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
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
This was a...dense...book. 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
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
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 characters...how? 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
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.
Well, I'm finally getting around to this read by listereading it. It's accompanying me while I do my driving.
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.
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.
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.