Book Consumption: May 2016

I am a little late with my May reading round-up for two reasons: 1) I read a bunch of books which I’ve been struggling to review and 2) I’ve been traveling with limited access to the Internet so writing has been a bit touch and go.  Looking back,the month was filled with a nice combination of very good entertainment and thought-provoking reflections.

May Books

Killer angels

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.  The battle of Gettysburg  is recreated through the perspectives and experiences of the generals who orchestrated it and the men that served closely with them.  Through meticulous research of journals, letters, and eyewitness accounts, the author creates a deeply personal and utterly believable account of the battle that turned the tide of the Civil War in America.  This book is the 1975 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction.

My thoughts:  I chose this book for the Popsugar Reading Challenge because Gettysburg is about an hour and a half from my home.  I’ve driven, hiked, and biked the battlegrounds numerous times, often at the same time of year the battle took place (hot and humid July).  I don’t normally choose war fiction and thought I would be enduring a dry read just to check a category off the Challenge.  Boy, was I wrong!  This story was not so much about the particulars of the battle as it was about the personal philosophies, strengths, weaknesses, and struggles of the men who fought and died in it.  The portrayals of Generals Lee, Longstreet, and Chamberlain were particularly moving to me.  This was a haunting read and I thought about it for weeks afterward.

(A book set in your home state – Popsugar Reading Challenge)

 

A Wind in the Door

A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle.  The second installment of the A Wrinkle in Time quintet finds Meg Murry and Calvin O’Keefe, along with some very unusual friends, trying to save the universe by saving Charles Wallace’s life.  They do this by traveling to the microscopic world of Charles Wallace’s mitochondria and interacting with farandolae which live there and give it life.  L’Engle’s wonderful ability to mix science, myth, magic and faith shines in this book.

My thoughts: After enjoying A Wrinkle in Time in April, I decided to revisit the second and third books of the series in the name of nostalgia. Of the first three books in the quintet, I enjoyed this one the most when I was younger.  I still do.  Meg is a little less irritating, the scientific aspects of the story are interesting, and the concept of worlds within worlds within worlds is a thought provoking exercise.  A Wind in the Door was a pleasure to reread.

 

Gift of the Sea

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of Charles Lindbergh, reflects on many aspects of womanhood in this slim book she wrote on a visit to Captiva Island in the early 1950’s.  Each chapter takes the beach or a particular shell and relates it to a certain aspect of life such as solitude, contentment, marriage, and aging.

My thoughts:  Even though the book is well over 50 years old, it felt like the author was peeking into my own life experiences and describing them in detail.  Mrs. Lindbergh is wise and hopeful in her meditations and I came away from the book feeling more insightful and refreshed for having read it.  I saved this book to read on a short trip to the beach which greatly enhanced my experience of the book (and the beach).  I can see myself returning to this book often as an exercise to reflect on my own life.

(A book you can finish in a day – Popsugar Reading Challenge)

 

A Swiftly Tilting Planet

A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle.  To grasp the setting of the third installment of the A Wrinkle in Time quintet, fast-forward several years.  Meg is married to Calvin O’Keefe and expecting her first child and Charles Wallace is now seventeen.  The destruction of the world by South American dictator Madog Branzillo is inevitable unless Charles Wallace can change key events in history.  He does this by traveling through time on a unicorn named Gaudior and spending time inside the minds of several key people in the unfolding drama.  Meg is able to travel with Charles through “kything” – communicating through thoughts – and is his mental companion on this adventure.

My thoughts: Of the three books I’ve read in this series, A Swiftly Tilting Planet has the darkest and most complicated plot.  I enjoyed it, particularly the historical aspect of the story and the way early actions impacted later situations in the story.  Once again, L’Engle combines myth, magic and parapsychology to create an engrossing tale.  I loved rereading all these books this spring!  I think I’ll finish out the quintet now that I’m aware of the final two books.

 

Georgette Heyer's Regency world

Georgette Heyer’s Regency World by Jennifer Kloester.  Georgette Heyer wrote several light but well-written tales, mostly romances, set during the Regency period in England (think Jane Austen’s era). This book takes an in-depth look at the culture (particularly upper class) of that time.  Gender roles, fashion, food, entertainment, etc. are broken down into specific chapters and discussed in detail.

My thoughts:  I love Jane Austen’s writing and I recently stumbled upon Georgette Heyer’s delightful books.  I found Georgette Heyer’s Regency World to be a great source of background information on the Regency era which enhanced my enjoyment of both authors.  If the Regency era interests you, this book is an informative and easy-reading resource.

 

The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.  This is an epic fantasy tale about a brilliant young boy named Kvothe who is orphaned by supernatural spirits, survives on his own as a street urchin, and is ultimately accepted at University where his education occurs at the crossroads of science and magic.  He’s also schooled  in the talents of making friends and creating enemies.  Adventure and mayhem abound.  This is the first book in a trilogy but only the first two books have been published (in 2007 and 2011).

My thoughts:  I’m not sure how to review this book.  It receives ridiculously high ratings on Goodreads and yet I almost gave up on the book because I didn’t care for any of the characters in the beginning of the tale.  (The story is told as a reflection – an adult Kvothe is relaying his life story to a scribe.)  Then, towards the end of the book, I started wishing it would just be over.  These are not markers of a good book, in my opinion.  However, once the actual story of Kvothe’s life got started, I began to enjoy it.  The writing is very well done and the story is engaging, reminding me of Harry Potter but with an older protagonist in a different setting.   I haven’t decided if I will invest time in the second book – 1000 pages is a lot of precious minutes of my life.

(A book that’s more than 600 pages – Popsugar Reading Challenge)

 

Lady Susan

Lady Susan by Jane Austen.  This lesser known work of Jane Austen is the story of a manipulative widow who is having an affair with a married man while attempting to arrange a lucrative marriage for her daughter (and one for herself if she can manage it). The book is written in an epistolary format which  I believe is unique for Miss Austen.  It was also written when she was only nineteen.

My thoughts:  As a lover of Jane Austen, I can’t believe I never read this story before!  Having now acknowledged my failing, I’m going to go out on a limb and state that Lady Susan is my least favorite Jane Austen protagonist of all time because of her selfishness and manipulations.  Loyal Books offers a multi-narrator audiobook version of Lady Susan which I listened to in one evening.  It was a very quick, enjoyable experience and it was FREE.  The movie adaptation called Love and Friendship starring Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny came out earlier this summerI didn’t get the chance to see it in the theater so I’m looking forward to its video release.

(A book that’s becoming a movie this year – Popsugar Reading Challenge)

 

The 7 Habits

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey.  Personal and professional effectiveness is addressed through seven detailed fundamental principles.  Three principles are related to the individual, three are related to interpersonal interaction and one is an overarching principle that affects the other six.  All seven principles are undergirded with a strong faith-based foundation.

My thoughts: I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Stephen Covey over the course of several weeks.  I found that listening to the book was not ideal.  The book is dense, covering many topics requiring mediation and consideration.  Many times I wanted to go back and review or reference something so I purchased a copy of the book.  There is so much valuable information in this book that can be life changing but requires real effort on the part of the reader.  I’ve already been working on empathic listening, especially with my teenage children, and the results have been very positive.

(A New York Times bestseller – Popsugar Reading Challenge)

What I’m currently reading:

  • Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (audiobook) – All I can say is thank goodness I don’t have to parent Tom… 🙂
  • Made to Crave by Lysa Terkeurst – I’m feeling meh about this one.  We’ll see.
  • The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach – Just starting this today and am really looking forward to it.

What have you been reading lately?  I’d love to hear about the good and the bad…

Inspiration: December

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Merry Christmas!

I hope this holiday season finds you enjoying equal parts raucous merry-making and restorative relaxation.  I’m in the middle of a two week break from classes and work and have been taking full advantage of an unstructured schedule: late nights watching movies, late mornings sleeping in, and generally engaging in a life of laziness.  It’s been wonderful.  Really.

Currently, inspiration is coming from several different corners of the Internet and covers a vast array of topics from improving hot chocolate (is that possible?) to choosing a reading challenge for 2015 and everything in between.  Enjoy!

  • Noel – Bridget Park
  • A Just-Simple-Enough Holiday
  • I want to try this with my daughter, a lover of origami.
  • Taking hot chocolate to the next level with this.
  • Even though I didn’t quite finish this year’s challenge, I’ve been considering several reading challenges for 2015.  At the moment, this and this are the top contenders.
  • Heidi, author of the 101 Cookbooks blog, has some great things to say about blogging.
  • When I get tired of being lazy this week, I’ll  start working on this list, beginning with #4 and then moving on to #’s 6 and 7.
  • This will aid in the completion of #4.  It’s a very scary concept to me because I love clothing.  However, I recognize the benefit of a stream-lined wardrobe (at least for work) so I’m going to give it a try. ( I can hear my husband’s rejoicing already.)
  • I would never define myself as a lover of very modern or minimalist design, although the uncluttered essence of it seriously appeals to me.  This lake home could convert me.  I especially love its situation and the accompanying boathouse on the lake.  Perfection!
  • Finally, in celebration of Christmas, some beautiful music from ThePianoGuys:

The Eclectic Reader Challenge 2014

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Happy New Year!

Now that all the celebrating and party-making is over, it’s time to get down to the business of this coming year.  I’m not talking about New Year’s resolutions, either.  No focus on healthy eating, organizing my home, or budgeting my money for me thank-you-very-much (although I would benefit from attending to all of those things, believe me).  No, I’m talking about something far more fun – a reading challenge!

I stumbled upon The Eclectic Reader Challenge 2014 while I was wandering around Goodreads the other day.  This challenge, hosted by Shelleyrae at Book’d Out, caught my eye for two reasons: 1) It only requires reading 12 books to complete the challenge and 2) each book is chosen from a specific genre.  I mentioned in my previous post that I’d begun graduate school on a full-time basis.  Even as strapped for time as I often feel now, I think I can manage a book a month for the next year.  And, I like the idea of reading different genres.  The exposure to books outside my particular tastes has the very real possibility of broadening my horizons when it comes to reading choices.  I’m feeling a little adventurous and open to new experiences.

Here are the pertinent rules (For a detailed description of the challenge, click here):

  1. The challenge runs from January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2014.
  2. Select, read, and review a book from each genre listed below during the year for a total of 12 books. A book may be in print, electronic or audio format.
  3. A book may only be used for one category.  This means 12 different books must be read throughout the year.
  4. The list may be completed in any order as long as all 12 categories are fulfilled by December 31, 2014.
  5. To be eligible for the prize drawing, a blog post reviewing each book must be posted to the link found on the Book’d Out blog.

The Eclectic Reading Challenge 2014 Categories (and my possible choices)

  • Award WinningWolf Hall, Snow Falling on Cedars, or Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell
  • True Crime (Non Fiction)In Cold Blood
  • Romantic ComedyBridget Jones’s Diary
  • Alternate History FictionAlleander Morning
  • Graphic NovelPersepolis
  • Cosy Mystery FictionMaisie Dobbs (#1), One for the Money (Stephanie Plum #1), or A Red Herring Without Mustard
  • Gothic FictionJonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, Interview with a Vampire, or The Haunting of Hill House
  • War/Military FictionKiller Angels
  • AnthologyA Mind Awake
  • Medical Thriller Fiction – haven’t decided yet but I used to read a lot of Robin Cook books and enjoyed them
  • Travel (Non Fiction)Wild: Lost and Found or The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places on Earth or something by Bill Bryson
  • Published in 2014 – to be determined

For the record, none of my choices are written in stone which means I am open to book suggestions for all of the categories.  If you have a suggestion for a great book, I’d love to hear it!  I haven’t read any of the books I’ve listed, but several of them are hanging around my home or in my Nook waiting patiently for some undivided attention.  This challenge is inadvertently encouraging me to chip away at my monumental to-be-read pile.

Sounds like fun, don’t you think?  My husband and kids thought so, too.  They’ve decided to join me in this reading challenge; it should be very intersting to see what they come up with to fulfill each of the categories.  I’m looking forward to getting started!  How about you?

Books and Movies – A Challenge Custom-Made for 2012

I spent my first day of 2012 recovering from my last day of 2011.  I slept in, made a simple Sunday brunch of fresh fruit and baked oatmeal, painted the trim in my daughter’s bedroom (my new least favorite activity in the whole wide world), and watched Inception with my family as a last hurrah before the daily grind begins again.  It was a raw, wet Sunday and I was happy to be inside with nowhere to go.

In the afternoon, while I was surfing the Web, I stumbled upon an intriguing year-long contest at fiftyfifty.me which sounds like a truckload of fun.  The 50/50 Reading Challenge is a simple concept – read fifty books and watch fifty movies of my choice by the end of 2012.  The only stipulation is that all books and movies must be ones I’ve never read or watched before.  At first glance, this challenge seems like quite the undertaking.  However, after doing some quick math I figured I’d only need to read approximately four books and watch four movies a month.  That’s definitely doable.

I can’t resist – I am taking this challenge.  The timing is perfect.  Hubby gave me a Nook tablet for Christmas and I’m dying to use it.  I’ve also been wanting to work my way through some of the Top 100 Books Lists and Movie Lists I’ve discovered on the Internet.  Now is as good a time as any to get started on that project.  I’m  encouraging my kids to give the Challenge a try, too.  This, my friends, is the beginning of a grand adventure.

My plan is to update my progress here at Whimsey Pie at the end of each month, sharing what I’ve read and watched and keeping track of my goal.  As always, if you have any suggestions for movies or books, I would love to hear about them.  And, if you are as intrigued as I was, you can sign up for the 50/50 Reading Challenge, too.  It’s free and you don’t need a blog to participate.  I’d love to know if you decide to jump on board.  There is strength (and support) in numbers.  Wish me luck!