Thursday, November 30, 2017

November 2017 Bookshelf

Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy by Anne Lamott
176 pages

In the past few years Anne Lamott has been writing some spectacular books - they are among some of my favorite. Her newest (released Spring 2017) is titled "Hallelujah Anyway" and even though I had not read it until now I've been using the title as a mantra of sorts. Bad day? Hallelujah anyway. Got fired? Hallelujah anyway. Relationship issues? Hallelujah anyway. The subtitle of the book - Rediscovering Mercy - is the way we are able to say hallelujah anyway. Mercy is the key. Mercy for me, mercy for you. "I'm not sure I even recognize the ever-presence of mercy anymore, the divine and the human: the messy, crippled, transforming, heartbreaking, lovely, devastating presence of mercy. But I have come to believe that I am starving to death for it, and my world is, too." Buried under what life has handed us is the mercy we were born with. Working through the past perceptions, messages, wounds, etc is helping Lamott rediscover mercy and she's sharing her findings with us. She doesn't claim to have arrived, she's still on the journey and I suspect that like all of us she will be until the day she passes from this life. We never arrive at anything - we only journey closer to the arrival of it.
Anne Lamott, if you aren't used to her writing, takes a millisecond to adjust to. She writes in a very stream of consciousness kind of way. If you haven't read her writings yet I encourage you to do so, it is well worth your time. "Mercy is radical kindness. Mercy means offering or being offered aid in desperate straits. Mercy is not deserved. It involves absolving the unabsolvable, forgiving the unforgivable. Mercy brings us to the miracle of apology, given and accepted, to unashamed humility when we have erred or forgotten....Mercy, grace, forgiveness, and compassion are synonyms, and the approaches we might consider taking when facing a great big mess, especially the great big mess of ourselves - our arrogance, greed, poverty, disease, prejudice. It includes everything out there that just makes us sick and makes us want to turn away, the idea of accepting life as it presents itself and doing goodness anyway, the belief that love and caring are marbled even into the worst life has to offer."

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Audiobook Narrated by Carol Bilger

Better late than never, right? *wink*
When Diamant released this title I was in the midst of having babies and being all judgy and stuff. A fictional account about a person from the Bible and it doesn't match up to what the Bible says? Then I can't read it - that's or something, right? UGH. I'm so over myself. So when a framily member mentioned a couple of years back that it was her most favorite book of all time I added it to my list. And then I needed something to listeread while waiting for a hold so I grabbed this up from the shelf at the library.
Dinah, daughter of Leah and Jacob, is the narrator of her own story. It is through her voice that we learn of how Jacob and Leah came to be her parents, of her large extended family, of the event that changed the course of her life forever, and how she was able to live any kind of life after deep betrayal. Through Dinah we get a glimpse into the complicated and intertwined relationships of women - specifically the wives of Jacob - during the earlier days of this world. Each month at the new moon the women would gather in the red tent for three days to pass the time of their monthly cycle together - instead of waiting on others, being waited on. They would pass the time celebrating the power and gift their bodies brought forth because of the monthly flow of blood - stories, songs, food, and the teaching/learning of traditions would happen in the red tent. Tense relationships would be forced to look each other in the eye, mutual understanding of their collective need for each other was reaffirmed. It is in the red tent that Dinah learns much about life and her role in it.
So, if you are a Christian - specifically an evangelical American - then you probably should not read this book. It will piss you off. I'm just sayin'. As a former evangelical stuck in a bubble I can say it that bluntly. This book would have pissed me off had I read it when it was first released or perhaps even five years ago. But I've learned a lot since then about what's worth getting upset about. Diamant takes a woman briefly mentioned in the Bible and weaves a narrative about her. Diamant wasn't setting out to write an accurate Biblical story. She was intrigued with parts of Genesis 34 and wrote a story loosely based on it. Everyone breathe, it's really okay. Click here to read an article about the book and Diamant's defense of it. Anyway. Up until a certain part in the story I felt like Anita Diamant might have actually been portraying the story of Jacob and his wives with more accuracy than us Christians might be comfortable with, where I started to differ with her loose interpretations is the story surrounding Joseph once he landed in Egypt. What I loved most about the book is Diamant's wide open look at women in a time period when women were not much more than property and had zero rights at all. I love the strength Diamant gave these women in each other and in themselves - I loved the red tent and what it symbolized. It wasn't established as a tent of shame as other ideas out there (there being the evangelical Christian world) might imply - it was established as a tent of celebration, after all it is only through women's bodies that the population of this world increases and generations are born. I love that it was a place for women only to gather and to strengthen one another and teach one another. In 2014 Lifetime did a miniseries TV adaptation of the book, I'm curious to watch it now that I have read the book and see how someone chose to bring it to life. Unlike my friend, this is not my most favorite book of all time - but it was a good read for sure.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg, Adam Grant
176 pages

The title, main and sub, is really what caught my attention. And in the last lines of the introduction I was all in for reading on, ""Option A is not available. So let's just kick the shit out of Option B." Indeed.
Sheryl Sandberg was thrown under the bus of Option A and run over. When it had done its damage and moved on, all that was left was Option B. She graciously shares the lessons she has learned and is continuing to learn about living Option B to its absolute fullest. Adam Grant was an integral part of Sheryl's quest to live Option B and so he is present in this book - behind the scenes. His stories and his insights are shared through Sheryl's voice. There were so many good and solid points that I'm having a hard time highlighting them for the sake of a review. It definitely gave me some things to think on and consider and implement into my own vocabulary and forward motion.

Surprised by the Power of the Spirit: Discovering How God Speaks and Heals Today by Jack Deere
299 pages

Jack Deere spent the first part of his Christian life believing, and teaching, that the Spirit had passed on and wasn't alive and working in people *today.* And then something happened to change him and his mind. As a result Deere needed to leave his teaching position as Dallas Theological Seminary, left the church he was pastoring, and even lost friends. Crazy right? Well, us Christians are awful that way. But that isn't Deere's soapbox and I won't step up on it right now. *wink*
In this book Jack Deere starts by relaying his personal story and testimony about his life of faith and his experiences with the Spirit. He then moves into sharing the evidence - biblical and physical - about the activity of the Spirit today. I really liked this book, Deere relays his story with relatability and his testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit is convincing (although I didn't need convincing). It was a surprise read for me in that I was surprised at how much I liked it.

Empowered Evangelicals: Bringing Together the Best of the Evangelical and Charismatic Worlds by Rich Nathan, Ken Wilson
224 pages

Well, here's another book that I couldn't renew due to how I had to obtain it and ran out of time to read it. I only got less than 100 pages in. I would have finished it had I been able to renew it through the library. It was slow going for me but I was interested enough to keep reading. In my ideal world I would request it again and read it all the way through but that's not going to happen - at least anytime soon.
Nathan and Wilson make the "argument" that the charismatic and evangelical expressions of faith can in fact co-exist peacefully in the life of the believer. I don't disagree. The part that I was able to read was Nathan describing his faith journey through both the charismatic and evangelical worlds to reach a place where both have room in his life as a believer. I really enjoyed reading that part and saw similarities in my own journey of faith. Maybe someday I will pick it back up.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Audiobook Narrated by Edward Herrmann

I realize that I am in the minority when it comes to this book. But I was SO bored. I got to chapter 9 and was finding reasons to pause it (I was listereading it) and do anything else. I couldn't even get to the part of the book that another friend did before she abandoned it also. She abandoned it for much different reasons than I did. This is a rare case where the movie engaged me more than the book. Not that Louis Zamperini's story is all. But Hillenbrand's telling of it clearly isn't my cup of tea.

The Mirror Cracked From Side To Side (Miss Marple #9) by Agatha Christie
Audiobook Narrated by Emilia Fox

I love Agatha Christie. And there a just a handful of her titles I haven't yet read. This was one of them. And I decided to listeread it, although I am pretty sure I will read it in print at some point.
As I started listereading this title I realized I had seen a screen version - quite a long time ago. Parts of it seemed familiar to me so I really enjoyed listereading it.
"The mirror crack'd from side to side; 'The curse is come upon me,' cried The Lady of Shalott." American film star Marina Gregg has settled down in St. Mary Meade, home to Miss Jane Marple. At a welcoming fete, one of Ms. Gregg's enthusiastic British fans falls down dead - a victim of poison. Miss Marple wasn't in attendance but that doesn't mean she can't figure out what happened and whodunnit.

In This Mountain (Mitford Years #7) by Jan Karon
Audiobook Narrated by John McDonough

Retirement is proving tougher to enjoy than Father Tim thought. He's kind of bored, feeling at loose ends, not sure what direction he should head. In this installment of the Mitford Series the reader gets to know more of the residents of the town and travel through the valley with Father Tim.
*So my library system doesn't carry any audiobook versions of the series past this one. I'm SO disappointed! I'm looking into other options but this might be the end of my free listereading of the Mitford Series. I could get it on Audible but I'm reluctant to pay for listening to books - $14.95 (or more) a month seems a bit too much for this unemployed chick.*

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

October 2017 Bookshelf

Absalom's Daughters by Suzanne Feldman
Kindle Edition 272 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Henry Holt and Co. for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

This is Feldman's debut and it is a solid start. It's a story of two girls, sisters actually, who share a father but not a mother or even the same side of town.
Cassie lives with her mother, Lil Ma, and her Grandmother at the far end of Negro Street in Heron-Neck, Mississippi. They run a laundry for the white folk that live in the other parts of town. When Cassie is young she meets a white girl, Judith, that she hears is her sister. But they don't live together and they both have a Mama, although both of them have a Daddy that disappeared. As the girls get older it becomes a bit more obvious that they are in fact sisters with different skin colors, a true sister from another mother kind of situation. When Cassie and Judith are 17 they embark on a trip that they hope will change their lives for the better. Along the road out of Mississippi and through the South they grow up, learn more about themselves, and make tough choices.
I think one thing I really liked about Feldman's writing was her character development and her efforts to remain true to the characters - specifically where they came from. The Mississippi dialect is translated authentically through both girls and the people they interact with all along the way. I also found Cassie's Grandmother's efforts to whitewash her family line fascinating - if not a bit disturbing, although I suppose I can't blame her - and trust me, it pains me greatly to say that. I enjoyed Feldman's debut and will be on the lookout for future titles.

It's Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond by Julia Cameron
Kindle Edition 295 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and TarcherPerigee for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

Ah! So good. I requested the title because I read the word "midlife" in the subtitle and thought, "Hey, that's me - I'm in my's 40's, that's midlife." Then I started reading it and realized within the first few paragraphs that the book is actually geared toward people in retirement - that kind of midlife. I almost stopped reading but then thought since I am currently unemployed and having a hard time finding a job that perhaps I should just continue to read the book anyway. I'm SO glad I did.
Cameron's book - which I read straight through but is meant to be read in 12 weeks - is a twelve week "course", of sorts, for newly retired people to help them ease into retirement life. But really, as I read it, I think this book is also great for people like me - unemployed and can't find a job so feeling at loose ends - or people in their 40's (midlife so to speak) who are feeling unsettled, discontent, unsure about the career they are in and if perhaps there isn't a change out there waiting for them. Or for people who are looking for a second career but aren't quite sure what.
Cameron proposes a "tool kit" to help people figure out what they want to do in this second life. Morning Pages, Artist Dates, Daily Walks, Memoir Writing, and some easy Tasks. Each week focuses on reigniting a different area, such as: wonder, purpose, humility, motion, adventure, and more. Each week Cameron had valuable insights that as a non-retired person I found inspiring and helpful. In fact, I'm going to reread the book again but this time according the the 12 week course and see what happens as I navigate this unexpected time of life.

Bead One, Pray Too: A Guide to Making and Using Prayer Beads by Kimberly Winston
173 pages

It started in Tallinn, Estonia. I was in the magnificent Russian Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and some beads called my name and wooed my soul. That sounds dramatic, and it may be a little bit, but it's true. I kept fingering those beads the rest of the day - heck the rest of my trip. I was enamored with the thought of prayer beads - part of my ever growing interest and desire to enter into a more contemplative life.
This title popped up on a sidebar on GoodReads when I was looking at another title. I immediately requested it from the library. After reading the introduction to the book I immediately put it on my Amazon wishlist to purchase at some later date and then I continued to read the book.
The disclaimer is this is a topic I'm really interested in so my thoughts/review of the book are colored by that. The counter-disclaimer is: if someone isn't interested in this topic it's highly unlikely they would pick up this book unless they were being told to for a job reason. Amiright?
I loved this book. Winston gives a wonderful history of prayer beads and manages to convey the meaningful experience one can have when using them. While she doesn't set out to clear up any misconceptions about the various religions and reasons for using them I feel like her history does just that - clear up misconceptions about them, which made me appreciate her history "lesson" all the more. Winston, after giving a backstory and some examples of beads being used in prayers, then moves on to provide some ideas for prayers to use with them as well as some instruction on how they are traditionally used. I love that in this section she gives *permission* to use them however one would like along with any prayers/poems/hymns/etc one is moved by. In the last section of the book she covers the making of prayer beads and gives tips and resources on beads and other materials one can use to make their own set and then perhaps sets to give away to loved ones.
This was a great spontaneous read that I am so grateful caught my attention. I can't wait to pray on the beads I got in Tallinn AND make a set (or more) for myself and perhaps others in my life who might appreciate them!

I Believe in the Holy Spirit by Michael Green
350 pages

This was I kept trying out different adjectives and 'dense' was the one that felt the most accurate. Dense doesn't mean it is bad or ill-written, just very...full! This title was definitely geared more toward academia, in my opinion. While the language executed wasn't highbrow or too technical it wasn't for the average person wanting to dig a little deeper into the subject, and person, of the Holy Spirit. It was an okay read but a bit too much, I was actually rather glad to be done with it.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson
Audiobook Narrated by Jenny Lawson

Jenny Lawson is hysterical. She also has a mouth on her that would make a sailor blush. That's my warning for those who can't handle extreme amounts of cursing. So don't say nobody warned you. Now moving on.
Jenny Lawson had an unconventional childhood, at least by some people's standards. And whatever is true, mostly true, and not true at all in her recounting of it is all hysterical. Her father is a taxidermist that introduced Jenny and her sister to the world of all animals - big, small, weird, and usually dead after a while. The small town in Texas that she grew up in gave her plenty of material as well. Weaved into all the external material Jenny grew up gathering is her own internal material - an anxiety disorder and later on in her early adult years an autoimmune disease. She married a man who seemed a little opposite of her - in that he had some moments of sanity, hers had never developed. HA!
There's not a lot more to say about Lawson's first memoir - it's a series of stories from her childhood and the first 15 years of her marriage that having the reader/listener wondering "is this true? can it be true? oh my gosh, what if it's true?" I highly recommend listereading the book instead of reading it - Lawson reads her own stories and includes sound effects, singing, and such - it makes the book that much more enjoyable.

The City, Not Long After by Pat Murphy
244 pages

I'm having a hard time starting this review. I was hoping, as I always do with books I haven't read, to not hate the book but I am surprised at how much I liked it. I really liked this story, although I'm not sure I will be able to say why!
A plague has eradicated a large part of the global population. The story we are reading takes place in California, mostly San Francisco. Those who survived the plague aren't sure how they did - or why - but they are working to make some sort of life in this world that has no structure to it any longer - or any oversight I guess one would say. Danny-boy was three when the plague arrived and took his parents, leaving him an orphan. Until he was eight he was cared for by a woman who survived the sickness. Now he's on his own in a city of others who have found themselves on their own as well. So they band together, forming a motley family and community. Down the road near Sacramento a young woman and her mother are eeking out their own survival. The mother had fled San Francisco when the plague took her husband and two boys - she was pregnant with the young woman at the time. Young woman has no name, the mother is leaving that up to the angel. But it has been 16 years and no angel has appeared to give her a name so she is called nothing. A visitor to the young woman and her mother leads to a journey back to San Francisco to issue a warning to the residents of San Francisco. There the young woman and Danny-boy meet and what happens as a result is clearly fate.
I think the thing I appreciated most about this story from Murphy is how she inspired the residents of San Francisco to defend themselves against war. Murphy draws really compelling characters and created a thought-provoking storyline.  As I always do when I read these kind of post-apocalyptic, dystopian kind of stories I'm left wondering how I would react, respond, and live - survive - in a world undone such as these stories contain. I'm no closer to an answer but I continue to wonder.

The Kill Artist (Gabriel Allon #1) by Daniel Silva
489 pages

I've said it before - I'm so fascinated by the whole spy thing. Not fascinated by the killing, I actually am becoming less and less keen on that, but by the whole hiding in plain sight kind part of it.
Gabriel Allon is a world-class art restorer. He's also a former Israeli spy. In this first title featuring Allon (there's so far 17 titles in Silva's series) an incident happens in Paris that only one person is suitable to bring resolution to. But that person, Gabriel Allon, is hiding in Cornwall restoring a painting and forgetting - or trying to - that he was part of the spy life and that he lost his family to the spy life. All it takes, however, is one name to be uttered and Gabriel is sucked back in for one last mission - a mission of vengeance.
This was a quick read - very quick. In fact, I surprised even myself at how fast I read it! Silva created a story and a character in Gabriel Allon that sucked this reader in and kept me reading to the last word and then added the second book in the series to my to-read list. Silva focuses on the terror of fanatical groups on a global scale - the most infamous conflict being between the Arabs and the Jews. This seems like a series my Dad might like, I'll have to recommend it to him.

My Girl by Jack Jordan
Kindle Edition 226 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and JJP for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

C.r.e.e.p.y. The people who come up with these stories and why? does it provide any insight into their own personality or just mean they have a really good imagination?
Paige is alone. Her daughter, Chloe, was abducted and killed a decade ago and her husband, Ryan, killed himself 2 months ago - he couldn't take it any longer. Paige relies on alcohol - white wine is her favorite - and pills to get through her days. She isn't living any kind of life and she's barely surviving the existence she is occupying now. Lately Paige has noticed some odd circumstances and she doesn't think the pills or alcohol she's been living on are to blame. She would remember these things happening...wouldn't she? Because of her addictions Paige doesn't have any friends and family is minimal - Ryan's parents help as they can and Paige's father and brother are trying to help as well. When Paige finds a gun in a secret drawer of Ryan's desk she wonders why he had it and starts to look for answers. But her questions lead her to a very unexpected answer, one that carries with it more shock than anything else.
Jack Jordan is a relatively new author and definitely new to me. He writes what has become a favorite genre of mine - psychological thrillers. While this title is only his second book his writing has the style and feel of someone who has been writing - and being published - for years. Solid story development, great characters, and the ability to tell a story in less rather than more words - something I appreciate because I am unable to do it myself. I also really liked that when this story concluded nobody had all the answers to all the questions in the book - sometimes we don't need all the answers. This is an author I'm keeping on my bookshelf.

Results May Vary by Bethany Chase
Kindle Edition 336 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

Adam and Caroline Hammond have been together for half their lifetime - or pretty close. 17 years and going strong. Well, Caroline thought they were going strong until she discovers Adam has cheated on her...with a man. All of a sudden she's thrown into a tailspin that has her questioning everything she thought she knew about Adam, herself, and their life together. As she tries to suss out what's truth and what's not Caroline starts to question who she is as well. Who is she without Adam by her side? Who is she without the last name Hammond? Who is she at night, home alone, and no prospect of Adam breezing through the door at some point? It's a story of a couple, in their early thirties, finally coming of age.
Results May Vary is Bethany Chase's second title. I really liked this story of betrayal, truth, commitment, and taking chances. I enjoyed Caroline's journey and navigation through her shock, dismay, and realizations. All of those things ultimately contribute to the healing and growth that is necessary for all of us. This was a quick, easy, and enjoyable read and I'm keeping my eye on Bethany Chase from now on.

A Guide for Listening and Inner-Healing Prayer: Meeting God in the Broken Places by Rusty Rustenbach
224 pages

I confess. I started this book and groaned - out loud. It was feeling very "christianese" to me and I can barely stomach that kind of believing any longer. But my groans were soon abated with a pleasant surprise. I mined the gold out of the "christianese" and ended up appreciating the main goal of the book. In fact, it has given me a lot to think on and discuss with my counselor. The part that stood out to me the most was that of false vows and strategies. I recognize that those are the two issues in which I probably operate out of the most when it comes to woundings of my heart. I'm taking steps toward being able to finally kick that crap to the curb. I also really appreciated Rustenbach's reminder of Ecclesiastes 3 - there's a time for everything, including healing.

Falling by Jane Green
Kindle Edition 384 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

I thought this would be the typical romance. I was wrong and I'm so glad I was. I really enjoyed this story by Jane Green. I've read one other title authored by her and I like her a lot. She is quickly becoming one of those authors in which I want to read everything they have ever written.
In this story Emma, an English woman living in America, has given up her high-powered and high stress career for a slower pace. She's moved from New York City and the world of finance to Westport, Connecticut and a suburb kind of life. She's going to indulge her interest and passion for interior design and try to make a living doing something she loves rather than something she doesn't. She's got one friend in town and is looking forward to what this chapter of life is going to bring her. Her landlord, Dominic, and his son - Jesse, live next door and Emma quickly finds herself spending time with them, much to her own surprise. As the title says, this is a love story - but whose and how will it unfold?
What I really liked about Green's love story is the lack of predictability that is in most - boy and girl meet, boy and girl get together, ex of one and/or some jealous/manipulative person enters into story, misunderstanding and conflict occur, boy and girl go separate ways because of assumptions and zero communication, somehow misunderstanding and conflict are cleared up, boy and girl get back together and live happily ever after. Green doesn't participate in this format for her love story and it's so refreshing. Instead, she has boy and girl communicate and work through assumptions and misunderstandings - in other words, she has developed her adult characters to be healthy and functional adults. What a concept! Jane Green is an author carving out her own place on my bookshelves.

A New Song (Mitford Years #5) by Jan Karon
Audiobook narrated by John McDonough

In this title Father Tim and Cynthia take an interim parish in Whitecap, North Carolina - an island community 600 miles from their Mitford home. Battling homesickness, Father Tim and Cynthia "bloom where they are planted" and begin to immerse themselves in the lives and ways of the people of Whitecap. St. John's of the Grove is a hurting church community - the married choir director ran off with the married organist, there is petty squabbling going on amongst members, and they are without a permanent priest. Father Tim comes in with the ability to have unbiased perspective and provide some healing and help. Outside of the church he befriends several island residents - a group of men who can be his stand in breakfast buddies he's missing from Mitford.
I love this title (okay I love them all) in part because of how Father Tim and Cynthia embrace - despite their homesickness - the people and life of Whitecap, a community so very different than their mountain home community. I love the lessons in grace that Jan Karon provides through Father Tim and Cynthia - they provide much food for thought for me.
A couple of other people in my library system have been listening to the series on audio as well so there's a wait list for book 6. I'm filling in the wait times with other audiobooks but I am eager for book 6.

The Red Tent 
Well, I'm finally getting around to this read by listereading it. It's accompanying me while I do my driving.

The Harvard Classics in 365 Days
I haven't made much - if any progress - on this 365 book (which is clearly going to take me waaaaaaaaay more than 365 days to read) during the month. This also means I'm not doing so great on my daily walking. BUT I am determined to start up again - both with the book and the walking. They do go hand in hand, I figure reading a day of the book is a great thing to do while getting a daily treadmill walk in.

Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy
In all honesty I could read this title in a short afternoon. BUT I'm choosing to do a chapter a week as I have joined a women's book discussion group at the church I've started attending and this is the book we are discussing. I love Anne Lamott's non-fiction and so far this title doesn't disappoint.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy
I have been hearing great things about this book and the title, including the subtitle, caught my eye - especially in this season of my life. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

September 2017 Bookshelf

Do You Hear What You Are Thinking? by Jerry A. Schmidt
143 pages

I'm having a hard time giving some adequate thoughts about this title. Not because it was bad but because it was SO good. And because one read isn't enough. I'm labeling my first read of it a warm-up read to the real read which might lead to a cool down read of it. Seriously! It is a small, short little book that is packed full of really wise counsel.
Do you hear what you are thinking? Think about that question again. What you think translates into belief and action. So what we think needs to be reexamined, most especially if what we believe about ourselves, the world, faith, etc and how we act because of those beliefs are unhealthy.
I don't think in positive and healthy ways about myself and that manifests itself in all sorts of dysfunction junction ways. I am okay admitting this, I am not okay with living like it *forever* ~ especially when I am aware of it and know it can be different. My counselor mentioned this book somewhat offhandedly so I searched it out - literally had to search it out as it is out of print and hard to find - and am glad to have found it. I'll also be glad to share it, my husband is the next person I'm handing it to for reading and gleaning! *wink*

His Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire #1) by Naomi Novik
353 pages

I confess I would have never given this book a second look, well a first look actually, had it not been brought to my attention. It's not a genre I am inclined toward. But a book club that I am mostly a part of chose it and I'm game to read things I normally wouldn't so I picked up Novik's book 1 - of what I found out was a total of 9 in the series - and dove in. Because this is not my genre I feel my review will be colored a bit by that so keep that in mind.
Captain Will Laurence serves for His Majesty's Navy right up until the moment when he captures a dragon egg from a French ship and it hatches in his presence and he becomes the dragon's handler. Laurence and the dragon are now in the aerial corps for His Majesty. The dragon, named Temeraire by Laurence, turns out to be quite a catch for the English military as he is a rare breed. This title is the story of Laurence and Temeraire becoming a team and learning how to be aviators and not sailors for the King.
While Temeraire is an interesting character I can't imagine he is interesting enough to pull off 9 full length novels and a couple of novellas in between. There's only so much development you can do with a dragon, only so many stories you can create with a man and his dragon until they begin to be variations of the same battles and stories. I found the story hard to keep engaged with, slightly bored with the repetitive details of dragon care, and not as compelled by Captain Laurence or even Temeraire as I imagine people who like the genre probably are. I'm not sure I like Novik's writing either, it gave me the feeling of flatline. If it had been more engaging I would probably be inclined to read on in the series. As it is I have no desire or need to read books 2-9.

Liar Liar (Helen Grace #4) by M.J. Arlidge
Kindle Edition 440 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

I LOVE M.J. Arlidge and DI Helen Grace. Yes, I realize this is a genre I love anyway but Arlidge does it SO well!
In this title DI Helen Grace and her team are in a frantic search to find an arsonist who can also add murder to his/er resume. 9 fires in three nights, 4 people dead, several wounded. Any leads Grace and her team dig up are ending in dead ends and time is not on their side as it appears the arsonist is getting anxious. The investigation is not made easier by the dogged presence of media and the anger Grace endures from those who don't like her theories about the possible suspects. Add to the stress of the investigation a new Captain that the DI has to report to and get to know plus personal life changes and Helen is once again the most popular unpopular copper in Southhampton.
Fire freaks me out. I think it might be the thing that I would hate to be in the most. Arlidge must have observed, interviewed, etc firefighters to get a handle on how fire behaves because the descriptions of it make me feel like I'm *in* it. In this title Arlidge backed off of Grace's personal life a bit but still moved that storyline forward. I'm so curious to see where Arlidge takes Helen Grace professionally and personally.

Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading by Eugene H. Peterson
186 pages

Whoa. Just whoa. I honestly don't know what to say about this short but impactful book from Peterson. He says so many insightful things, so many soul examining things. His discourse on the replacement trinity was eye opening and challenging to American christianity, as it should be. American believers need to allow themselves to be challenged in how they interact with Christ and his word. Peterson provides the challenge in a grace covered conversation. I have the study guide for this book and will do it separately at some point. It will provide the much needed, in my opinion, reminder of how to read the word of God and interact with the One who authored my life.

We Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley
Kindle Edition 352 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

This story could have been beautiful.
That might be harsh but I'm not sure how else to start this review. The characters and plot of this title follow this trend I've noticed the past few years about obscenely wealthy residents of, usually, New York City and their struggles of being the 1%. It makes me groan. This title has pushed me over the edge, I'm not reading any more books that have descriptions about wealthy people struggling to make sense of their lives.
In this title Catherine is a wealthy 43 year old that is so delusional in her goodness that I felt slightly violent toward her. She's so annoying. So privileged in all the worst ways. So whiny. I might have liked her more if Huntley had spent only one or two chapters on the character of Catherine that she spent the whole of the book except for the last chapter. I am much more interested in the Catherine of the last chapter than the one that spent the majority of the book whimpering about her life.
Ugh. There's more I could say about the book but then I would sound whiny and annoying so I'll just say I don't recommend it. Not unless you like reading about wealthy people who think they have awful lives and whine about it.

Cruciformity: Paul's Narrative Spirituality of the Cross by Michael J. Gorman
441 pages

A couple of things led to my DNF (did not finish) status on this title. I had to get it through inner-library loan and there are no renewals on it and I started it too late to get through it by the due date. The second reason was it was SO meaty and academic that I couldn't get my head into it. I'm just not in that heady of a space right now. I got to page 45 before I decided it was time to give it up and since it was also sitting at the door of its due date the choice was kind of made for me. But I did not abandon it because it was poorly written or dull. Even though it is meaty and heady it is not dry in its delivery. Gorman keeps it engaging, at least in this reader's opinion! This is a title I picked up on my continuing quest to read the books on my friend's class lists for her classes. She had to finish the book, I did not. However, I may pick it up again at some point in my life - although considering the length of my to-read list that is probably not actually going to happen.

The Spirituality of the Gospels by Stephen C. Barton
161 pages

This title landed on my bookshelf in my continued reading of my friend's class reading lists. It's a short but heady book outlining the four gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke (and Acts), and John and the contributions they each make to the spirituality of Jesus and by extension to us. Barton unpacks the specific focuses of each gospel and how they differ from each other - and yet how they support one another. Out of the four gospels Matthew has always been the one I lean into the most. I've always attributed that to an in-depth teaching I sat through years ago in which the person who taught the book brought it to life and made it sing out to me. And while I think that is definitely true, I also would contend - perhaps because of reading this book by Barton - that I also lean into Matthew's gospel the most because of the way I see and think about things. This was an interesting read, I never would have come across it were it not for my friend's class. It's rather academic so not for everyone but an interesting read for me.

Living Jesus: Learning the Heart of the Gospel by Luke Timothy Johnson
224 pages

A couple of things led to my DNF (did not finish) status on this title. I had to get it through inner-library loan and there are no renewals on it and I started it too late to get through it by the due date. The second reason was I kept nodding off when trying to read it - even after a good night's sleep! This tells me that it wasn't engaging enough for me to get through it. I got through all of the preface and chapter 1 and upon starting chapter 2 felt reluctant to try and push through and make it happen before the due date. Johnson's writing is not for me - I found it to be dry and tedious. The topic I was excited about but Johnson's delivery of it left me disappointed. Bummer.

 Out to Canaan (Mitford Years #4) by Jan Karon                                                                  Audio Book Narrated by John McDonough                                                                       Part of the joy of this series is the charm of the characters. And part of their charm is their simple and down to earth ways. I found out that Hallmark Channel did a movie, "At Home in Mitford" so of course I watched it. I didn't have high hopes and it's a good thing. My dad has never read the books so he loved the movie. If you haven't read the books it was a cute movie in its own way but it had nothing, literally NOTHING, to do with the book series except for the names! I realized what was missing from the movie that the series has is the charm Jan Karon created with such salt of the earth people and simple ways of living life. I suppose, in 2017, trying to translate that visually wouldn't fly with the majority of the population which is really too bad. Perhaps those of us living in 2017 should reexamine the simpler ways of life. 

Readings I enjoyed the past month in this year long read (which is actually going to take me longer than a year since I have fallen a bit behind. Whatever! *grin*): Aesop's Fables. Yes, that's all that I really enjoyed from the selections I read the past month. One particular reading I ended up abandoning due to it's length (WAY more than the 15 minutes *promised* and I'm a fast reader!) and it's wordiness. It was such a tedious selection. Anyway, I'm snacking - definitely not feasting - away at this book.