Sunday, July 12, 2009

31. Unspoken

This is the fourth book in Francine Rivers' Lineage of Grace series. I love this series, because Rivers takes a Biblical story--sometimes no more than a paragraph long--and makes an entire novella out of it. This one is the story of Bathsheba. In a weird way, it reminded me of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise. Stay with me here. Remember when they first got together, and Katie kept saying things to the press about how she dreamed of being Mrs. Tom Cruise ever since she was a little girl? Well, that is how Rivers chooses to depict this story. We start with Bathsheba as an eight-year-old, swooning over the not-yet-king David. Even after she gets married, she pines for David, and well, if you are familiar with the Bible at all, you probably know "the rest of the story."

What I really like about Rivers expanding on these stories is how relate-able she makes the characters. I mean, no offense to the Bible, God, etc. but sometimes when you're reading through it's like, "Well, that was a stupid move, David. Anyway, back to my life..." It is hard to connect with the motivations of all involved and all the intricacies of what went on. However, I'm not suggesting that each Bible story should be a novel. The Bible is already massive. Can you imagine? 'These next few chapters will become a 500-page book.' Heaven forbid. That's probably one of the reasons we're warned not to "add anything" to the Scripture. It would just be way too long!

Anyway, this story is all about how God redeems and restores us even when we've messed up big time. It's pretty awesome. 'Cause HE is pretty much awesomeness itself.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

14. A Thousand Acres

After reading Moo and part of Good Faith, I find Jane Smiley's writing to be so distinct. The only way I can explain it is that her narrative voice comes across as a friend telling me the story, yet with a subtle sarcasm underneath, as if she doesn't believe what she's telling me. It's actually really cool! I don't know anyone else that writes like that, except maybe Charles Dickens, a little bit. Also, Smiley tends to paint characters in a flawed yet likable way, which I think is a difficult thing to do. This makes her characters seem real.

Spoiler Alert! A Thousand Acres is very depressing. What do I mean by that? Well, to steal a line from Phoebe of Friends: "It should have been called 'It's a Sucky Sucky Life and just when you think it can't suck anymore, it does!'" Yep, from the opening line on, things just keep getting worse. I am really glad the main character survives--in the literal sense. People kept dying and being blinded and having to get jobs at Perkins... you just never knew what disaster was going to strike next. In a sense, this novel was all about possession. Of land, but also of another person's space. It was interesting how many of the themes overlapped. (This, by the way, is the key to writing a Pulitzer-prize winner!) Discord in marriage, horrible parenting, incestual rape, farming. It's all one and the same.

Even though it was REALLY DEPRESSING, I enjoyed this book. Because of Smiley's writing style itself (as aforementioned), but also because I finished reading the novel with a sense that the present is all about the past. Instead of trying to cover things up and go with the flow, confronting one's past is the way to move on. It was interesting to me that I felt good after reading this. It is one of those books that you keep thinking about days and weeks after reading. (It helps that my friend Bekah read it too, and I get to discuss it with her in a few days!) In some ways, I feel like everything I read in the book was a backwards lesson. In other words, DON'T handle things how these people did. Those are some of the best life lessons.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Audiobooks We Listened To (Driving To and From Montana)

1. To Kill a Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee, read by Sissy Spacek

2. 48 Days to the Work You Love, written and read by Dan Miller (partial)

3. Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life, written and read by Steve Martin

4. Mirth of a Nation [comedy sketches], written and read by many authors (partial)

5. Pure Drivel, written and read by Steve Martin (partial)

6. The Screwtape Letters, written by C. S. Lewis, read by Ralph Cosham (partial)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A List-in-Progress + Very Ambitious Goal-Setter

I stumbled across this in-progess list of 101 books to read when I was looking for info on a 10k I will be running in August. The author of this blog seems to me to be both inspiring and tiring. I wish I could be like her, but I would never be able to do what she's doing currently. Her overall goal is to complete 101 goals in 1001 days. Yet her 101 goals often contain goals-within-goals that resemble so many wooden dolls hidden inside other wooden dolls. I can't keep track, and I have no idea how she is updating so frequently and keeping everything straight. She even admits when she's missed a goal for the week. Why bother? Is anyone really going to call her on a failure? Who else can keep track of what she's supposed to be doing? If it were me, I'd be spending so much time keeping track of what I was supposed to be attempting, I'd have no time to do it.

Kudos to you, taraSG. You make the blog world much more interesting!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The NonRunner's Marathon Guide for Women

Yet another not-on-the-list book that I simply had to read. We found this book in a small, quaint, enviable bookstore in Missoula, Montana--the kind of place that makes me want to live in the bookstore itself. I love little shops like that, but I always want to buy everything I see that is of interest. Sometimes I fool myself into thinking I will actually remember the names of all the books I've seen that I want to buy. Yet I know this never happens. When I'm looking for the book weeks or months later, I become that silly book-lover who wonders what the title of "that book that has stripes on the cover" was, again. So when I picked up the NonRunner's Marathon Guide, I knew I didn't want to forget it. It was perfect for me.

I rationalized buying this new book--I could have found it used somewhere or borrowed it from the library--with these thoughts:

1. I'm making a contribution to a LOCAL, small, privately-owned bookshop.

2. It was perfect for me.

3. I'm so going to run that marathon someday.

4. No sales tax in Montana!

5. The cover is shiny.

6. The book feels good in my hands.

7. I barely bought any souvenirs on this trip.

8. The trip was almost over, and I still had cash on hand (or my husband did--same thing).

9. If I don't buy this book now, I'll never remember the name of it to look up later.

10. If I don't buy this book now, I'll buy a different running book later on that will not appeal to me as much.

All that to say, this is a funny yet inspiring look at the marathon for people who never thought they could run a marathon! I loved it. I let my neighbor+running partner Joanna borrow and read it. She loved it. Read it if you're a runner, or if you want to maybe, sort of, kind of, be a runner. Someday.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

7. Confessions from an Honest Wife

I finished another book from the list! And started two others not on the list... again, structure is so not my thing...

Anyway, this was a pretty good book. I think I'm giving it a 3.5 out of 5. I read it along with my small group (four other married ladies), and we discussed it as we went along. That was the best part of this book for me. I love reading and discussing a book WITH someone because then it is not just about me and my own thoughts. It was great for me because I tend to be rather cynical and negative.

Overall I liked the idea of this book more than the book itself. I think vulnerability and honesty are two of the best traits someone can have. When they are absent, the world surrounding the individual is superficial at best. This book consists of 20 short essays, narratives from the "trenches" of marriage. There were some that I thought were annoying and some that made sense to me and that I could relate with.

As with reading anything, I tried to take in the good (things that spoke to me and/or challenged me to be a better person) while forgetting the bad. The bad, in this case, was what I can only refer to as meaningless complaining. I know that the point of the book was to complain, in a way. But sometimes I felt the problem could have been solved with a little more communication in the actual marriage. Like I said, though, overall a great read (and a quick read, always a plus).

Anyone who (a) is married, (b) is going to be married, (c) might be thinking about someday ever getting married, or (d) just wants to understand women or married people a little better, might consider reading this book.