: The Cooke family has three children: twins Rosemary and Fern and their older brother. Rosemary shares their story.

What I Thought: I went into this book completely blind as to its plot. That's what was recommended and I recommend the same for you. Basically, this is a story about family and sibling relationships and how those within a family can live the same experiences very differently. It's about what it means to be a member of a family and how families fall apart and stay together. You don't need to know more than that. In fact, the fewer assumptions you have about the Cooke family going in, the better.

Ok, so, go read the book and come back and let's talk...

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

October 2017 Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on my reading goals, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

October News 

Fall is here.

There's no doubt. We've begun our annual battle regarding the appropriate time to turn on the heat in the house. I'm losing right now, so I'm at my desk writing this while wearing a big chunky sweater, thick pajama pants, fuzzy socks, and an electric blanket wrapped tightly around my lower half. And I'm still cold. I'm contemplating digging out the fingerless gloves I used to wear at my first job because my office there was so frigid.

October was good here. We went to Boston and I loved it. I could definitely see myself living there. The vibe of the city felt instantly familiar and in line with mine...or at least what I want mine to be. Kevin liked it fine but definitely would never want to live there. Our anniversary trip south, however, yielded different results. We both really enjoyed Savannah and ate some incredible food there. Our stopover in Charleston on the way home reminded us both that we would happily live in that city. We both like it quite a lot. That whole trip was such a blessed break. It was wonderful to shut everything off and relax. We spent some time having thoughtful conversations about our marriage and goals for the future. We spent lots of time laughing. We both got sunburnt at the beach, an autumn reality that still thrills us Midwesterners. And we ate. It turned into a food-centric vacation and we had zero regrets about that. I seriously gained about five pounds back and every one was delicious.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Garlic and Sapphires - Ruth Reichl

Garlic and Sapphires
Title: Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
Author: Ruth Reichl
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 334
Genre: Food / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I've read some of Reichl's other work
Date Completed: 10/23/17

Summary: Reichl recounts her time working as the restaurant critic for The New York Times: the disguises she wore, the food she ate, and the way the job changed her.

What I Thought: I have really enjoyed the other works I have written by Reichl, fiction and nonfiction. Her prose is easy to read and feels familiar. Though her life experiences have been very different from most of her readers, she invites you into her space and you feel part of her world.

This is especially true here. While many of us would dream of being the food critic for The New York Times, Reichl reveals what it's really like. There are incredible benefits, to be sure. However, it also required incredible sacrifices of her and her family.

The book is a really fun read. Reichl goes into detail about each of her various disguises and what it was like to inhabit that character. They each bring out a different side of her and you can see that Reichl would likely have enjoyed a secondary career in theatre. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

What Color Is Your Parachute? - Richard N. Bolles

What Color Is Your Parachute?
Title: What Color Is Your Parachute? 2018: A Practical Manuel for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers
Author: Richard N. Bolles
Publication Date: 8/15/2017
Pages: 354
Genre: Self-Help / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
Date Completed: 10/16/17

Summary: Looking for a job or wanting a career change? Bolles offers practical advice about how to make that happen in today's world. 

What I Thought: When I saw this book offered on Blogging for Books, it seemed fortuitous. As many of you know, I'm exploring a career change from college instructor to...something else? Not exactly sure quite what yet, but probably something in either the non-profit or public policy sectors. 

Bolles' book is an old classic in the job hunting world. It's been around for ages and the copy I received is the 2018 version, updated for the current world. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

French Impressions - John S. Littell

French Impressions
Title: French Impressions: The Adventures of an American Family 
Author: John S. Littell
Publication Date: 2000
Pages: 368
Genre: Historical / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: One of my best friends gifted it to me.
Date Completed: 10/7/17

Summary: An American couple with two young boys decide to spend a year in France. Cultural hijinks ensue.

What I Thought: It has taken me way too long to read this book. One of my very best friends gave it to me for my birthday...last year. Like two birthdays ago. She knows me well as this book falls solidly in the niche genre of expats in France, which I love. I don't know why it took me so long to read, but I finally did. It proved the perfect book to grab as I headed out for some time in my hammock chair this summer and fall. 

This is just a fun book. I cannot imagine picking up a family with two small kids and heading off to another country. Particularly not in 1950. Littell's work is actually a compilation of his mother's journals from the time, as he was only four when the family lived in Marseilles. Mary Littell was clearly a woman who was always getting into various scrapes. She reminded me a bit of Lucy Ricardo in that regard. It seemed something was always happening to her that likely would not to other people. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Pursuit of God - A. W. Tozer

The Pursuit of God
Title: The Pursuit of God
Author: A. W. Tozer
Publication Date: 1948
Pages: 128
Genre: Faith / Nonfiction
How I Found It: It's a popular book in Christian circles
Date Completed: 10/7/17

Summary: A deep look at what makes us long for God and how we seek to satiate that desire elsewhere. 

What I Thought: This is a seminal work when you think about American faith. Tozer is a well-known theologian in evangelical Christian circles and this book has a lot to do with that. I have no doubt that nearly every pastor under whom I have ever sat has read this work.

And, perhaps, that's why I found it so familiar. There were few moments in this short work that felt really groundbreaking to me. Tozer's concepts were familiar. They are profound, no doubt, but I had heard most of them before. Tozer's work has made its way to me through years of preaching long before I ever got my hands on a physical copy of it. It's easy to see how the teachers from whom I learned learned from Tozer. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Call - Peadar O'Guilin

The Call
Title: The Call
Author: Peadar O'Guilin
Publication Date: 8/30/2016
Pages: 312
Genre: Fantasy / Thriller / Young Adult / Fiction
How I Found It: Someone recommended it to me on Twitter when I asked for scary book recommendations.
Date Completed: 10/7/17

Summary: Ireland has been blocked off from the rest of the world. One by one, its teenagers disappear for three minutes and four seconds. Most of them return dead and even deformed. Teenagers who have yet to be called are trained at intense schools, hoping what they learn will one day save their lives.

What I Thought: Someone in the Twitter book community recommended this to me after I asked for scary book recommendations. As you know, I'm on a hunt for a good, terrifying psychological thrilled this Halloween season.

This really wasn't what I was looking for, but it was a quick, interesting read. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Sixth Extinction - Elizabeth Kolbert

The Sixth Extinction
Title: The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
Author: Elizabeth Kolbert
Publication Date: 2/11/2014
Pages: 336
Genre: Nonfiction
How I Found It: My book club is reading it.
Date Completed: 10/2/17

Summary: Scientists believe there have been five major extinctions in Earth's history. We are likely in the middle of the sixth. Kolbert explores and extrapolates this idea. 

What I Thought: As I say with basically every book I pick up for the nonfiction branch of my local book club, I never would have read this book on my own. That's what I love about participating in this part of the book club. I'm reading things that I would never consider otherwise. 

This fall squarely in that category. I'm not a science person. I have a basic grasp of general concepts because I was blessed with a liberal arts education, but I really just don't care about the details of the field. I know it impacts us all, so I'm not dismissing that element. What I'm saying is, I'm thrilled other people love this and are studying it because it is not what I want to spend my time and energy figuring out. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Last Policeman - Ben H. Winters

The Last Policeman
Title: The Last Policeman
Author: Ben H. Winters
Publication Date: 7/10/2012
Pages: 288
Genre: Dystopian / Thriller / Fiction
How I Found It: I heard about it on On the Media
Date Completed: 10/1/17

Summary: An asteroid is speeding toward Earth and will decimate the human race in a matter of months. So, how does law enforcement function in the increasing chaos? 

What I Thought: This is such a fascinating concept. Often, we talk about immediate disasters. The world as we know it destroyed in moments or days. We rarely think about a slow-motion disaster, as least not in this sense. 

Winters has created a unique story. Here, people know their lives will end on a specific day, at a specific time - or, at least, within months of that time if the asteroid hits on the other side of the globe. Society unravels. Not all at once, but with exponential speed. With an increase in suicide, does murder still matter? Should it still be investigated and punished?

That's the premise of this book. A detective in New England finds himself one of a shrinking group of law enforcement officers who care about enforcing the law. Or at least about investigating crimes.  So, when his gut tells him an apparent suicide isn't what it seems, he faces a lot of resistance as he looks into it further.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Let Nobody Turn Us Around - Manning Marable & Leith Mullings

Let Nobody Turn Us Around
Title: Let Nobody Turn Us Around: Voices of Resistance, Reform, and Renewal
Author: Manning Marable & Leith Mullings
Publication Date: 12/15/1999
Pages: 598
How I Found It: From a list of books recommended for better understanding racial issues in America
Date Completed: 9/27/17

Summary: A collection of essays, speeches, and other writings by African Americans throughout our country's history.

What I Thought: Reading through this anthology was so powerful. We each have such a limited perspective on the world, so reading the words of Americans who had vastly different American experiences than my own is important. 

Cognitively, I know the history of the African American experience. Yet, to read the words of those who lived it adds a dimension I could never grasp on my own. We need more books like this to help us understand each other, particularly as race remains such a fraught issue in our nation.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Widow - Fiona Barton

The Widow
Title: The Widow
Author: Fiona Barton
Publication Date: 2/16/2016
Pages: 324
Genre: Thriller / Fiction
How I Found It: I can't remember. A list of thrillers, maybe?
Date Completed: 9/25/17

Summary: A man dies after getting run down by a bus. His widow is left wondering how much of his story to tell. A little girl disappeared years before. How much of that story belongs to the widow as well?

What I Thought: I always get to Halloween and find myself in the mood to read something scary. In general, thrillers are not my favorite genre. However, the spooky occasion puts me in the mood. Most years, though, I totally forget about that feeling until about October 29. This year, I'm starting early. I am hoping to read several thrillers in late September and early October so I can be posting about them right around the haunted holiday.

I started off with The Widow, which got a lot of marketing time in the book world when it was released last year. I can't totally remember what made me end up putting it on my TBR list, but it landed there somehow. So, as I ended September, this seemed like as good a first pick as any to put me in the thriller mindset.

What I really want to find is another book that just scares my pants off the way Marisha Pessl's Night Film did for me a few years back. I couldn't sleep for days. It was wonderfully terrifying. I am not usually a scary book/movie person, but every once in a while, it's fun. That's what I'm looking for this year. 

This wasn't it.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Exit West - Mohsin Hamid

Exit West
Title: Exit West
Author: Mohsin Hamid
Publication Date: 3/7/17
Pages: 231
Date Completed: 9/22/17

Summary: Saeed and Nadia are very different people. Yet, they are drawn to one another as their country falls apart. They make the decision to flee together, tying them together for the foreseeable future. 

What I Thought: I first heard about this book on my favorite podcast, Pantsuit Politics. They had a bookstore owner on to talk about books to read in our modern political climate. This was one of a couple fiction recommendations the guest had. It then became the Pantsuit Politics book club pick for September, so I knew I had to read it now. 

It tells the story of refugees, two specifically, but really the book is about the general emotional experience of refugees. Hamid avoids getting into specifics of a refugee's flight by placing his characters in a world of magical realism. They go from place to place through doors. Some doors are guarded, some are hidden, all seem to appear unexpectedly. At first, that mechanism feels a bit odd, but I ended up really liking it.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The New Jim Crow - Michelle Alexander

The New Jim Crow
Title: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Author: Michelle Alexander
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 338
Genre: Political / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I've had this recommended to me through many avenues.
Date Completed: 9/21/17

Summary: Alexander explores the ways in which mass incarceration in the modern era is serving many of the same social and racial functions as slavery and the Jim Crow laws did in their eras. 

What I Thought: Wow. This book is powerful. I've seen it recommended on countless lists in the past couple years for those who want to become more educated on race in America. I get why. It deserves to be on every one of those lists.

The general thesis of the book is that the War on Drugs has been used (both intentionally and unintentionally) as a way to weaken populations of color in America, specifically the black community. Apparently, when we started the War on Drugs, less than 2% of Americans saw drug use as the most important issue facing the country. Yet, governments charged ahead with intense crackdowns on drug users and dealers.

Monday, October 2, 2017

September 2017 Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on my reading goals, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

September News 

September has gone by so quickly. With school starting back up and Kevin traveling for work every week, I feel as though we haven't had time to catch our breath. October likely won't be much different, although we did have to cancel our trip to Puerto Rico. That was really disappointing. Granted, it's nothing in comparison to what the people of Puerto Rico are experiencing. We're planning a shorter trip to Savannah and Charleston instead, hoping to soak up a bit of autumn in the South. We also did a weekend getaway to Boston this past weekend (in conjunction with a work trip for Kevin) and we're headed to Philly at the start of November for a wedding, so I'm taking consolation in the fact we are covering the East Coast pretty well this fall.

The second half of September has been interesting. I sprained my ankle pretty badly while running (proof that exercise is ultimately bad for you, I think). So, I spent a good week on crutches and am still using a compression wrap and a small brace. It's been a pain (literally) and has totally derailed my exercise routine. It's really been more of an inconvenience than anything else, though I did have a couple very painful days when it first happened; Kevin was out of town and trying to do simple things like shower and make breakfast without putting any weight on one foot proved difficult. I'm trying to stay positive about it all and use this as a reminder of how important it is to listen to my body when it tells me to slow down.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

London - Edward Rutherfurd

Title: London
Author: Edward Rutherfurd
Publication Date: 1997
Pages: 1154
Genre: Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: I've read some of Rutherford's other books.
Date Completed: 9/20/17

Summary: As is his style, Rutherfurd tracks several family lines through the generations in conjunction with the history of London. 

What I Thought: I have read several of Rutherfurd's books now. I find his style so unique. Few other authors are willing to tackle a project of such magnitude, but Rutherfurd returns to this formula again and again.

I've realized that I much prefer reading his books about cities or areas where I am already familiar with the history. Since he is focusing on the lives of fictional characters living in the midst of history, it helps to have a bigger picture idea of what is going on. He doesn't use tons of space to lay a foundation, although I thought he did a bit more of that than usual in this one. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Take Tuesday: The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale
Some books are just so good, you have to read them again. And some books deserve a second chance. And some books I think about and change my opinion or have more to say. Take Tuesday is a chance to do just that. 

Title: The Handmaid's Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publication Date: 1985
Pages: 311
Previous Readings: May 2012
Date Completed This Time: 8/30/17

Summary: In a dystopian future, women are seen as little more than vessels for procreation. The protagonist, Offred, has been ripped from her family and forced into service as a Handmaid, a nicer name for Gilead's system of sexual slavery. 

What I Thought Before: When I read this book five years ago, I struggled to put my thoughts into words. I commented specifically on the way the leaders of Gilead twist Scripture to achieve their desired results. I marveled at Atwood's writing skill. I mentioned how much more valuable it felt to read the book as a woman in her twenties because I felt I could better understand what Offred had lost and the gravity of the situation. I rated it five stars.

What I Think Now: This book has really stuck with me. I've thought a lot about its story and messages over the intervening five years. I watched the Hulu adaptation this summer (I should probably do a separate post about that some time). I have been meaning to pick it up again, so I was glad when my book club selected it for one of our fall reads.