One Book I Didn’t Finish and Why I Don’t Always Finish Books

I’ve heard nothing but high praise for The Huntress by Kate Quinn. Since I didn’t read The Alice Network, I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about. I placed a hold at the library and as soon as I finished City of Girls (loved it!), I opened it up. Post-WW2, the Nuremberg Trials, two men on the trail of Nazi criminals, a woman fleeing from justice…It could be good, I thought. But six or seven chapters in, I still wasn’t feeling it, so I quit.

What I liked about The Huntress: the writing was solid and the story didn’t stagnate. From one chapter to the next, readers are introduced to the various main characters in turn, each round building on their backstories and moving the plot forward. There was danger, romance, and suspense: all the important elements in a novel.

What I didn’t like: Overall, none of the characters (except Nina) intrigued me or made me want to invest in the story. Also, the huntress is revealed right away, so there’s no mystery as to who she is. I guess the suspense is how she is going to be caught, but that took away a lot of excitement for me.

Also, this is dumb, but one of the characters is a young American woman named Jordan. The novel begins in 1946. Tell me who in white-bread America named their baby girl Jordan in 1928, which would’ve been the year she was born? I have a believability radar for films and novels and this was just off the charts unbelievable and silly. People were naming their girls Doris, Ruth, Mildred, and Betty in 1928–not Jordan.

I also didn’t care for the two men who are tracking down the huntress. Nothing particularly wrong with them, they just seemed run-of-the-mill stock military guys with no real personalities.

I may not have given this book enough time, it’s possible. If you liked it, please don’t be offended! We don’t all like the same things and that’s what makes reading and the reading community so much fun. I learn about books I’d never have dreamt of picking because other readers recommend them.

My reading philosophy is that life is short and there are too many books I want to read, so I better make sure they are books I actually want to read. Because my TBR is always growing, and I don’t read for a living (yet, anyway!), I want to read books that either captivate my attention with the characters or the plot. Recently I listened to the podcast episode of Getting Bookish With Shawna and Lizz where they talk about their DNF (Did Not Finish) books. You might enjoy this episode!

Are you a reader who has to finish whatever she starts? Or do you regularly say no to books that just aren’t for you? I find that the more I read, the more I discard. At least half, if not more, of the books I bring home from the library get sent back with only the first few chapters read.

I’d love to hear what you thought of The Huntress. If you read it, please comment below or tell me about whatever else you’ve picked up or discarded lately.

What I’m Reading Now

Happy Friday! Here is a list of five books I’m currently reading. I would love to know what you are reading lately!

Jean Vanier: Portrait of a Free Man by Anne-Sophie Constant will be published by Plough Publishing House on August 4th. Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche community in France passed away on May 7th. I’ve read his book Community and Growth, have heard him interviewed on Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast, and have a great respect for him and the work he did. He served those who the modern world often sees as “the least of these”, and I was introduced to him through some of Henri Nouwen’s writings. I’m looking forward to an inspiring read about this modern spiritual giant who has left behind a beautiful legacy.

I am listening to The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton on audiobook. It is read by Joanne Froggatt (Lady Mary’s maid, Anna Bates, from Downton Abbey) and is a gorgeous, intricate, many-layered tale containing murder, mystery, ghosts, and voices from the past and present. I haven’t read a Kate Morton book in several years and am truly enjoying this book!

She’s My Dad: A Father’s Transition and A Son’s Redemption by Jonathan K. Williams with Paula Stone Williams is an eye-opening, heart-wrenching true story of a Christian minister’s family turned upside-down by the revelation that their father is a woman. Told through the son’s eyes, the story is filled with many references to charismatic 80s and 90s church culture in the U.S., ( with which I am, for better or worse, familiar). I am only about a third of the way through and will give a full review when I finish the book.

I just began reading In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden last weekend. It’s the story of a successful businesswoman in her mid-forties who decides to join a Benedictine order of nuns in Sussex, England. At this stage, she has just taken the train to the Abbey and has been allowed inside. This is going to be a wonderful story, I think. This is my first Rumer Godden book for adults; I’ve only read her children’s books. (My favorite children’s book of hers–and all-time favorite Christmas book is The Story of Holly and Ivy.) She has several titles I am adding to my TBR list…

As so many others are doing because of her recent, untimely death, I am reading Searching For Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding Church by beloved writer Rachel Held Evans. Because I have struggled with my relationship to church, I want to read the words of someone who has been there and understands.

From Red Earth (Book Review)

I knew when I saw the cover of Denise Uwimana’s book From Red Earth: A Rwandan Story of Healing and Forgiveness that it would be a weighty read. Although I’ve heard missionaries talk about the Rwandan genocide, of the hateful, horrible violence and desolation the small East African country experience, it was only in general overviews. I’ve never read the first-hand account of someone who survived it, and even more incredible–someone who has been able to forgive the perpetrators of these horrific crimes.

Having read many Christian biographies and autobiographies to my kids during the years we homeschooled, I was pleasantly surprised to find this book is as well-written and captivating as a good novel.

The author does such a wonderful job describing her surroundings in the town of Bugarama, creating a sense of danger and foreboding, and she vividly recounted her childhood in such a way that I was transported through the story along with her. And even more importantly, I quickly felt a sense of connection with her.

Denise’s personal thoughts and feelings, that she generously shared with readers throughout the book, gave a beauty and individuality to the story, and invested me as a reader.

What she, and the Tutsi people of Rwanda experienced during the hundred days of genocide is unimaginable, horrible violence, pain, and grief. The fact that the international community did nothing to stop it is unthinkable and shameful. The descriptions of barbaric, hateful atrocities that humans committed against fellow humans are difficult to read, to take in, but necessary to remember in the hopes of preventing history repeating itself.

The second half of the book focuses on what happened after the violence. Denise wrote how she and the people who survived began to process what had been done to them and to their loved ones. So much grief, pain, anger, and hopelessness permeated their hearts and minds. Many had no home, no family, no land and seemingly, no future.

As time passed, Denise gradually found healing and was miraculously able to forgive her enemies. She began working to help other survivors to find healing. Eventually, this became her full-time work: to help widows of the genocide toward recovery and restoration.

I believe everyone should know what happened in Rwanda, even those of us who live far away and may never visit. We need to be reminded of the cruelty that is possible in humanity, and that we are not immune to it no matter how much we think we are.

Reading this book provides us with a first-hand account of the Rwandan genocide; more importantly, though, the message of hope, healing, and restoration that shines through this story is one that the world also needs to hear. I highly recommend this book!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Plough Publishing, but all opinions are completely my own!

The Gown (Book Review)

When I first spotted The Gown by Jennifer Robson at our local Barnes and Noble, I knew I had to read it. I assumed it was about the royal wedding and would center around the royal family. Instead, the focus is on two women, Ann and Miriam, who are embroiderers in the Normal Hartnell fashion house, as well as Ann’s granddaughter, Heather, who, years later, discovers that these two worked on Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

This is one of those books where the story switches between past (1947) and present (2016). I honestly didn’t think Heather or the switch between times was necessary. There wasn’t much of a mystery to unravel, and I felt that the fact that Heather’s mother knew nothing about her own mother, Ann’s, history a bit too convenient and far-fetched. I would’ve preferred to read more about Ann and Miriam than to read of the granddaughter’s thoughts and discoveries, but maybe there wasn’t enough material to fill a novel otherwise.

Aside from this, the two main characters had enough depth and vibrance to their personalities to keep me invested in their story. The description of their work at Hartnell’s fascinated me, and provided them with a way to slip into a world of luxury and beauty, in sharp contrast to their stark, post-war, rationed existence. Within these pages you will read of a blossoming love story and a brutal betrayal, of healing, friendship, and the resilience of women in the face of hardship.

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy wartime or post-war fiction, anything to do with England, art, or fashion.

 

What I’m Reading Lately

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Hello from the Finger Lakes! This cool and sunny sweater weather we’re enjoying these past few days is my favorite. The sun going down earlier means more time for books, which I always welcome! Right now, I have a great stack of books that I’m either reading through or about to start and I can’t wait to share them with you.

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Tom Asacker was interviewed in this episode of Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative Podcast last year when he talked about the stories we tell ourselves, how they can limit us, and what we can do about it. His book is I am Keats: Escape Your Mind and Free Your Self*. You know that voice in your head that says things like, “Who do you think you are to …” you fill in the blank. Well, that’s you telling yourself a story, a limiting story. Tom Asacker addresses this voice in your head.

Speaking of that voice in your head, in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life Anne Lamott talks about that voice, the things that distract and how to focus on your writing, in addition to many hilarious, poignant, and very real stories from her own life with words. If you write at all, it’s good to read books that describe other writers’ experiences, paths that led to writing, and how they deal with distraction, loneliness, failure, and success. I picked up a copy at my local used bookstore and am nearly finished reading it. I recommend this if you take an interest in writing!

Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko  has been on my TBR list for such a long time! I finally placed a hold at the library and am looking forward to diving in. Isn’t that a gorgeous cover!?

I included poetry because I always have at least one collection going. David Whyte’s The Bell and the Blackbird was published earlier this year and I am slowly working my way through it. His way with words brings me to tears, in a good way. He writes with such depth and tenderness, clarity and boldness, delving into the difficult, the painful, as well as the joyful seasons of life. My particular favorites so far have been his poems to the late Irish poet John O’ Donahue as well as his poem to beloved poet Mary Oliver. If you haven’t read David Whyte’s poetry or essays yet, what are you waiting for?

The Art of the Wasted Day by Patricia Hampl was a random book purchase, simply because I was intrigued by the title. My life has been anything but leisurely, especially since I’ve started a business, but I still want to know how to waste a day right when I get a spare one!

Parker Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life has also been on my TBR for several years. After going through so many transitions and finding my way forward, I need to hear the wisdom of someone older and wiser that myself. Maybe the truths within the pages will assist me as I seek to connect the pieces and make sense of the journey. Look for more about this when I finish reading it.

Lastly, The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time is a book I placed on hold at the library after a recent bout with depression and extreme anxiety. This book sounded, well, up! And hopeful and like maybe there are actions that I can take, habits that I can form, ideas I haven’t thought of, that will help me reduce these symptoms and live with more positivity and calm. I’m about a third of the way through already; the writing is clear, the material easy-to-understand, and best of all, there are practical helps I can implement. I’m looking forward to reading the rest!

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Alright, that’s it for now! What have you been reading lately? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

* This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through one of the links here, it benefits me in a very small way at no extra cost to you!

Day 14: Order and Beauty

9c50a14f-319f-453f-a8ae-7a94fd42fc4e.jpegEver since I moved here, I’ve been wanting to tackle the tiny back room off the kitchen. It’s kind of like a screened-in porch because it isn’t heated, but it has four windows and a large closet, wooden floors and cute wooden steps leading up to it.

It was filled up with boxes and packing material Alan saves for when he has to ship his paintings somewhere. And it had random things his kids had outgrown or he no longer had use for.

I’ve always thought it would be great to have a writing desk, chair and an arm chair or two with a few lamps, a small table and a stack of books. Oh, and an area rug as well.

Sometimes when Alan’s working in his office, which is the room next to the library, with his music on, and his son is in his room overhead with his music on, the library feels sandwiched between cacophony. If I’m trying to think, I need a quiet place to do that in.

So today, we pulled everything out of the room and closet. Alan decided what needed to be saved, what could go up into the attic, what was junk, what should be recycled and what could go to goodwill. I dusted, sprayed, wiped, swept, vacuumed and mopped. Most likely, that was just the first few layers that I removed because he hasn’t used the room all the years he’s lived there. (Over 13.) But it is much cleaner now.

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I set up a diffuser with lavender, eucalyptus and tea tree essential oils to freshen up the room, sprayed the chair with an essential oil spray I made and tacked up some fairy lights around the windows. Sage from the garden is drying on the window sill, a stack of books sits on the side table and the change is amazing. Every time I walk by I can’t believe how inviting it feels already.

 

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I still need to paint the room, the steps and railing in the spring, pull all the weeds around the steps, plant some tulips and daffodils and some perennials, etc. But we did it! We made it a space that fosters relaxation and creativity. I’ll be sure to show the progress here on the blog as it happens.

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What I Read This Summer

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My summer reading list was longer than I was able to get through, which is a common bookworm problem, but here is what I was able to read in the past couple of months and a few thoughts on each book.

Louder Than Words by Todd Henry inspired and encouraged by asking to the point questions and getting his readers to take a look at their message, their voice and their audience and focus on developing a specific vision and clear message to convey. I admit to skimming the last third and if I wanted to really glean all I possibly could from it, I would need to take the time to answer, in writing, all of his questions. This may be a book I return to, although compared to The Accidental Creative, it wasn’t as enjoyable.

The Truth According To Us by Annie Barrows was a slow, Southern read that drew me in gently but firmly until I needed to know what happened to these people. What an interesting, entertaining and feel-good yet not-shallow read. After finishing it, I purchased a used copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society  by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows and set it on my nightstand. I’ve heard good things about this book for so long, it was definitely time to read it. Right away I recognized the similar delightful style and cast of quirky and fascinating characters. They sparkle. They made me laugh. They were thoroughly believable and now I’ve added Guernsey to my travel bucket list. So I recommend both books.


I See You by Clare Mackintosh was creepy, but not as much as I’d hoped for. Except for the very end, which makes me think there must be a sequel in the works.

The Dry: A Novel by Jane Harper was much discussed, but I guessed who the murderer was early on. I hardly ever manage this, so I would say it was a bit of a let down. Also, the writing style was dry and dull, like the setting, so I wouldn’t read other books by this author.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware scared me so much in the beginning that I almost put it down for good. Not wanting to wimp out, I pulled myself together and kept reading. It was worth it. She was a bit like a more modern Agatha Christie, and I had an idea who might be the murderer, but was Red Herringed until the end. I liked the main character, her boyfriend Judah, which is my son’s name, and the claustrophobic atmosphere of the small cruise ship where the murder took place. I will read more books by this author.

Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Naht Hanh was my first Bhuddist book and first book I’ve read by this author. Picked up at my favorite local used bookstore, Autumn Leaves, I liked the short chapters and his very practical and straightforward style. Really, I didn’t feel preached to or like he was trying to convert one to Bhuddism. Simply, he shared what helped him or possible scenarios of how one might incorporate breathing, being present, kindness, gratitude, etc., into one’s every day. I will read more by this author, and, in fact, I already have.