Great Books

Great Books
To read or not to read?....that is a silly question!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Planning JOY

Isn't Kaia a beautiful name? I love it. And I love Kaia's book THE
JOY PLAN. As a woman who has been on a Joy Journey for close to 10 years, Kaia's book is right on target with my own joy plan. Her book is a wonderful story of finding joy in difficult circumstances--which is what I've been saying and writing about myself!

The one thing that interests me the most about THE JOY PLAN is that Kaia is clearly not a Christian. She doesn't pretend to be and is clear that while she believes in a higher power, she is not a believer in the sense that Christians are. I respect her honesty and I sincerely appreciate that she doesn't try to pretend to be someone or something she's not. With that being said, that means that much of Kaia's information comes from a very clinical, scientific, and psychological perspective on JOY. All of which is truly fascinating and more interesting than I thought it would be. It is truly eye-opening to read about how the brain works and how we can train our brains to help us have more JOY. 

As a believer--Christian, I do want to say that while I agree with Kaia's scientific explanations, I see through the eyes of someone who believes that JOY comes in knowing and having a relationship with Jesus Christ. That He gives us JOY unspeakable and full of glory. 

I am not arguing with Kaia's premise in any way. I hope you will read THE JOY PLAN. All I'm saying is that while Kaia comes at her JOY journey from a clinical perspective, I come at mine from a spiritual, faith-based perspective. As she clearly states in her book, everyone's JOY journey is different. The important thing is that we are on the journey.

In case you're interested, here is my own blog about My Joy journey:

Thursday, July 6, 2017

I personally am beguiled

Thomas Cullinan took on a very interesting undertaking when he chose to write THE BEGUILED, especially considering the fact that there are 7 women in the story and only one man. As promised, the story is one of a beguiling nature and it is a challenge to figure out just who is the beguiler and who the beguiled. I decided to read this book because I saw the trailer for the movie version with Nicole Kidman. Since I really like Kidman, I was intrigued. Once I learned that it was a book first, I had to read the book before I see the movie!

I am disappointed to learn, though, that Sophia Coppola (the writer and director of the movie) has omitted one of the two sisters and the black housekeeper/cook, and she added a 6th girl to the school. (I had a difficult enough time keeping up with the girls, students, with only 5! How in the world will I manage with 6 girls?!) Granted, I do agree that all the characters in the story are not absolutely necessary to the story as a whole. I'm just not sure--before I see the movie--that I completely agree with Sophia's choices there. We'll have to see how I feel after I watch the movie....I do think that a story like this will transfer brilliantly to the screen. It practically begs to be SEEN rather than read.

I was pleasantly surprised to note that the book is not overtly sexual nor does it have much foul language. I don't need to read the specifics in order to understand that things of a sexual nature are taking place. As with clothing, it is more often than not better to leave a little to the imagination rather than reveal the whole package.

There really isn't anything in the story that happens that wasn't expected. It's an incredibly predictable. That didn't take away from my enjoyment of the read, though. Sometimes predictability can still be interesting, especially when it is such a beguiling story. ;) (Sorry, not sorry.) I highly recommend THE BEGUILED as a book.

I'll let you know about the movie after I see it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Choices of Steel Magnolias

I don't even know where to begin when it comes to writing about Kristin Hannah's THE NIGHTINGALE. I knew going in to the read that it is a book about WW2 and that it would be a difficult read. What I didn't know was just how INTENSE (thanks, mom) it would be. I have always found war stories (movies, in particular) difficult to read or watch. I have only recently made it all the way through SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and I only did that because my son wanted to watch it. I feel it is important for us as parents to watch such movies with our kids, so in spite of my own reservations, I "watched" it with him. (More like--was at least in the same room while the movie was on.) I made it through the movie, but it helped because my son and I talked about it periodically.

THE NIGHTINGALE is as intense--if not more so because, while it's definitely difficult enough to read and watch war stories about men, it is a true shock to the system to have a war story be about women. I don't want to lessen in any way the horrors of war in any regard for any individual. I am simply saying that we typically see and read war stories about men and/or through the perspective of men, so reading it about women through their perspectives is quite powerful and, well, Intense.

I thought an awful lot about STEEL MAGNOLIAS throughout my reading of THE NIGHTINGALE. Of how women are beautiful, sweet, gentle, lovely like Magnolia blossoms. But yet we have hearts and souls of steel. This story is a powerful representation of such women. I don't know which sister I love more: Isabelle or Vianne. Each fights this war in her own way and each proves to be a true NIGHTINGALE--a force to be reckoned with. When the soldier billeting with (that just means living with) Vianne is killed, because of the way he is killed, it is impossible to tell which sister actually gives the devastating, killing blow. That is a perfect example of how deeply intertwined these sisters are--their lives, their hearts--their very souls.

In case you haven't figured it out yet, be sure that you have a box of tissues when you read Kristin Hannah's THE NIGHTINGALE. In spite of the fact that it is an intense read that rips your heart out, it is well worth the read. It is important for us down throughout history to "see" the horrors of war--and not JUST through the eyes of men and certainly not just through the eyes of some textbook written by the so-called "winners." We tend to romanticize the horrors of war into some epic love story; there is NO romance to war--only HORROR.

And the CHOICES each sister makes--must make--for survival--not just for herself, but her family, friends, children, and loved ones. Choices. Impossible Choices. Unspeakable Choices. Choices removed but yet still leaving them with the horror of choosing. Choices.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Always Choose Kindness

LOVE. LOVE. LOVE this book. I knew before I even bought WONDER by R. J. Palacio that I would cry. I purchased the book immediately after watching the trailer for the movie that is coming out later this year starring Owen Wilson (as the dad) and Julia Roberts (as the mom). So I was prepared for the waterworks. What was a surprise was the fact that I cried as much as I did--that there were so many things in the book that moved me to immediate tears. There were several times when I had to put the book down and wipe my tears away so I could continue reading unhindered. 

Palacio wrote about Auggie in such a way that I never once pitied him. I hurt that he had to experience all the hurt--physical and emotional--that he did and he was only 10 years old. Auggie demonstrates that our suffering makes us stronger and that even when we CAN'T, we CAN. I love Auggie. And his mom. And his dad. And Via. And Justin. And Miranda. And Summer. And Jack. And all the teachers. And Amos and the other boys. 

And I completely agree with Auggie's precept: "Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life because we all overcometh the world.--Auggie" (333).

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Too gloomy for me

Susan Gregg Gilmore's THE FUNERAL DRESS caught my attention as I walked by a poster at the Lenoir Public Library, Lenoir, NC. Caldwell Community College is reading it on their campus this year and the author will be on their campus soon. Of course, since Caldwell isn't too far away and I am always excited about meeting new authors, so I ordered the book and sat down prepared for an amazing read.

I'm sorry to say that I am disappointed. The book isn't terrible, but I had a very difficult time with it. It took me much longer to read a book like this; I plodded slowly through it. The tone of the overall story is too morbid. Granted, it is obviously about death (just look at the title), but even the birth of a baby can't dispel the gloom. If you like that kind of story, you might enjoy THE FUNERAL DRESS. I was just hoping for a little joy in the story--especially when it came to the baby, Kally Faye.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I am so thankful my God has not placed me in a pit with a lion on a snowy day!

Wow. I love it when I "discover" something in the Bible that--even though I've read it 100 times, is "new" to me. What an awesome message Mark Batterson shares about Benaiah CHASING a lion into a pit on a snowy day! It is well worth the read and truly inspirational. As a Believer, it is my job to put my faith and trust in my Lord and Savior and then to watch Him make the unbelievable happen. While I know that--have known it for a very long time, it certainly never hurts to be reminded.

I was also interested to note that Mark attended Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri around the same time as my husband! I think Mark was there a year or two earlier, but they still may have briefly crossed paths!!!

It also fascinated me to read that Mark went through an experience very similar to mine where he almost died and had a foot of colon removed! I had 8 inches removed!!! And I almost died, too!

If you haven't read anything by Mark Batterson yet, I would say that beginning with IN A PIT WITH A LION ON A SNOWY DAY is a great place to start!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Bryan Stevenson's book JUST MERCY is absolutely a book well
worth reading. Bryan reveals behind-the-scenes insights into the justice system and the truth that it does not always work. I know that is a truth we cannot deny, but it is still a bit of a shock to the system to read about how bad it really is. 

What concerns me about JUST MERCY is the fact that there are so many people who already distrust the justice system, especially in regards to policemen and women. While I know that injustice is a reality, it takes a lot away from when it does work as well as from amazing police work that is done every single day.

Of course, I am a person who likes to focus on the positive, so reading JUST MERCY was difficult for me because it has many stories of injustice that are heart-wrenching. I WANT to read happily-ever-after stories and believe that when push comes to shove, all stories end with the "hero[es]" riding off into the sunset. Reading about the reality is difficult for someone like me, but necessary.

Please don't let the fact that I only gave JUST MERCY 3 stars keep you from reading this book or make you think that I did not like it. It most certainly is well worth reading. I just want to try to hang on to my belief in the innate goodness of humanity for as long as possible.

**My second reading: JUST MERCY is better the second time through. As much as I wish we had chosen WITH LOVE FROM THE INSIDE by Angela Pisel for our Interdisciplinary Read at CVCC, I am glad that we have chosen JUST MERCY for the 2017-2018 school year. This book will be a wonderful asset to our program and to our school as a whole. The good news is that I'll be able to use WITH LOVE FROM THE INSIDE as a discussion point because it is also about injustice--someone being wrongly accused and condemned to die. :) 

I also plan on using BILLY BUDD by Herman Melville in my American Lit for comparison points. Melville is really for modern American Lit, but at least it's American Lit! 

And I also hope to set up a discussion--round table--where we watch movies like LAW ABIDING CITIZEN and maybe other stories of social injustice and discuss them with a panel of community leaders and maybe even a few folks who have been involved in the prison system. I haven't mentioned this yet to the Interdisciplinary Read Committee [chairperson], but we had thrown around such ideas previously.

Personally, I want to do more research on Marsha Colbey. As a woman who has suffered a stillbirth and 2 miscarriages, the THOUGHT of being arrested and then condemned to die because someone thought I had.....I can't even type the words. Wow. It really makes me appreciate the support team I have always had, including doctors, family, friends, and just my community as a whole. I want to talk to Marsha personally and to hug her tight and tell her that she is a hero of mine. It was difficult enough grieving under "normal" circumstances; I can't even begin to imagine grieving under circumstances where people believed that I had......ON PURPOSE.

May Mercy be just and fair.

Bryan Stevenson has renewed in me a strong desire to be a stonecatcher--to help others grieving the loss of a child (children) in whatever way possible. That is MY purpose. It is what I am to do. I will let them lean on me--even if only for a moment.