Wednesday, May 18, 2016

These Things Hidden

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf is the author's second book.  I did not relate nor care
much for the characters in the book.  And the story was half-interesting to me.  I only picked it up to read as I was in-between "good" books to read.  I was hoping for more from this book.

The book is the story of a young high school girl, Allison, who was sent to prison for an undisclosed crime.  She is pretty much written off by her family after that.   Allison had a younger sister, Brynn, who was left to deal with the embarrassment each day as she continued school.

Suddenly, Allison was released from prison and sent to a halfway house in her hometown.  She got a part-time job at a local bookstore and continued to attempt to have some communication or contact with her sister, who would have nothing to do with her.  Brynn was part of whatever happened one night that sent Allison to prison. 

As Allison works at the bookstore, things begin to unfold and truths are discovered.

It was an alright read, but not one of my favorites at all.

Follow Your Heart

I have been working on clearing out some of my books, which has been both painful and joyful.  It's Follow Your Heart by Susanna Tamaro.  I read the jacket and decided that I needed to read it again and then make a decision about stay or go for that particular book. 
hard to not get distracted as I pull each book out and decide "keep or not".  But in going with joy, the weeding out has been quite successful so far.  I believe it will be a never-ending challenge, however.  Anyway, as I was working on a section of bookshelves, I came across a thin little book called

The book came out in English in 1996, so I probably read it about twenty years ago.  It was originally written in Italian and won "the coveted Premio Donna Citta di Roma".

The story grabbed me right elderly Italian woman was writing a letter to her beloved granddaughter, who had gone off to America on an adventure.  The old woman knew that she was nearing death and had no intention of sending the letter as she didn't want her granddaughter to give up her time in America and come back to her.  But she did want to leave her story (the letter) for her granddaughter.

The book covers three generations and is a moving testament to a woman's life, her struggles and her loves.   She shares all this in the letter with the message to her granddaughter that no matter what happens, in the end, follow your heart.

It's a nice simple quick read (I read it in one evening), and a good story.  I'm glad that I reread it, but now I can let it go on to someone else!

More Reading on Spirituality

I have recently finished four books in my daily readings.  I really liked three of them, the fourth not as much. Here they are:

1) Rediscover Jesus by Matthew Kelly.  Yes, I really, really like Matthew Kelly's writing and this
book was no exception.  I wish that I would have used it during Lent and will from now on.  It is divided into forty sections. Each section is only two or three pages, then ends with a page that has Points to Ponder, Verse to Live, Question to Consider, and Prayer. The book is designed to bring the reader closer to Jesus and to learn more about themselves and how they want to live their live.  I found it incredibly moving and useful.

2) The next book that I read was Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster.  It is a book recommended by Matthew Kelly for spiritual reading.  The subtitle is The Path to Spiritual Growth. 
I had a bit of a hard time in the beginning of my reading trying to figure out what the author meant by "the disciplines".  It just didn't ring familiar with my Catholic knowledge, so I wasn't sure what exactly her was talking about.  I sometimes (ok, often) tend to think too hard about something and that gets me lost.  That's what I was doing here, I think.  I believe that disciplines are from the author's Quaker background.  That makes sense to me.  Regardless, once I was able to just move past my confusion about "disciplines", I loved the book.  This book was written in 1978...thirty-eight years ago. It is now considered a classic in Spirituality.

The book is divided into three sections.  The first section considers the inward disciplines which are mediation, prayer, fasting and study.  The second section considers simplicity, submission, solitude and service. These are the outward disciplines.  And the third section is about the corporate disciplines of confession, worship, guidance and celebration.

Although the book appears to be written about the Quaker way, the author does a great job incorporating how the subject matter would tie in or work in other faiths.  He incorporates many different spiritual leaders thoughts, such as Thomas Merton, a Benedictine mystic, and St. Francis of Assisi, to name a few. I ended up highlighting what seemed to be half the book.  It is a very good read for studying spirituality.

3) And then I went on to Everybody Needs to Forgive Somebody by Allen R. Hunt. This is a
powerful, wonderful, small book of eleven short chapters.  At the end of each chapter is a page that contains Questions for Discussion and Real Life Help. Each chapter tells a story about forgiveness and how working to forgive others frees us.

An example of Real Life Help from one of the chapters:
"Resolve today that you will be a forgiver.  Even if you have no idea how, decide to be a forgiver anyway.  It is much like learning to ride a bike. You only learn to forgive as you begin doing it.  Set your mind and your spirit on forgiveness.  Often, the one thing that most prevents moving forward is not being able to decide, 'I am choosing to be  a forgiver'.  Choose forgiveness today."

4) And most recently, I read Made for More by Curtis Martin.  My take on this book was that the author was trying to prove that Jesus was God.  And a lot of the book
was interesting as he looked at both sides of issues.  I really only enjoyed the very last chapter, which was the author's "personal search for truth". I found the book to be very Catholic oriented, so be fore-warned.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Two books by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson came out in 2013 and I immediately started seeing great reviews for it, but it didn't sound especially interesting to me.  then in 2015, a second, companion type book came out and it did sound interesting, so I decided to read Life After Life first, then read A God In Ruins (the companion book).  Both books can stand alone, but reading both gave me a lot more information and understanding.

Life After Life can be summed up by the line on the back cover of the book:

"What if you could live
again and again, until you got it right?" 
Ursala Todd was born in 1910, but she died immediately.  In other chapters, Ursala Todd was born in 1910 and goes on to live interesting lives...she died in some of the lives and lived on in others.

The book was initially quite confusing for me until I caught onto what was happening.  The writing and the story (stories) are genius.  The Todd family itself was fascinating and the events of the two world wars and how they impacted England (where the Todd family lived) were well-researched and well-written.

A God In Ruins is the story of Ursala's younger brother, Teddy.

"He had been reconciled to death during the war and then suddenly the war was over and there was a next day and a next day. Part of him never adjusted to having a future."

Teddy had been a pilot in World War II and he had never expected to survive that war.  He did and
went on to marry his childhood sweetheart, Nancy, and to have a child, Viola, and a granddaughter, Bertie.  In the book, Teddy enjoyed and suffered all that a long life brings.  He and Viola struggled with their relationship, but Teddy found his love and comfort in his granddaughter, Bertie.

Both books are long and rich in details that add enormously to the stories. Life After Life is an ingenious story of what could have been.  A God In Ruins is an ingenious story in a very different way.  The ending of that book is incredulous and left me in awe.

In My Opinion-Don't Bother!

I guess it is a bit unfair of me to say "don't bother" to read these books.  Maybe someone else would like them!  They were recommended by others, so they must have liked them.  But I just didn't get it with any of them.  Two novels and two non-fictions books that I don't recommend:

1) Unless by Carol Shields-I looked forward to reading this novel as I have enjoyed some of her other books.  This one I just never connected with.  It is about a mother struggling to deal with the fact that her daughter Nora left college and went to live on the street (in Toronto) with a sign that read "Goodness".  At night Nora slept in a local shelter.  Her family (parents and 2 sisters) went at least once a week to see her.  And by that, I mean literally to see her.  She would not acknowledge them at all.  So the premise is interesting, but I never really cared about any of the characters.

2) The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick-my husband had told me that he had seen something about a movie with this name that he was interested in seeing.  When I came across the book at Barnes and Noble I thought it sounded interesting. I read over half of the book and finally gave up.  My husband suggested that I just read the last chapter to see how it ends, so I did.  The last chapter was the most interesting part of the book that I read.  Again, an interesting premise...Germany and Japan won World War II and had taken over the United States.  The US was divided into different parts, run by Germany, Japan, etc.  I just didn't care.

3) savor by Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung-subtitled Mindful Eating, Mindful Life.  If you have never read anything at all about either mindful eating or mindful living, this book might be interesting for you.  I found nothing really new in the whole book.

4) Jesus Shock by Peter Kreeft-this book was one of the books recommended by Matthew Kelly for spiritual reading.  I found it redundant in parts, and somewhat disagreeable in parts.  The only two things that I really found helpful in the book were the following:

"What is the opposite of boredom? Not pleasure, not even happiness, but joy."
"She knows that 'in the end life contains only one tragedy: not to have been a saint.' (Leon Bloy's ending of The Women Who Was Poor)"

Friday, April 1, 2016

Three Very Different Books

Three books that I read in March are about as different from each other as you could find!

1) The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark was written in 1940 and I have heard of it over
the years, but never really thought about reading it until it was presented at one of my book groups.  It has been described as a "psychological western" and I could see why it would be labeled as that.  I wish that the book had been chosen by my group to read, but it wasn't.  It's one of those books that you really want to discuss with others in order to pull out all that you may have missed or not thought about. So I may have missed the point of the book.  It was very slow in the first half or so, mainly building up characterization.  It ended up being the story of three innocent men being hanged in 1885. And so the book ends with (vaguely) how the hanging affected the men who were involved in hanging the men.  I think.

2) Big Girl-How I gave up dieting and got a life by Kelsey Miller is an
interesting, kind of fun, quick book to read.  As the title states, after years of dieting, Ms. Miller gave up dieting and focused on eating intuitively.  Ms. Miller's story is easy to read and identifiable.  She
did a good job writing about how her life has gone and the struggles that she has encountered over the years.

3) the life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo is a quite small book that I have seen on
the shelves everywhere for ages.  One of my daughters read it and described it to me and I thought it sounded interesting.  It is a very small book, with very big ideas!  It is about decluttering your life and using the mantra "Does it Spark Joy?" to determine what stays. The author takes the reader through her life-long history of tidying up and then takes the reader on the journey.  It is a well-thought out process that she advocates and, although it may seem rather overwhelming, it is actually quite easy. As the author recommends, I followed the process in my bedroom with my clothes and am very pleased with the results!  The next step in the process is tackling daughter predicted that this would be a hard one for me! I'm still working up to that one....


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Two books re-read

At the recommendation of a book club friend who gave me Change of Heart by Jodi Piccult to read, I began reading it.  Shortly into the book, I realized that I had read it before.  But, I didn't remember the exact ending, so I got caught up in the story and read the whole book again. I reviewed the book here on this blog on February 13, 2009, so if you are interested in it, just put the title into the search box in the upper right of my blog and it will take you to it.  It's a good story.

I also re-read Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. Such a powerful book.  Mr. Frankl Man's Search for Meaning to look at how the prisoners dealt with their imprisonment.
wrote the book in 1959.  The book is about how men found meaning to their lives during their time in the concentration camps during WWII.  Mr. Frankl was in four different camps during the war.  He was a Jewish psychiatrist who married in 1941.  In 1942, he, his wife, his parents were deported. In the end, Mr. Frankl's parents, brother and his wife died in the camps.  His only close relative who survived the war was his sister, who had left Austria for Australia.  He wrote

Near the very beginning of the book, the author wrote:

"It is easy for the outsider to get the wrong conception of camp life, a conception mingled with sentiment and pity.  Little does he know of the hard fight for existence which raged among the prisoners.  This was an unrelenting struggle for daily bread and for life itself, for one's own sake or for that of a good friend."
 "We who have come back, by the aid of many lucky chances or miracles-whatever one may choose to call them-we know: the best of us did not return."

The book is full of stories and examples of how the men survived, or didn't, as the case may be. And the author offers what he believed to be not necessarily how survival was possible, but how to find meaning in one's survival or in one's death.  It is a deeply moving book.