Thursday, February 26, 2015

Book List Add Ons

I'm not sure the best way to add to my reading list both for last year and this year, so I guess it'll just be a new post whenever I have a few to add.

First of all, I remember that I also read (and this would be 42 on the list) Jason Segel's book called Nightmares as soon as it came out last year and I could get my hands on a copy from the library. It was kind of a Monsters Inc. meets Coraline... I don't know, I can't exactly remember, who was meeting whom, but while reading it, it was all very familiar. I started a new N. D. Wilson book today and it kept nagging at me that I had read something else other worldly around Halloween. That was it! I liked it.

Also, I have added a few more items to my list for this year, which I hate to do, because lists tend hang over my head and make me kind of crazy. I almost can't function when there are expectations on me or things I need to do or am supposed to do out there, even if it's for fun. It's ridiculous. And I am realizing more and more that I have got to do something about it. But the list exists, and the additions to it exist in my mind, so I may as well add them to it physically.

24) Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay  -  I loved this book. There are reviews on Amazon about it being a rip off of Daddy Long Legs, but to me, the plot was so obviously parallel that I don't think the author was trying to get away with anything. She took a format, and idea, a plot really, and updated it and made it more interesting. I don't think she was thinking she wouldn't be found out, and I don't think it took anyone any real detective work to find her out. It was pretty obvious. But oh, it was so good. I really loved it. (And I can add it to my list without any added anxiety because it is also marked off the list!)

25) Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay - Longest. Library. Hold. Ever. I have been waiting to read this author's second book since I read the first couple of chapters of her first book and the library had it on order. It's been on order for like six weeks. At least. It makes me want to donate Amazon Prime to the library. Why does it take so long?!

26) The Gatecrasher by Madeleine Wickham- Remember how I said I read everything by Sophie Kinsella but nothing she wrote under her real name? Well, I did listen to one on audio a few years back and it was terrible. For one thing though, the person reading the book gave everyone horrible voices. And then I realized that it was actually only her second novel. You know how I said Fannie Flagg had improved so much with time? Clearly, so has Mrs. Wickham. So I decided to give her another try. And I liked The Gatecrasher. It isn't so lighthearted as the Sophie Kinsella books, but it was a page turner, and I need a few of those peppered in amongst some of the heavier titles on my list. So I've added the rest of hers as well! Well, there are two that she wrote before The Gatecrasher, besides the one I listened to, but I am not brave enough at this point to add them to the list. Maybe later.

27) The Wedding Girl by Madeleine Wickham

28) Cocktails for Three by Madeleine Wickham

29) Sleeping Arrangements by Madeleine Wickham

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Reality Check

I thought I'd write sort of an update on life today because it's kind of a typical day for me right now. You know how they say not to go to the grocery store when you're really hungry because you'll buy a whole bunch of weird snack kind of stuff that you don't need? And you're not supposed to go when you're full because you won't be in the mood for anything and won't get all the stuff you need? This is totally true for me. I have made both mistakes. Writing on my blog is rough because I think of it a lot of times when I am having a really sad day and I feel lonely and just want to talk to someone-- sure, we all feel that way sometimes, but maybe that someone is not anyone and everyone on the world wide web! On the other hand, when I write when I'm in a great mood and somehow everything is going my way, I give a rosy picture of my life that is only authentic to the feelings that are blinding me in the moment. And is that such a big deal? To me it is. Because I started this blog a million years ago to keep up with friends who are far away and I never want to pretend like everything is fine with my friends. That is just not how I roll.

So anyway, today is a normal day- I had some coffee and a bagel earlier, did lots of laundry and dishes, swept and straightened up, talked to my sister on the phone for a little bit, had leftover taco salad for lunch, and am fixing to go on a walk. Later on I'll grab a few groceries and pick up the kids from school and then come home and probably bake some bread or cookies, or both, then fix beef and broccoli stir fry with rice for supper. The menu changes, but that is sort of how my days go when I'm not at work. But I will say that the rest of my normal these days is that I am struggling with what sometimes feels like anger but is mostly definitely sadness. I am "supposed to be" in Alabama right now. My husband had a job, we found a house, I had talked to schools and ballet studios on both ends, we were moving over Christmas break, it was all set. And I'm still in Iowa. And I was really ready to leave Iowa. Out of politeness, and because I wanted to keep from hurting anyone's feelings, I referred to the transition as bittersweet. And I definitely saw the bitter in the situation for my kids. But for me, it was an answer to a lot of prayer. I was going home. I was leaving an environment that has made me feel bad about myself for a long time. That sounds extreme and I don't mean for it to. Let me explain.

 For one thing, my boss is not a very kind person. And I am now so deep into emotional exhaustion in regard to work (both because of my boss but also because of dealing with the public) that even when I hear about other jobs I might like better, I don't have the energy to go out and start over - and what I do have is squelched when I consider that it likely would not be that much better. So I'm stuck in my job. But it's not just my job. Teenaged daughters do not rank very high on the kindness scale either. And in regard to both my boss and my teenaged daughter, I do sometimes feel appreciated and loved, but other times I either feel that I could not be more marginalized or, more often, that I could not be more of a disappointment. I do realize the teenaged daughter would be with me in Alabama. But Alabama is a whole lot closer to my support system. It is very hard to navigate the heartache of life for any of us without a support system. I do not have a huge support base, but the friends and family I do have are, for the most part, in or near Alabama. I think outside support is especially important for pastors and their families as their church is a place where they are called to be a support. There again though is a tough situation. A comment I have heard more than once from the people at the church we had been in here is that they all loved me, they just didn't understand me. I almost wonder if they got together and talked about me trying to figure me out because this is sort of the word for word statement I have heard several times. And that is okay. But it doesn't make me feel good about me or like part of the group, which is something that has always been important to me and has always sort of eluded me. I am almost never part of the group. So you'd think I'd be used to it! But I'm not. And just being in public in Iowa, whether I am checking out at the grocery store or checking someone else out at the flower shop, is a constant reminder that I do not belong. I never make it through a day without my accent being mentioned. There are some people who think it's great. And there are some people who seem thoroughly annoyed by it. I have had complete strangers tell me "you're not fixing to do anything!" when, for example, I have told them I'm fixing to print out their receipt. I have had people ask me where I'm from and then ask to speak to someone else! And I have learned to get through it by just sort of making fun of myself, "Oh, I'm such a silly Southerner! You'll have to forgive me!" But of course, I don't really feel that way, I feel like both my heritage and myself have been attacked. Heritage aside, my personality comes under fire a lot. Apparently, I'm too animated, too cheerful. There seems to be a fairly vocal constituency that believes I should be more solemn. I have had people tell me in irritable tones that I'm too nice and more than one person holler "Calm down!" at me when I am not worked up at all, just being me doing my job, chatting with customers. In my workplace. Is that weird? Yes. It's weird.  It's been a long five years. And to be so close to going and then finding out you're staying indefinitely because of the unkind actions of two men in Alabama, has been hard. Really hard.

I don't have a happy face to stamp on this. It just sort of "is what it is." (Incidentally, I hate that expression.) But I felt I could write today and it wouldn't come out angry or between sobs and I wouldn't feel like I had a happy face stamp in hand either. This is just kinda me on a regular day. This is what has happened. This is how I feel about it. I hope I haven't shared too much or hurt anyone's feelings. The worst thing I think I have said here is that teenaged daughters can be rough. I don't think that's a surprise to anyone, but I do think people think of my teenaged daughter as an almost infallible sweetheart. And she is- almost. I told her the other day, because she can get down on herself for her shortcomings, that she's not really that different from anyone else in the world-- family is always the hardest to minister to, and will always be both the hardest and easiest to love. She is not the first or the last girl in the world to realize that or struggle with that. But the struggle is real and it can hurt.

I do know that we will get through all of this. And I know that we are far from being the only family going through stuff right now. My cousin sent me this verse yesterday and I will end on this note, because even when we struggle with understanding what is really real and true, we know that "the Word of our God will stand forever."

"The LORD gives strength to his people;
The LORD blesses his people with peace."
Psalm 29:11

Saturday, January 24, 2015

2014 Reading List

With my list of books I want to read this year, I thought I might like to also have a list of books I read last year. It's hard to remember, but this is what I have come up with so far apart from the eight cheesy Christmas books I read on my Kindle in December and any kind of Christian Living book:

1) Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell -- this was actually my first time reading this book. It will not be the last.

2) To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee -- not my first time to read this, but also not the last.

3) Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg -- I read everything Fannie Flagg wrote in 2014. I have to say, I like her most recent stuff best. To me, this is one of those odd cases where the movie is better than the book.

4) A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg -- this one is one of her better ones, in my opinion. It was sweet and I have even recommended it to some of our customers at the flower shop who love cardinals.

5) Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man by Fannie Flagg -- just no. This is her first and worst book. Don't bother. Her more recent works are so much better.

6) Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg -- now, this is third in a series and I didn't realize it and read it first. It is mostly about old people that live in a small town in rural Missouri. If it sounds boring to you, we have that in common. I probably would've liked it better if I had known who any of the people were beforehand as I think it was written for people who knew and loved the characters from the series (some of whom were dead and revisited in heaven- sort of).

7) Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg -- this is the second in the series and again, I didn't realize it was a series until I began reading this one, and even then, didn't realize there was another one which came first. I think this one is the best of the three and could stand alone.

8) Welcome to the World, Baby Girl by Fannie Flagg -- by the time I got to this book, I was sick to death of Elmwood Springs, Missouri. Yep, this is the first of the series- the first and the worst. It is clear to me that Ms. Flagg has become a better  and better writer and storyteller with time- encouragement for all of us!

9) I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg -- I liked this one. I remember when it came out and was written up in Southern Living because I clipped the article so I would remember to read it because, at that point, I had never read anything by Ms. Flagg. Four years later, I got around to reading this and everything else she ever wrote!

10) The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion -- I also liked this one. This was the first one I read as it had just come out in late 2013. The story follows one of the characters from Welcome to the World, Baby Girl, but again, I didn't realize that at the time. Basically, I read everything out of order. Still, this was my favorite of all of Ms. Flagg's books.

11) The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty --This is the second time I've read this one. There isn't much of a plot; it's more of a character study, I guess. It won a Pulitzer Prize, but I'm not sure I get it.

12) The Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen -- I also read everything Mrs. Klassen wrote last year. And I read these in order of publication though it didn't matter as there were no repeat characters. They were all pretty good in an easy reading sort of way.  These are the ones I said were kind of Ruth stories set in Regency England.

13) The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen

14) The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen

15) The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen

16) The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen

17) The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen

18) The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

19) Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly -- Oh dear. This is most certainly not an endorsement. I can stand neither the subject nor the author. But I love my dear coworker who really wanted me to read this and lent it to me. I tried to find something nice to say about it. Evidently, I did because the following two were lent to me afterward.

20) Killing Kennedy by Bill O'Reilly

21) Killing Jesus by Bill O'Reilly

22) A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander -- This is the book I mentioned that I read because it was set Belmont Mansion in Nashville. It was kinda cheesy.

23) Beauty so Rare by Tamera Alexander -- This is the second book set at Belmont Mansion and it was even cheesier. George and I jokingly referred to this book as "booty so hot" as a misquoted reference to an old SNL sketch (I have since found out that the actual quote was "booty so tight" from "The Best of T.T. and Mario"- fair warning, it is horribly inappropriate!)

24) Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits by Mary Jane Hathaway -- I really wanted to like this series because it combined my two loves of Jane Austen and the South. But they were no good. I read the second one just to give it a fair chance, but they really just aren't worth reading.

25) Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs by Mary Jane Hathaway

26) Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry --I think this is probably sacrilege, but I didn't really love this. The writing was lovely, of course. But the characters were all strong, silent types. No one talked about anything or expressed feelings, and that is just a world I could not live in!

27) The Death of Santini by Pat Conroy -- My brother-in-law lent this to me and it was really good. It's chock full of family dysfunction but does have some redemptive elements to it.

28) Homesick: a Memoir by Sela Ward -- This is sort of the first book I read out of homesickness for the South and the list above is what I can remember of what followed! I think it was written at the height of Sela Ward's acting career, but I have not watched either of the shows for which she is famous so I just found myself not caring. For some reason, I expected it be more about love for the South than her very specific story, but I was wrong.

29) The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander -- I read this series, The Chronicles of Prydain,  aloud to the kids over the summer. We enjoyed it, but we were also ready for it to be over by the time we got to the last book.

30) The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander

31) The Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander

32) Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander

33) The High King by Lloyd Alexander

34) Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James -- I read this because I knew Masterpiece was going to do an adaptation of it and I figured it must be worth reading if it was worth adapting. It wasn't bad, but it's really just so impossible to come alongside Jane Austen. I understand why people try, because we all want more Austen, but we probably need to just reconcile ourselves to the fact that we won't get any more until the new heavens and the new earth.

35) Longbourne by Jo Baker -- See, I need to take my own advice. There is no new Jane Austen. This book really was sacrilege. I hated it. Truly. It was yucky! Yucky! Yucky! Yucky!

36) Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding-- The third Bridget Jones book came out in late 2013 and my library immediately had a wait list for all three books. I didn't get started on these until early 2014. They're pretty much exactly like the movies, only everyone is slightly more charming on the silver screen. I have heard Hugh Grant doesn't want to be in the movie for the third one so I guess it won't get made- at least not until he changes his mind!

37) Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding

38) Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

39) Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella -- I read everything Sophie Kinsella ever wrote (well, not what she wrote under her real name, Madeleine Wickham) in 2013 and then had to wait almost a year for her to put something new out. And now I will have to wait again for the next book! I completely adore her!

40) Wish You Were Eyre (The Mother-Daughter Book Club) by Heather Vogel Frederick -- Oh my goodness! This is the sweetest series that I found for Amabel in 2013. I bought them all for her and read them before she did! But the last volume came out a little later and I didn't get to it until this year. It was so good, but it was the last one and we are a little sad there won't be any more stories about our friends in Concord, Massachusetts.

41) My Life in France by Julia Child -- I had started this a while ago and somehow quit reading it. I think because Mrs. Child was actually really liberal and kind of harsh about a lot of things, despite Meryl Streep's adorable portrayal of her in Julie and Julia.  I love reading cooking memoirs, but this is actually one of my least favorite. Maybe if she hadn't brought her political views in so much. She also had a very bad relationship with her dad and I didn't like hearing about that either, especially because the problems in the relationship centered around differing political views. Can you imagine being so politically minded that you would let it come between you and your family?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

2015 Reading List

Instead of making a New Year's Resolution this year, I made a list of books I want to read. The only thing is, I keep adding to it! A little over two weeks in, here is the list. But I am sure I will add to it as the year goes on- especially because it is a list of 23, and that is an irritating number (I prefer nice round number ending in 5 or 0 or, at the very least, an even number, if you please). In no particular order:

1) As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto by Joan Reardon -- my dear friend Rebekah and I were reading My Life in France together until her children hid her book from her! I finished it on my own, and I have to say, I didn't love it like I thought I would; but I think that maybe Mrs. Child's friendship with Mrs. DeVoto was one of the loveliest things about her. (I also thought her marriage was really sweet too.) As Rebekah is a very special friend with whom I have not long had the pleasure of living in the same place, I thought reading this book about a very special long distance friendship (involving a shared love of food, no less!) would be an apropos follow up read in honor of my special long distance friend with whom I share a love of food.

2) As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes -- Honestly, I am not sure why I am reading this. I believe it started as a book George mentioned to me that he thought I would be interested to know about and then I put myself in line to read it- 15th out of 4 copies on order, I think- and eventually, it arrived and was read by 14 people, and the library let me know it was ready for me. I am three chapters in right now, and it is interesting enough; I just wonder how it will continue to be now that we have met everyone and been through the table reading.

3) Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty -- Oh dear. I had this out from the library for the maximum number of weeks and renewals and still only made it through Chapter 2. It has that Faulkner-like quality of involving quite a few characters of the same family from quite a few generations in a very subtle plot that has the reader feeling like surely there is more going on here than they realize. And, if the reader is me, she will begin seriously questioning her intelligence and ability to follow such a complex and artful saga. I read a wonderful review on Amazon that encouraged me to stay with it after all, but unfortunately, the library would not allow another renewal. I shall give it a few weeks and see if they will let me check it out again. I can't say that I care much at all about Dabney Fairchild and her kin, but I do care about finishing what I started, and, even moreso, about Southern Literature, so it stays on the list.

4) 100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson -- This is first on my list of quite a few by Mr. Wilson. What happened was, I read Notes From the Tiltawhirl and was so impressed, I decided I wanted to read his fiction. He reminded me of my husband and his friends- guys that I love! I was really surprised and wanted to hear more! I am sure I have mentioned having multiple problems with Mr. Wilson's parents. I really want to like them and can even allow that they are very nice people, but their writing seems harsh and judgmental and it hurts my feelings on other people's behalf. I am not sure if I had low expectations of Mr. Wilson because of his parents or if Notes From the Tiltawhirl was really that good, but it piqued my interest and earned my respect at the very least.  I will say that I wasn't crazy about 100 Cupboards and have put the next two books in the series off because of that. It's not that it wasn't well written, it's just that it was rather dark. I have heard good things about his newer series so those are also on my list and I hope they are a bit less grey.

5) Dandelion Fire by N. D. Wilson

6) The Chestnut King by N.D. Wilson

7) The Dragon's Tooth by N. D. Wilson

8) The Drowned Vault by N. D. Wilson

9) Empire of Bones by N. D. Wilson -- they don't sound any less grey do they?

10) Belinda by Maria Edgeworth -- This is a book George got me a while back that I have just never stayed with. I always read the introduction in books and the introduction to this book gave away the entire plot, without warning, all the way down to which gentleman wins the heroine's heart in the end! That took some of the wind out of my sails, but I really do want to read it anyway. George thought it would be a fun read for me because the author was one of Jane Austen's contemporaries.

11) The Last Days of Socrates by Plato -- This is another book inspired by Nate Wilson. He is classically educated and knows all this history and philosophy and stuff I don't know. I don't like it that I don't know these things because I feel like I'm capable of knowing, just no one ever taught me. Well, no one ever taught George either, but he's just read all the philosophers. George tells me I can read Plato, and that I would actually like it. So, it's on the list.

12) The Bark of the Bog Owl by Jonathan Rogers -- This is the first in a trilogy (the rest of the series is listed below) that I have been interested in for a while. I guess the reason for my interest is because the author is often linked to Andrew Peterson whose Christmas album is my all time favorite and whose fiction series has long been a favorite of Amabel's (and is listed below this series on my list as she has implored me to read them for quite some time.)

13) The Secret of the Swamp King by Jonathan Rogers

14) The Way of the Wilderking by Jonathan Rogers

15) On the Edge of the Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson

16) North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson

17) The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson

18) The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson

19) Gilead by Marilynne Robinson -- This is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by an Iowa author. I have dedicated the last year or so to reading almost exclusively Southern authors and you can see that this list is a departure from that. In thinking that we may also depart from Iowa altogether, I decided to read some of Ms. Robinson's works before I go. If I hate the first one, I reserve the right to remove the next two from off the list.

20) Home by Marilynne Robinson

21) Lila by Marilynne Robinson

22) To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander -- Okay, this one is a bit humorous. I read these period novels last summer by a Christian author, Julie Klassen, who loved Jane Austen and wrote stories set in the same time period-- usually about girls who had suffered some misfortune or other that should remove them from all good society, but, because of their character and courage, ended up with a wealthy and wonderful man in the end anyway- Ruth stories set in Regency England, if you will. They were, honestly, page turners, even if they wouldn't win Pulitzers (many of them did win the Christy Award though which is how I heard of them) and I quickly read through her entire body of work. Often alongside Mrs. Klassen as a nominee for the Christy Award was the name Tamera Alexander. Though Mrs. Alexander lost to Mrs. Klassen each time, as they say, it is an honor just to be nominated. And I thought I might like to read what she had written as well. And, as it turns out, she has written several post-Civil War era novels about the historical homes in my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, two about Belmont Mansion and two (second one coming out later this year) about Belle Meade Plantation. I read the Belmont Mansion books but my library did not have the one listed here set at Belle Meade Plantation. I have found it at a library in the suburb where I work so I just need to go over there and get a library card.

23) The Princess Bride by William Goldman -- Well, I don't suppose I can very well read a book about the making of the movie without reading the original book as well.

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